No true American should accept a nation-wide hegemony that silences dissent, whether it’s a Christo-fascist theocracy or some secular New Left inversion. The former had a shot in the 1980s, but in the current year, the latter is a far more imminent threat. Freedom of speech is our most basic right, because if you can’t name the problem, you can’t
On the morning of 4 May, Zar Zar Tun, a Burmese garment worker, led a strike at a factory in the city of Yangon. Within 24 hours she was an inmate at Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison.Zar Zar Tun, 31, was arrested outside the Blue Diamond bag factory in Dagon Seikkan, an industrial district of Yangon, where she and more than 100 other garment workers had been protesting over pay, working conditions and the right to strike.This followed a number of strikes in the region in April that saw hundreds of workers, torn between the need to work and the fear of catching Covid-19, demand that employers help minimise their exposure to the virus and continue to pay them despite looming factory closures.When police broke up the 4 May protest they arrested Zar Zar Tun and a second garment worker, as well as four members of the All Burma Federation of Trade Unions. All were charged with blocking a public area, gathering people together during a pandemic, and – because they camped out at the factory before the protest – violating a night-time curfew introduced in April to curb coronavirus.Zar Zar Tun and her colleague Lay Lay Mar were sent to Insein where they spent 21 days chained together in a crowded prison hall. She said that when they were unshackled, “we had to empty buckets of faeces and urine, and sweep and mop the floor”.Zar Zar Tun spent three months in Insein. At home, her family struggled without her. Her wages had supported her elderly parents as well as her two-year-old daughter, and while she was imprisoned her husband lost his construction job.“My child was separated from me so it was very traumatic,” she said. “Sometimes my husband had to stay with our baby, and he also had to come to my hearings, visit me at the prison and send food packages. He had to take days off from work and his boss did not like it.”The factory closed in June but was operated by Rongson (Myanmar) Co Ltd, which continues to supply companies such as US bag brand Vera Bradley. A manager at the Rongson factory, where the two women were employed as garment workers, said that the 100 workers who lost their jobs earlier this year were not sacked just because they went on strike. He told the Guardian that the strikers also broke laws in place to protect both workers and managers.A spokesperson for Vera Bradley said that while there was no official contract with Blue Diamond, it was leveraging its relationship with Rongson to find a fair way forward for the workers. If none was reached, the company would sever its relationship with Rongson.Labour rights campaigners say that what happened to Zar Zar Tun and Lay Lay Mar is a chilling insight into the way that Covid-19 laws are being used to silence garment workers in Myanmar and across the world. Since March, thousands of unionised garment workers have been fired across Myanmar, most of them women.“The rise of authoritarianism globally, and its manifestation in worsening employer and government hostility toward labour activism, was threatening the rights of garment workers before the advent of Covid-19,” said Ben Hensler, general counsel at the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). “But the pandemic has intensified attacks on workers, while also providing the perpetrators with political cover.”In March, another garment worker at a different factory, Hayman Aung, posted a question on a Facebook forum about compassionate leave. The 21-year-old didn’t name the factory where she worked and where she was the secretary of a new trade union, but someone who replied did.A month later Hayman Aung was fired for serious misconduct. She was then told to report to the police station or face arrest for “defaming” her workplace. Forced to hand over her phone to the police, delete her Facebook account and find two bail guarantors, she is still waiting to hear whether a trial will take place.“You have employers constantly using criminal law against union organisers, often for frivolous complaints,” said Bent Gehrt, field director at the WRC. “Hayman Aung made an innocent request for information. This cannot reasonably be called defamation yet now she faces prison.”Brands and governments have an urgent responsibility to ensure Covid-19 doesn’t affect the already precarious lives of garment workers but the reality on the ground is very different, said Dominique Muller of Labour Behind the Label.“This is a global pattern,” she said. “Economies and exports are slowing down and many governments don’t want workers to disrupt the industry at this difficult time. They would rather throw workers to the wolves when they speak out about their rights.”
Air Transat says it welcomes the news of a potential airline bailout package for Canada’s aviation sector. In a statement to TravelPulse Canada Friday, Air Transat said news that the Trudeau government may be working on a bailout package to help the aviation industry is “very welcome.” “Any news that the government is finalizing plans […]
Federal authorities raided an electricians’ union headquarters in Philadelphia on Friday morning, which had a massive flag promoting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden covering the front of the building. The Local 98 electricians’ union—a chapter of the larger International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers—was searched by the FBI at 7 a.m. on Friday, according to Philadelphia news outlet Billy Penn. It remains
Please respect our republishing guidelines - Click Here Should students return to school or be kept at home with online learning? Has the Coronavirus pandemic run its course enough to allow children to return to student-teacher in-person learning? That has been the question dominating educational systems throughout the nation. While some schools have returned to a semblance of normality, others have remained locked down, with concerns about spreading the virus preventing their reopening. Or is that the real story? In Los Angeles, CA, the public health chief may be suggesting another agenda – a political one – as she warns the county’s schools will likely not resume until after the presidential election. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, in a conference call with educators, twice mentioned keeping schools closed until after the election. “We don’t realistically anticipate that we would be moving to either tier 2 or to reopening K-12 schools at least until after the election, in early November,” she said, drawing criticism for the political date. Leaked audio obtained by the L.A. radio station KFI AM 60 reveals the doctor’s comments: “When we just look at the timing of everything, it seems to us a more realistic approach to this would be to think that we’re going to be where we are now until we are done with the election.” Nothing to See Here? The county’s Department of Public Health tried to play down the furor later by saying Ferrer was only referring to the timeframe for “expanded school reopenings,” but that didn’t sway much of the public. One tweeter, known as JP, said: “It’s been about the election the entire time. Anybody who’s been paying attention could see this would be stretched into November solely for that purpose.” Some insist the statement was taken out of context – that Ferrer merely used election day as a benchmark. It is worth noting, though, that everything else in L.A. County is on track to reevaluate reopening and expanding within the next couple of weeks, except for the school system. Ferrer may have meant the beginning of November, but why not say that instead of citing a specific event? After playing Ferrer’s recorded comments, the hosts of KFI News speculated that the timing was a way to thwart President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign: If the students were to return to school now, then it would “give good will to Trump, and more votes.” A commenter identified as Lisa tweeted out this response: “Dr Ferrer told us ‘the science is guiding our decisions’ what does science have to do with the election? We are being held hostage by a Politically motivated shut down. WAKE UP LOS ANGELES.” The L.A. school system has been in the spotlight in recent months for what appears to be politically charged decisions. As Liberty Nation reported, in July, the United Teachers Los Angeles Union (UTLAU) had a list of demands before allowing children to return to class: “Social distancing practices aside, the union folks also want to defund the police, close charter schools, and promote self-serving legislation unrelated to the Coronavirus.” The UTLAU also insisted on funding for illegal immigrants, a wealth tax, and even Medicare for All. As parents struggle to understand the risks (or lack of) to their children should schools reopen, the media continues to bombard the American public with daily updates of infection, hospitalizations, and deaths supposedly due to COVID. Liberty Nation’s Pennel Bird sums up the situation: “We obediently flattened the curve way back in April, and that was just a signal to the media to quickly move the goalposts.” Perhaps the goalposts all along were set for November 4. ~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.