Philippines: Labor group protests repression

On Nov. 6 the Philippine labor confederation Kilusang Mayo Uno filed a complaint against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government with the UN International Labor Organization. Citing violations of freedom of association and the right to organize, it noted that during five years of Arroyo’s presidency “we have seen a tremendous increase in trade union and human rights violations.”

“Sixty-four trade union leaders, members or supporters have been killed,” the labor group said. “Most of them were KMU members.” The petition also noted a total of 770 political killings in the Philippines during the same period.

KMU Secretary General Joel Maglunsod sees “a deliberate policy to prevent the workers’ from assessing their rights and fighting for better wages.”

South Africa: UN links water shortages to inequality

“Dripping taps in rich countries lose more water than is available each day to more than 1 billion people, ” reads a report issued Nov. 9 in Cape Town by the UN Development Program. The report goes on to summarize stark human inequalities, such as the fact that 500 people possess more money than do the world’s 416 million poorest people. The report, titled “Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis,” focuses on the skewed distribution of water. Accessible at, it demonstrates that 1.1 billion people — two-thirds of them earning less than $2 a day — drink unclean water and 2.6 billion lack toilet facilities. The result is diarrheal disease, which annually kills 1.8 million of the world’s children. A reporter interviewed a resident of Foreman, outside Durban. There, “8,000 people make do with two water pipes and two sets of latrines for men and women respectively.”

Mexico: Victory for same-sex couples

In a victory for equal rights, Mexico City’s Legislative Assembly overwhelmingly approved a law that will extend legal recognition to same-sex couples.

The legislature, in a 43-17 vote, approved the law Nov. 9. Five deputies abstained. The law, championed by the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) which governs Mexico City, will provide same-sex couples with the same legal status and rights as opposite-sex couples.

According to PRD deputy Victor Hugo Cirigo, the new law “is a great achievement for the struggle to construct an inclusive society that respects the freedom of their members to be who they are, without stigmatization, rejection or exclusion.”

Alejandro Encinas, Mexico City’s governor, has 10 days to approve the law or recommend modifications. Encinas, a member of the PRD, is expected to approve the law.

The right-wing National Action Party vowed to challenge the equality law before Mexico’s Supreme Court.

Julio Roman and Edgar Cortes, presidents of the Foundation for Support for Sexual Diversity and the Lesbian and Gay Collective, respectively, said the new law will benefit nearly 700,000 gays and lesbians in Mexico City who are in the closet because they fear discrimination or persecution on the job, at school or in civic life.

Austria: World unionists join forces

A major transition among world labor groups unfolded in Vienna on Nov. 1 as the newly formed International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) gathered for its inaugural session. The day before, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the World Confederation of Labor, meeting separately, were dissolved. Unions affiliated with each group came together in an organization that now represents 166 million workers and 309 affiliated unions from 156 countries.

Eight national union organizations without previous international affiliations also joined the ITUC. According to reports on the ICFTU and LabourStart web sites, speakers invoked the ravages of corporate globalization as the rationale for the formation of a new organization to defend workers’ rights.

Guy Ryder, former ICFTU general secretary, was elected to the same post with the ITUC.

Japan: Big turnout for left-wing festival

Over 200,000 people participated in the 39th annual Akahata Festival, named after the million-plus circulation newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party, on Nov. 3-5 in Tokyo.

Activities included concerts featuring rock bands and folk musicians, dancing, exhibits, open-air theater, storytelling, comedy sketches, sports competitions, board games and film showings, in addition to speeches and lectures by activists in the JCP.

A major theme this year was the nationwide battle to protect Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, which bans the country from developing the capacity to wage war abroad. JCP Chair Shii Kazuo sharply criticized Prime Minister Abe Shinzo’s willingness to bow to U.S. pressures to make such a change.

“Article 9 is a treasure of the Japanese people and the common asset of all Asian peoples,” he said.

During the festival 142 people joined the JCP, including large numbers of young people. One new member from Yamanshai Prefecture said, “I want to change this society in which life hinges on money.”

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