By Mattie Stardust
Labor unions’ popularity on the rise
More U.S. Americans have favorable views of labor unions now than at any time over the past decade, according to the results of a Gallup poll published Aug. 30. A full 62 percent of Americans approve of labor unions, a five-percent increase from last year’s figure.
This latest poll shows the continuation of an upward trend in Americans’ approval of labor unions. After an all-time-low 48 percent approval rating in 2009, public perception of unions has climbed steadily. People who believe unions should have more influence numbered 39 percent, an 18-year high. And those who think unions should have less influence clocked in at 28 percent, a record low.
Despite the rosy approval ratings, 46 percent of respondents believe unions will become weaker in the future, while only 22 percent predict unions becoming stronger. (gallup.com, Aug. 30)
Protests in India after assassination of left-wing journalist: “We will not allow us to be silenced”
Tens of thousands took to the streets of major cities in India to protest the Sept. 5 assassination of left-wing journalist Gauri Lankesh. A vocal opponent of India’s caste system and Hindu fundamentalism, Lankesh published a weekly leftist newspaper column in her hometown of Bangalore. She spoke and wrote in support of the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency currently waging people’s war against the government in the eastern part of the country.
As many as fifteen thousand protesters filled the streets of Bangalore to demonstrate outrage at the controversial journalist’s murder. Sitaram Yechury, the leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), addressed the crowds, “When I say ‘I am Gauri’, it means that we will not allow us to be silenced. The idea of a socialist and secular India is still alive.” (bbc.com, Sept. 12)
UC Berkeley cop caught on video grabbing money out of suspect’s wallet
A University of California Berkeley police officer was caught with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar outside a Berkeley football game Sept. 9. Video taken by a bystander shows the officer grabbing a hot dog vendor’s wallet and pulling out 60 dollars as he wrote the man a ticket for illegal vending. “This is law and order in action,” the officer can be heard to say in the video, as he slips the immigrant hot dog vendor’s money into his pocket.
The video, recorded by Berkeley alum Martin Flores, went viral online, generating over 100,000 shares. According to a Facebook post by former Berkeley student Ruben Elias Canedo Sanchez, the officer, who was identified as Officer Sean Aranas, has a history of violence and discrimination against Black and Latinx students.
An online petition to have Aranas fired by the University has received nearly 50,000 signatures. Martin Flores, who caught the ordeal on video, started a GoFundMe with a goal of raising ten thousand dollars in order to buy the vendor, whose name is Juan, a new hot dog cart, pay off his citation and to “put some change in his pocket.” As of Sept. 15, that goal has been reached eight times over, raising more than $82,000 for Juan. (washingtonpost.com, Sept. 12)
“Slackers unite” in labor protests across France
Protests erupted across France Sept. 12 in response to recently-elected President Macron’s changes to the country’s labor code. According to five presidential decrees, small and medium sized businesses will be able to sidestep union contracts and instead negotiate employment terms with individual workers. Additionally, the reforms jeopardize many workers’ pensions and unemployment benefits. Touted by the Macron government as a way of increasing efficiency and curbing unemployment, unions and labor advocates say the reforms will make workers more vulnerable to layoffs and economic insecurity.
Although private sector workers will be most affected by the changes, it was France’s public sector workers who took the lead at Tuesday’sprotests. The General Confederation of Labor (CGT), France’s second biggest union, called strikes in 4,000 government workplaces Sept. 12. Many protesters carried signs saying “Slackers unite,” mocking derisive comments aimed by the President at opponents in recent weeks. (theguardian.com, Sept. 12)
The French Democratic Confederation of Labor (CFDT) has called for a 10,000-worker protest on October 3 in Paris. (theguardian.com, Sept. 12)