Great Britain: Union can dump racist

Overturning a 2004 British appeals court decision, the European Court of Human Rights has granted the British train drivers’ union, ASLEF, the right to expel a member belonging to the British National Party. The BNP’s constitution opposes “racial integration between British and non-European peoples.”

Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber commended a “decision that the right to freedom of association does not force unions to accept into membership people opposed to the basic principles of trade unionism.”

The ruling may lead to changes in British law, according to, but “every union will welcome this clear decision that they can now expel BNP members.” A BNP spokesperson responded, “We are a nationalist party and trade union leaders are the antithesis to this — they are internationalists.”

In 2003, the ASLEF workers refused to transport war supplies headed for the U.S.-British war in Iraq, forcing the government to rely on trucks.

UN: Unions crucial for women

The UN Commission on the Status of Women convened in New York Feb. 26, with 45 UN member nations represented, to determine priority themes and make recommendations on gender equality and the advancement of women.

Education International (EI), a world federation of teachers unions, called upon nations to eliminate violence against women and to guarantee the “fundamental right to education to all girls.”

EI joined other international labor federations at the commission’s 51st annual gathering to advocate for labor’s role on behalf of women. Its web site points out that “50 million women from 160 countries belong to trade unions, making the union movement the single largest voice of working women.”

Unions with their global reach are well situated to pressure governments to make good on the Millennium Development Goals, especially as applied to schools, health care and safety for women and girls.

The session ended on International Women’s Day, March 8.

Costa Rica: Marchers oppose ‘free trade’

Some 50,000 Costa Ricans demonstrated in San Jose on Feb. 26 to press the nation’s Legislative Assembly to block President Oscar Arias’ demand for approval of a U.S.-Costa Rica so-called free trade treaty by April 30.

Ottón Solís, losing presidential candidate in the last elections, proclaimed a “fiesta of democracy” as marching unionists, students, environmentalists, and indigenous groups declared that “Costa Rica is Not for Sale.”

Polls show most Costa Ricans oppose the treaty as promoting the transfer of wealth to multinational corporations. Of five Central American nations signing the bilateral treaties pushed by Washington, only Costa Rica has yet to secure congressional ratification. Critics see the state electric company and national bank as candidates for privatization.

According to TelesurTV, Arias, emphasizing the protesters’ “destabilizing objectives,” sought to rally “those with character who defend democratic institutions in the most dangerous hour.”

Mali: World gathering on food sovereignty

Five hundred people from 98 countries gathered in Sélingué, Feb. 23-27, for a “forum in the countryside” to build the movement for food sovereignty.

Represented were women’s organizations, indigenous groups, environmentalists, small farmers, consumers, and people who fish and raise cattle.

On the agenda, according to were: global politics, local food production, sustainability, genetic diversity, genetically modified foods, and privatization of land, water and seeds.

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela sent a message associating La Via Campesino, a forum organizer, with the Bolivarian Revolution. La Via Campesino coined the term “food sovereignty” in 1996 when Venezuelans were intensifying their “struggle against powerful forces of capitalism, imperialism, and neoliberalism” devastating to field and farm.

Korea: Talks face challenges

Agreements announced last month calling for North Korea to give up nuclear weapons in return for humanitarian and economic collaboration with South Korea have revived bilateral talks on reunification.

Ministers met Feb. 27-March 2 for the twentieth time since June 2000 to initiate food and fuel deliveries to the North and deal with family separation issues.

But impediments to reunification are readily apparent. South Korean police have held middle school teachers Choi Hwa-seop and Kim Maeng-gyu in isolation since Jan. 18 for violating South Korea’s National Security Law. Utilized by South Korean military regimes as a tool for repression, the law imposes harsh penalties for words and deeds seen as aiding North Korea.

Each teacher has chaired the Korean Teachers Union’s reunification committee and received honors for teaching reunification. Teachers’ organizations including the South Korean Teachers Union held a press conference in Seoul Feb. 23 denouncing restrictions on such teaching, the Korean News Agency said.

World Notes are compiled by W.T. Whitney Jr. (atwhit @