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Locals express solidarity through protest

BY DANIEL SEIDL | FEBRUARY 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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Local groups are organizing an event to demonstrate support of laborers worldwide.

“Workers and oppressed are under attack globally,” local trade unionist and socialist Christopher Clark said in an email. “It is urgently necessary to unite in mutual support.”

Clark, in collaboration with the Communist Workers Group and the New Communist Party, will hold an event at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., today. The event, Clark said, aims to show solidarity with Korean rail workers, who went on strike in December to protest privatization of the rail system in South Korea.

Though the strikers stopped for a time, the strikes in South Korea aren’t over, Clark said.

“The rail workers faced heavy repression during and after their recent strike, and the South Korean workers will mobilize on Feb. 25 for a general strike to defend labor rights and against privatization,” he said. “It is urgently necessary to unite in mutual support.”

In addition to the local  event, others in the U.S. are connecting with the South Koreans as well. The Transport Workers Solidarity Committee in the California Bay Area is organizing a protest in front of the Korean Consulate in San Francisco on Feb. 25, Clark said.

The privatization of railways is an international movement started in Europe and pushed by other countries worldwide, said University of Washington Associate Professor Clark Sorensen.

“Privatization of state railways has been a neo-liberal reform policy,” he said. “The state railways are a legacy.”

The event also seeks to promote activity of labor unions in the U.S., said New Communist Party member David Arthur Smithers.

“Just be aware of it, that’s the first step,” he said. “Right now, the labor movement in the U.S. is very asleep, and workers are, too.”

Smithers will speak at today’s event and will be joined by Marlon Pierre-Antoine, a local activist.
Though South Korea may be far from Iowa, these events still have an impact on workers in the United States, Pierre-Antoine said.

“People may think, it’s halfway around the world — how does it relate to us?” he said. “I would say they do have a real, material impact. Not only is it morally important, we can also learn from them.”

Sorensen said while there may be some connection between the labor movements, overall, South Korean labor is resistant to Americans.

“The labor in South Korea is kind of anti-American,” he said. “I don’t know that there would be a lot of solidarity.”

Despite the different views of the labor movements, Smithers said they share the same basic ideals.

“The workers’ movement is international in character,” he said. “This workers movement is basically a movement for workers rights and for peace.”


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