Since January 25, the Egyptian people have bravely taken to the streets by the hundreds of thousands to call for an end to decades of authoritarian rule and to demand democracy and social justice.
||Egyptians protest at Tahrir Square in Cairo. Photo by Al Jazeera English
This is a major grassroots movement of historic significance in Egypt and the region. Workers' issues are front and center--at the same time people are calling for freedom and democracy, they also are marching against corruption, unemployment, and poverty. The New York Times reports that some of the youngest organizers of recent demonstrations call themselves the “April 6 Youth Movement,” in honor of a textile workers’ strike that was crushed three years ago.
In the spirit of the pro-democracy movement, on January 30, 2011, representatives of independent Egyptian unions, retirees, and important industrial areas, along with workers from the garment and textile, metal, pharmaceutical, chemical, iron and steel, automotive, and other industries and government employees who have fought for decades for the right to form unions free from government control, announced the creation of a new Federation of Independent Egyptian Unions. The new federation announced that it supports and will participate in a national strike, called for by opposition activists, to begin on February 1, 2011, whose aim is to bring an end to Egypt’s days of oppression.
Workers also spoke out against statements by the government-tied Egyptian Trade Union Federation, which it says has attempted to stifle the new independent union movement in Egypt. Workers say that federation continues to support the regime that the people actually seek to change.
As leading examples of Egyptian workers’ dedication to fighting for freedom of association and worker rights, the Center for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and the Real Estate Tax Authority union—Egypt’s first independent union in 50 years—received the 2009 AFL-CIO George Meany-Lane Kirkland Human Rights Award.
Egyptian Government Moves to Outlaw Worker Protests.
March 29, 2011—A March 23 decree by the Egyptian cabinet that would criminalize sit-ins, protests, and strikes is an attack on workers, say Egyptian and international worker and human rights groups. The proposed law would impose steep penalties, including imprisonment, for participation in gatherings deemed to interfere in the operations of any private- or public-sector business.
Statement of support from Egyptian Center for the Right to Education (ECER) to Wisconsin state public employees.
See what workers around the world
are doing to support their union brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.
Egypt: ITUC Calls on the Higher Military Council to Respect Trade Union Rights.
February 28, 2011 The International Trade Union Confederation has expressed deep concern over statements attributed to the new Minister of Manpower in Egypt, Ismail Fahmy, that “the issue of trade union rights is kept on hold until such a time that the labor code is revised … and that the ministry will continue to work closely with ETUF and its President Hussein Megawer.” Fahmy is the former treasurer of ETUF (Egyptian Trade Union Federation), the national center controlled by the Mubarak regime.
Trade Union Solidarity with Egypt.
February 3, 2011—Global union leaders voice solidarity with Egyptians fighting for a more democratic future, decent jobs, and life with dignity. Watch messages from British Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber, International Trade Union Confederation Geenral Secretary Sharan Burrow, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, and many more.
Statement by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia on the Situation in Egypt. February2, 2011—Juan Somavia, director-general of the International Labor Organization, joins with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in insisting that the leaders of Egypt “listen attentively and sincerely to the voices of the people.”
Egypt: ITUC Demands Mubarak Stop Violence. The ITUC is demanding that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak immediately stop the dramatically escalating violence being organized by his regime against peaceful demonstrators, including children, who are continuing to demand fundamental democratic change. Cross-posted from ITUC Online, February 2, 2011
AFL-CIO, Global Unions Applaud New Egyptian Labor Movement. Representatives of the Egyptian union movement announced they are forming a new labor federation, the Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions, which will represent workers in more than a dozen industries and enterprises. The federation also is participating in a nationwide general strike for democracy and fundamental rights. Cross-posted from AFL-CIO Now, January 31, 2011
Egypt: ITUC Supports General Strike Call and Welcomes New Independent Trade Union Federation. The International Trade Union Confederation has announced its strong support for the Egyptian opposition’s call for a general strike in favor of democracy and fundamental rights today. The opposition’s move follows yesterday’s general strike call by the country’s newly established independent trade union center. Cross-posted from ITUC Online, January 31, 2011
The Crackdown in Egypt Must Stop Now, Urges the ITUC. January 28, 2011—The International Trade Union Confederation urges the Egyptian authorities to immediately stop the violent crackdown against tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators who have been protesting in the last few days across the country, and to prevent any more bloodshed among the civilian population. Cross-posted from ITUC Online
Striking Egyptian Workers Fuel the Uprising After 10 Years of Labor Organizing. February 10, 2011—Democracy Now interviews Stanford University Professor Joel Beinin, who, as the former director of Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo, has closely studied the Egyptian labor movement for years. References the Solidarity Center report Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt, which Beinin authored.
Strikes in Egypt Add to Pressure From Protests. February 10, 2011—Associated Press says strikes in Egypt erupted after anti-government protests drew attention to economic disparity. Workers "were motivated to strike when they heard about how many billions the Mubarak family was worth," said Kamal Abbas, a labor leader. "They said: 'How much longer should we be silent?'"
Activists Rally at White House for Democracy in Egypt. February 9, 2011—As Egyptian flags snapped in the frigid wind, nearly 100 Egyptian American and other activists—including more than 50 union members—rallied last night in front of the White House to support the Egyptian people’s ongoing struggle for freedom and democracy. By James Parks, AFL-CIO Now
Egypt: Today Strikers Took Center Stage. February 9, 2011—Labor Notes interviews Kamal Abbas, director of the Center for Trade Union and Workers' Services, about workers’ participation in the Egyptian uprising. "This day in the revolution could be named for the labor unions," Abbas tells reporter Jane Slaughter.
Egyptian Workers Extend Protest. February 9, 2011--News outlets worldwide are highlighting the labor movement's role ;in Egypt's uprising against its ruling regime. Calling for better wages, improved working conditions, and an end to temporary "casual" contracts, thousands of workers all over Egypt are engaging in spontaneous strikes and sit-ins, according to Egyptian daily Al Masry Al Youm. The Los Angeles Times reports the roots of the revolt lie in El Mahalla el Kubra, a city of textile mills. And Al Jazeera provides lengthy coverage of a nationwide strike of more than 200,000 pro-democracy workers.
A Historical Perspective on the Popular Uprising in Egypt. Historian and Stanford University Professor Joel Beinin on the Egyptian labor crisis, with references and quotes from his report for the Solidarity Center, Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt (The Human Experience, Stanford University, February 4, 2011)
Letter from AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, February 3, 2011 (English and Arabic)
Independent Unions in Egypt to Announce a New Trade Union Federation (CTUWS, January 31, 2011, press release in English and Arabic)
Letter from AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka to CTUWS Director Kamal Abbas and RETA President Kamal Abu Eita, January 31, 2011
Egyptian Federation of Independent Unions Constitutional Body Creation (EFIU, January 30, 2011, announcement in English and Arabic)
Justice for All: The Struggle for Worker Rights in Egypt (2010) examines how Egypt’s labor laws align with international labor conventions and how the Egyptian government has enforced the laws. The report comes at a time when workers in the thousands are holding an unprecedented number of strikes over a wide range of worker rights abuses. Also available in Arabic