By Harry Kelber | The World of Labor | October 20, 2012

Hard-Core S. African Strikers Are Not Caving In

After nearly two months of wildcat strikes, mine workers are divided. Some are giving up the struggle, while others are sticking to high wage demands. Workers remain on strike at AngloGold Ashanti’s gold mine and several platinum mines.

"I am here with thousands of workers who have been arrested, and intimidated by employers, and they are not deterred," said Liv Shange, an executive member of the Democratic Socialist Movement. But the opinions of strike leaders differed. An ultimatum was issued for strikers to return to work the next day, but it was soon dismissed.

A spokesman for those favoring a return to work said: "Workers have been on strike for two months, and they are looking towards the expensive Christmas holiday." Other miners remain resolute despite the difficulties they are experiencing as the strike goes on.

Spain and Portugal Joining in Strike Against ‘Austerity’

Spanish trade unionists have called a general strike against Madrid’s austerity program. The protests will coincide with a similar strike in neighboring Portugal to make it the first concerted Iberian labor action. The strike has good chances of spreading to nearby European countries, especially in the south, said CCOO union representative Fernando Leczano.

Leczano insisted that all EU countries that have applied austerity measures have become worse for it. He said the strike in November was aimed at forcing governments to modify their economic and budgetary policies.

In the first response to the strike announcement, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said the strike would not improve Spain’s image abroad. Though he acknowledged that people were concerned about the government’s harsh measures, they are required to help Spain wriggle out of economic recession, he said.

L.A. Strike Puts Walmart on the Defensive

Workers from nearly a dozen Walmart stores in Los Angeles went on strike on Oct. 6 in the first-ever walkout to protest the giant retailer’s attempts to silence employees and punish them for speaking out on the need for improvements at the stores.

In an important development, the strikers will meet with Walmart workers from nine countries The group will launch the UNI Walmart Global Union Alliance to fight for fairness, decent working conditions and the fundamental human right of freedom of association.

Workers have also been striking at Walmart-controlled warehouses, joined by hundreds of clergy and community supporters, some of whom were arrested. Efforts by WalMart to establish stores in New York City have been thwarted by opposition from communities and the city government.

Thousands March in London’s Union Protests

Nurses, firefighters, teachers and prison officers joined an estimated 100,000 protesters on Saturday, Oct. 20 in huge demonstrations against the British government, loudly cheering calls for a 24-hour general strike.

Union officials and politicians bitterly attacked the government coalition’s spending cuts, accusing ministers of being more interested in helping millionaires than ordinary citizens.

The marchers peacefully passed through London, Glasgow and Belfast, although some disabled activists staged a sit-in and cut off traffic.

The British Trade Union Congress (TUC) is consulting unions on the practicalities of a nationwide stoppage, although it will not be in time to take part in a Europe-wide action against austerity on Nov. 14.

Hyundai Motor Workers Climb a Pylon to Protest

A conflict is escalating between in-house subcontractor employees and the management at Hyundai Motors. The focus of the dispute is the company’s illegal use of dispatch workers, who, once they have completed two years on the job, are entitled to full-time status.

The temporary workers union, which had previously gone on strike to force Hyundai to make the necessary changes are now using a new strategy to persuade the carmaker to comply.

The workers are remaining on a pylon that is about 170 feet high from the ground, and they won’t come down until they win their demands, which are simple enough: they want the status they believe they have earned.

Chile Fines Starbucks $50,000 over Illegal Labor Practices

Chile’s Supreme Court has upheld a fine of about $50,000, slapped on Starbucks Corp. over labor practices, after unionized workers complained that the coffee shop chain threatened layoffs, benefit cuts, and illegally replaced workers during a strike.

Last year, Starbucks was hit by its first strike at a company-owned store, with workers in Chile seeking pay that keeps up with inflation, a $100 monthly lunch stipend, as well as other benefits.

Starbucks is seen as having some of the restaurant industry’s best pay and benefits, which has helped it to fend off union organization in the United States, where the chain has the vast majority of its sales.

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