Sparks of Solidarity: ‘We are together!’

By Mattie Stardust

Manus Island protest: “The guards are trying to scare us, but we are together!”

 
Detainees at the Australian-controlled Manus Regional Processing Center in Papua New Guinea staged a protest Aug. 4, preventing police from entering the compound. The Center, which is operated by independent contractor Broadspectrum on behalf of the Australian government, currently holds 803 people in imprisonment, for the apparent “crime” of fleeing war and poverty to seek refuge in Australia. 
 
The protest erupted as guards attempted to transfer detainees to another Australian facility in neighboring Lorengau. Abdul Aziz, a refugee from Sudan, told reporters, “We don’t feel safe to go out to Lorengau. The protest is safe. There is no violence, although the guards are trying to scare us. But we are together.”
 
Protesters chanted “Freedom!” and “PNG [Papua New Guinea] Not Safe!” as they used their bodies to block the guards’ entry.  Iranian journalist and refugee Behrouz Boochani reported, “The situation in Manus is critical today. Since this morning, police tried to come in three times but the refugees lay down in their way.” In an Aug. 4 tweet, Boochani wrote, “The guards are obviously trying to spark a riot. We are not going to cause any violence.We are peaceful.” (theguardian.com, Aug. 4)
 
All solidarity to the Manus refugee protesters! No more imprisonment of refugees and immigrants!
 
 
Chicago automobile mechanics on strike
 
Some 2,000 car mechanics at dealerships across the greater Chicago area walked off the job Aug. 1 after contract negotiations stalled between IAMAW Automobile Mechanics Union local 701 and dealership owners’ New Car Dealer Committee. 
 
“On certain jobs, they just don’t take into account what it takes to do the work safely,” said striking mechanic Tom Handzik. Under the current wage system, rather than getting paid for the amount of time worked, mechanics are paid for the amount of time each job is expected to take. “If they say it takes an hour to change something, you have to do it in that time. But they keep changing the time.” As a result, despite working full time hours, many mechanics take home only part time wages. (dailyherald.com, Aug. 1)
 
Also at issue for the workers are “draconian pay structures prohibiting our ability to attract young, aspiring mechanics to enter the auto repair profession,” according to a statement by the union. (autonews.com, Aug. 3)
 
As of Aug. 7 the workers were still out on strike. Photos posted to 701’s Facebook page showed picket lines outside dozens of dealerships. 
 
 
Trump regime eyes new immigration restrictions, affirmative action rollback
 
White-supremacist-in-chief Donald Trump and company have continued their blatant assault on oppressed workers. We previously reported a drastic uptick in ICE arrests of undocumented workers. More recently, on Aug. 2, Trump endorsed a Senate bill that would cut in half the number of green cards issued to immigrant workers, from over a million to just above 500,000. Remaining green cards would be issued on a “merit” basis. Although the Republicans do have a majority in the Senate, internal strife on the question of immigrant labor makes passage of the bill unlikely at this time. (washingtonpost.com, Aug. 3)
 
A leaked Justice Department memo revealed the Trump administration is seeking lawyers to file lawsuits against what it calls “intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.” In plain English, the regime wants to use the Justice Department to sue colleges who practice affirmative-action in admissions, on the facile grounds that white applications are being discriminated against. 
 
Affirmative-action is a progressive policy which attempts to address systemic inequality of opportunity for oppressed students by favoring racial minorities in college and university admissions. 
 
According to Vanita Gupta, president of Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, “The fact that the position is in the political front office, and not in the career section that enforces antidiscrimination laws for education, suggests that this person will be carrying out an agenda aimed at undermining diversity in higher education without needing to say it.”
Notably, the effort will be undertaken by the Department’s front office, which is comprised of mostly Trump-appointees, rather than by the less partisan Educational Opportunities Section. (nytimes.com, Aug. 1)
Solidarity in defense of oppressed workers on all fronts must be made a top priority for labor and progressive movements.

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