Saturday, November 03, 2007

Iran Clamping Down on Labour Activists

Although I've made my case for the need for unions (at least my various Unions) on this blog before, I realize that, traditionally, conservatives abhor them for some unknown reason. However, in some countries, like Iran, trade unions have a far greater importance. Remember Poland's Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement in the 1980s? He (and his trade union activities) was the catalyst which ultimately led to democracy and freedom from Soviet-style communism not only for Poland but all other Eastern Bloc countries in Europe. As Bob from Brockley states:
"The labour movement in Iran is important in its own right: as the expression of the working class of Iran. And it is important as a central plank of Iran's repressed civil society and future democracy. The union
that Osanloo represents has 17,000 members: that represents a formidable force for change in Iran."

The "Osanloo" Bob is referring to is Mansour Osanloo, an Iranian labour activist who has been in and out of jail since 2005, after he and his 17,000-strong fellow members of the Syndicate of Workers of Teheran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) went on strike to protest an edict relegating female passengers to the back of the bus. You see, unlike the U.S., where unions might be be scorned by a certain sector of the government but not threatened, union members in countries like Iran are often jailed, harassed, beaten or killed. Osanloo has been beaten on several occasions and his tongue sliced as a warning to keep mum. This past July, 2007, he was sent back to prison, no specific charges, after he was beaten and abducted from a bus in Teheran. It is thought that what prompted this latest, unwarranted arrest was a recent trip to Europe to meet with officials from the International Transport Workers' Federation:

In Brussels, Mr Osanloo described the intimidation which union members had faced, with some members having been arrested 10 or more times, and family members, including children, being beaten, detained and subjected to inhumane treatment. Asked how he coped with arrests and harassment, he replied: "We decided it is better to die than to live like this."

While in jail this past month, Osanloo almost lost the sight in one of his eyes (as a result of his beating) because the government refused to give him medical treatment. Thanks to a major campaign by Amnesty International, some labour organizations and union members worldwide, Osanloo finally received the surgery he desperately needed. However, against doctor's orders, he was just sent back to prison and sentenced to 5 years, merely for exercising his right to be in a trade union. He has said that unlike other 'political prisoners' he has no political agenda, and has suffered all this harassment simply because he wants better working conditions for transport workers.

He's not the only labour activist in jail: Mahmoud Salehi and Ebrahim Madadi have also been incarcerated. And grocery worker and activist, Majid Hamidi, was recently attacked and shot seven times by several masked assailants. The attack is believed to have been government sanctioned. He is in critical condition.

Although Iran is a member of the International Labour Organization, they have no love or tolerance for labour organizations. Iranian hardliners obviously feel threatened, so are escalating their attacks and persecution of any group/s that might pose a threat to the Islamist status quo, from union activism to the recent student protests.

Regardless of how you feel about Unions, what is happening in Iran is shameful, though not surprising. We are so very fortunate, in the western world, to be able to exercise our right to belong to a Union or not, and to rest easy knowing we won't risk our lives by making that choice.

If you are a member of a any union you can click here to send an urgent message to the International Labour Organization (ILO) calling on Ahmadinejad and others to stop the persecution, harassment and attacks on workers. As I have.

Also blogging about: A second Hand Conjecture

H/T: Bob from Brockley


WomanHonorThyself said...

Dont worry hun, Obama wants to sit down to tea with Iran and chat!..what a tool!..great post!

Great Destinations,Great Food said...

I added onto the title of the post on food(posted by incognito)Will come back to read this post

Douglas V. Gibbs said...

unions are necessary and a good thing, until they take their power and use it for evil. Don't turn to the dark side, young Jedi!

Renegade Eye said...

Really good post. That's why I like I like your blog. One has to respect such a non-dogmatic person.

See this.

I get upset with people who are gung-ho for unions in Iran, and would use every tool in the state apparatus arsenal against workers here.

Douglas: Using union power for evil is making sweetheart deals, and being tied to the Democrats.

American Interests said...

I was happy to send the message to the ILO because I feel that persecutions as such are not on.

I am part of a union because I must me. To be honest I do not like unions but am willing to concede that as a collective body they are much needed for many who would be at the perils of the system without them.

But if you have, within an establishment or organisation, an individual who clearly shines in terms of talent, ability and ‘fire in the belly’, then he/she is best outside a workplace where union power is customary and entrenched. Unions tend to stifle individual creativity because they are focused on the good of all not the one. I speak from experience.

Yes, unions are important, just not for me. I would rather negotiate my own terms and be remunerated commensurate to performance.

Good posting incog ...

Frasypoo said...

Hi Incog,
I have to say that Unions do a good job here but in India people would say in hushed tones"He is a member of the Union".They misuse the good that they can do,

Incognito said...

ANGEL: Not sure when people are going to realize that they hate us and unless we all convert to Islam, there isn't much that diplomacy can do.

DOUGLASGIBBS: Agreed, some Unions are uneccessary and some, like some corporations are down right evil.. but people still should have that option to join, if they so choose. And where would Eastern Europe be without "Solidarity"?

REN: Thank you! Guess it's hard to peg me.

Not sure what the anti-unionists here have on Unions abroad, so can't comment on that. Thanks for the link.. will check it out.

AI: I agree with you. When I was in L.A. (decades ago) working at a Studio (for a day job) I was forced to join a Union for Administrative Assistants/Secretaries.. which was totally bogus. I told the people hiring me I refused to pay part of my salary for union dues, so they upped my salary to cover the cost. But it was a totally uneccessary union. However, my acting Unions are a total necessity. Unions for Pizza Workers: no. Unions for those working under hazardous conditions: yes.

Thank you signing the letter!

POO: For the most part, they do. Some aren't needed, as I mentioned above. And absolutely, they can misuse the good they can do, which is to make sure everyone has a safe environment to work in and are not taken advantage of.

Debbie said...

Generally I'm against unions, but they do have their place in some professions. I believe your profession is one of them.

There are terrible things going on in Iran, and we only hear about a few of them. I've just finished reading The Volunteer by Michael Ross, a former Mossad undercover agent. What amazing stories he has to tell from his over 20 years duty. Some on Iran are amazing, specifically one woman who was repeatedly raped, tortured, lashed, and abused is ways some in our Congress could never imagine.

Incognito said...

DEBBIE: Mine definitely does.. as do some others.

Sounds like an interesting book, but depressing. This sad little world of ours.