Trade unionists remember the Tolpuddle martyrs of the 19th Century. In 1834 six farm labourers were fighting for the right to be a member of a trade union in order to improve working conditions. They were convicted and transported to Australia. These sentences provoked an angry response and what followed was an uprising which led to mass trade unionism. Annually, in July trade unionists march through the small Dorset town in acknowledgement of the sacrifices made by these men. They listen to speakers, and take snaps with their digital phones, political ostriches, blinkered in a digital world. Most will give no thought to the working conditions or pay of the people who made those gadgets.
In China today workers face appalling conditions to ensure the West is kept supplied with gadgets such as IPhones and IPads which we covet so much.
Ironically like those Tolpuddle martyrs shipped across the world, these gadgets are transported thousands of miles. The global market was designed to make maximise profits for already rich people.
The Guardian reports of a brawl involving 2000 people,
Geoffrey Crothall, spokesman for the pressure group China Labor Bulletin, told the New York Times workers at the plants had become increasingly emboldened.
“They’re more willing to stand up for their rights, to stand up to injustice,” he said. The same plant was the subject of a brief strike over pay in March.
Foxconn, the trading name of Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry Company, is the world’s largest contract maker of electronic goods. It has seen a few violent disputes at its sprawling plants in China, where it employs a total of about 1 million workers. It is an important supplier for companies including Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft.
These companies must be forced to divulge more information about their products. How are where are they produced, in what conditions, and to whom their taxes ( if any) are being paid. Like the Tolpuddle martyrs and this workers in China, we must all speak out and no longer accept injustice as inevitable.
They came first for the Socialists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Socialist;
And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;
And then… they came for me… And by that time there was no one left to speak up.
It is possible to make a difference. The TUC have released a joint statement detailing how solidarity has achieved progress for sugar workers in Fiji, working towards restoring collective bargaining and the right to representation. At home and beyond, so much can be achieved by solidarity, socialism and collectivism. This is the reason Thatcher was so determined to destroy the Trade Unions. She almost succeeded. To turn our backs now, and to ignore those who need our support, we become guilty by association.
The old adage,” The workers, united, will never be defeated” still rings true.
Tolpuddle Martyrs Museum: http://www.tolpuddlemartyrs.org.uk
Think Left Comment on Globalisation https://think-left.org/2012/01/26/stitched-up/
Holocaust Encyclopaedia Martin Niemöller
TUC and rights for workers in Fiji: http://www.tuc.org.uk/international/tuc-21437-f0.cfm
pdf tuc-21437-f0 Fiji