CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The front lines of the class war have no geographic boundaries. This is the reality presented to us by capitalist globalization. With the original intention of dividing and weakening the international working class, the result is the beginnings of a new sense of international solidarity between workers regardless of nationality. A case in point is the current struggle of Argentine workers at the Kraft plant (formerly Terrabusi) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In July, at the peak of the H1N1 “Swine flu” outbreak, workers at the Buenos Aires plant went on strike in protest of management’s refusal to provide adequate sanitation for workers. Workers were also denied sick leave and family leave during the outbreak. Hand sanitizers and other supplies needed to prevent spread of contagion were not available. After numerous demands from the workers were ignored, the strike was called resulting in a production stoppage lasting a week.
Argentina’s labor laws require compulsory arbitration if workers are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution to demands. Argentina’s Ministry of Labor sent inspectors to the facility at the onset of the strike and confirmed that Kraft had violated the compulsory arbitration conditions of national labor law by refusing to take any actions in response to worker demands. The company responded to the strike by firing over 150 workers, including elected union officers, shop stewards, and delegates in an apparent attempt to both intimidate the workers and weaken their union.
On Sept. 1, workers again called a strike, resulting in a work stoppage. This time, Kraft responded by declaring a lockout, leaving fired workers stranded within the plant, isolated from their co-workers who were demonstrating outside. Armed riot police barricaded the compound, and shot rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd outside the plant.
The Argentine workers have been utilizing social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube to disseminate information about their struggle. Since late August, the workers at the Buenos Aires plant have been constantly organizing demonstrations, protests and other acts of resistance.
In spite of an “obligatory conciliation” ruling by Argentina’s Ministry of Labor, Kraft continues to refuse to reinstate the illegally fired workers and has yet to comply with demands for adequate sanitation measures in the workplace.
On Sept. 17, American activists and workers responded with demonstrations at two major Kraft facilities in Illinois: a major manufacturing plant in Champaign and Kraft corporate headquarters in Glenview.
The Champaign plant manufactures many popular Kraft food products, such as “Mac and Cheese” and “Micracle Whip.” Fliers were distributed outside of both facilities.
At Champaign, a Kraft representative who wished to be identified only as “Brad” indicated that he was aware of the Kraft workers’ struggle in Argentina, but declined to comment further.
This struggle provides a good example of the usefulness of the Internet, and social networking in particular, to unite workers and activists on a global scale. Today, that statement which once was uttered with only hope is now filled with a new sense of real possibilities: Workers of the World, Unite!
To learn more and to keep up to date with this on-going struggle, join the Facebook group “Say NO to KRAFT campaign.” http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=124299898146