Canada: Wal-Mart workers win union

Workers at a Wal-Mart store in Jonquiere, Quebec, have won the right to a union, after the Quebec Labour Relations Board ruled Aug. 2 to grant them union certification with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Canada. The union said this is the first unionized Wal-Mart in North America.

Accreditation was won after a majority of the store workers signed UFCW Canada membership cards. An Aug. 20 hearing will finalize the definition of which employees will have the right to union representation.

“The Quebec certification shows that when workers’ rights are protected, Wal-Mart workers will exercise those rights for a voice at work,” said UFCW International President Joseph Hansen. “Our challenge is to make sure that governments protect workers’ rights across Canada, the U.S. and around the world,” he added.

The UFCW (Canada) has applications pending for several other Wal-Mart stores.

Colombia: Unionists murdered, protests urged

Three new killings of union leaders by the Colombian Army were reported Aug. 6 by Colombia’s ANNCOL news agency. Hector Alirio Martinez, head of the National Peasants Association, Leonel Goyeneche, a leader in the United Confederation of Colombian Workers (CUT) in Arauca, and Jorge Prieto, a leader in the National Association of Hospital Workers, were under the protective measures program of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission when they were murdered by members of the Reveis Pizarro Battalion of the Colombian Army.

The human rights organization Humanidad Vigente said two other leading unionists — Samuel Morales, president of the CUT in Arauca, and Raquel Castro, a member of the Arauca Teachers Association, were detained in the same operation.

Human rights organizations are calling for urgent protests to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (auribe@presidencia.gov.co), denouncing the murders and demanding release of the two detained unionists.

Japan: Sit-in reaches 100-day mark

Protesters sitting in at Henoko port, on the island of Okinawa, passed the 100-day mark July 27 in their protest against construction of a new offshore U.S. military base, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported. The protest began in April, when the government requested preliminary boring of the seabed to prepare for the new offshore airbase to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. To build it, a coral reef off Nago city’s Henoko district has to be destroyed.

So far over 8,000 people have taken part in the protest, some from as far away as South Korea and the U.S. Elderly protesters have been especially prominent. “We tell our grannies and grandpas to take it easy, but they won’t listen,” said 42-year-old Natsume Tairi. “They say, ‘what if the work begins while we’re away?’”

The Henoko site was chosen seven years ago to replace Futenma. Protesters have since battled the Japanese government to a stalemate.

Sudan: UN, gov’t agree on Darfur refugee plan

The senior UN envoy to Sudan and that country’s foreign minister have signed a pact committing the government to take “detailed steps” in the next 30 days to disarm the Janjawid militias, the UN’s IRIN news service said Aug. 6. The militias have mounted devastating attacks on civilians in the western Darfur region, driving over a million Sudanese from their homes, including over 180,000 who have fled across the border into Chad.

Details of the agreement weren’t released, but the pact was reported to include measures to improve security and relieve the humanitarian crisis faced by the refugees.

It is estimated that 30,000 people have died during the conflict. The government is said to have armed the militias so they would aid in its fight against two area rebel groups. However, the militias have attacked unarmed civilians.

Haiti: More demonstrations

Several thousand supporters of Fanmi Lavalas, the party of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, demonstrated in Port-au-Prince July 28 — the anniversary of the first U.S. occupation of Haiti in 1959. They demanded an end to ongoing persecution by the interim government and the release of illegally detained party supporters, the Haitian news agency AHP said.

New mass demonstrations demanding Aristide’s immediate return were slated for Cap-Haitien on Aug. 12 and 13, Fanmi Lavalas leaders announced.

AHP also reported the formation of a new human rights organization — Group for the Defense of the Rights of Political Prisoners (GDP) — made up of families of former Fanmi Lavalas government officials now in prison. GDP leaders said they would defend the interests of political prisoners throughout Haiti and inform the public about the interim government’s human rights violations.

GDP spokesperson Wilfrid Lavaud denounced the agreement last spring between the interim government and a so-called human rights organization, the National Coalition for Haitian Rights (NCHR), that the government could arrest anyone designated by the NCHR.

International Notes are compiled by Marilyn Bechtel (mbechtel@pww.org).

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