By ERNIE GOTTA
On Wednesday, Dec. 18, French courts ruled against postal worker and trade-union leader Gaël Quirante with a three-month suspended prison sentence and a five-year probationary period. If he receives another criminal conviction in the next five years, even if it’s a misdemeanor, he goes to jail for three months. He was also fined 269€ to be paid to La Poste, 1000€ for moral injury to be paid to a manager, and 700€ for moral injury paid to another manager. Gaël and his lawyer immediately appealed the decision, so he does not face any penalty until the verdict of the new trial.*
Gaël Quirante denounced the ruling, saying, “15 minutes of deliberation after six hours of debate: it is quick decision and it is an extremely severe judgment that we do not recognize.” Gaël was accompanied by dozens of supporters, postal workers, and participants in the ongoing general strike as they marched into the hearing.
Surrounding this trial is a general strike churning out militant actions across the country—shutting down travel, schools, and even electricity. A top French official has resigned and the workers’ unions are refusing a holiday truce. The condemnation of Gaël is a clear message from Le Poste and the French government to workers who dare challenge their bosses. How else can this unjust sentence be understood other than as a threat to the rest of the leaders of the workers’ movement?
The attack on Gael is much like those being carried out against trade unionists across the globe. Working-class leaders worldwide are under attack for their efforts to organize against the bosses. Eric Lee of Labour Start sent the following message recently: “Rio Wijaya, a trade unionist from the Indonesian dockers’ union, was brutally attacked by security guards at Hutchison Port’s terminal in Jakarta. Later, he was arrested and detained under false allegations of defaming and assaulting the security guards. What happened to Rio is part and parcel of an increasingly anti-union climate at the biggest container port in Indonesia. Over the past 18 months, attacks on trade unionists have included the shooting of members’ cars, the mass sacking of 400 casual workers at the port, and the terminal’s appalling safety conditions that have resulted in the death of four workers since July 2016.”
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), together with the union in Indonesia, has launched a global online campaign in support of Rio and the dockers in Jakarta.
The history of class struggle has been a bloody fight against the bosses who utilize the police, courts, vigilante thugs, and other ruling institutions to prevent workers from organizing. The revolutionary Teamsters who led the 1934 workers rebellion to organize Minneapolis were subjected to fines and prison time, and several were even murdered. Facing an intense amount of repression, this rank-and-file-led movement was able to make a massive contribution to organized labor by bringing unskilled workers and more truck drivers into the union and giving them a platform to participate in organizing across the entire northern Midwest.
Similarly, postal workers in France, with Gaël’s leadership, gained new confidence through class struggle and defeated the country’s largest employer, Le Poste. Gaël and his supporters are determined to continue the fight for justice. We have a responsibility to aid our trade-union comrades on the front lines of the class struggle who are facing harsh repression. Today, the task of trade unionists everywhere is to raise the banner, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”
Drop the charges against Gaël! Free Rio! Stop the repression of trade unionists!
*Correction: Initially we posted inaccurate information regarding the sentencing. What is currently posted is correct.