By ERNIE GOTTA
The year 2019 is ending with a flurry of attacks on labor activists across the globe. The ruling against Gaël Quirante, a leader of the postal workers in France, and the assault and arrest of dockers’ union activist Rio Wijaya in Indonesia are just two recent examples. Labor militants and socialists have historically taken up the defense of working class fighters who find themselves locked up or under the bosses’ boot.
International Labor Defense, organized by James P. Cannon in the U.S., was a strong example of how to build principled united-front organizations to defend those on the front lines of the class struggle. They defended working-class fighters like Big Bill Haywood, Tom Mooney, and Sacco and Vanzetti.
Today, as the world working-class movement grows closer through online communication and collaboration, we have to more vigorously develop our internationalist perspectives, which include an ability to build solidarity and to assist materially in labor defense campaigns everywhere. This article will highlight two cases in which solidarity is urgently needed.
China: Labor activist Chen Weixiang, also known as Xiangzi, was arrested on Dec. 17 in Guangzhou, along with two of his associates. Xiangzi has devoted his life since 2011 to defending the rights of sanitation workers.
A sanitation worker organizer said of Xiangzi, “[Xiangzi’s online labor support platform] was becoming popular with sanitation workers around Guangzhou. They had helped people get a lot of money that they were owed. He was doing the work the government is supposed to do—helping workers get what is owed to them by law. But it seems that, in the eyes of some people, this is not acceptable.”
The situation for organized labor in China has grown dire. Since 2018, over 100 Chinese labor activists have been arrested by the government. Many of these prisoners were never charged with a crime, and the same is true for Xiangzi’s arrest. There is also often little access to reach family or lawyers.
The committee building solidarity to defend Xiangzi is asking friends and supporters to join a call for the disclosure of their location, their access to families and lawyers, their right not to be tortured, and for their release. You can help by signing and sharing this petition: Release Xiangzi and Chinese Labor Activists
Cambodia: Sithar Chhim, a worker and president of the union at Naga World Hotel Casino, was dismissed from her job for defending a coworker’s right to wear a union shirt that demanded fair wages. The Hong Kong-based company, which runs the casino in Phnom Penh, has made huge profits. According to an interim report, the company ended the first half of 2019 with a net profit of $245.1 million, a 36% increase over the same period of last year. Its gross gaming revenue (GGR) rose by 22% to $872.4 million.
While the company profits, workers in the hotel section make as little as $191 per month. The union is demanding an increase to $300 per month. Naga World has refused for nearly two decades to recognize the workers’ right to collectively bargain. Workers are preparing to strike for the defense of their union president and for their right to collectively bargain. You can help support their strike fund by making a donation today.