Iran’s bus drivers union calls for Green-Labor unity

15 02 2010

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

Disclaimer statement

On February 12, a statement appeared on various Iranian websites, including Balatarin which is one of the largest Persian-speaking community websites in the world, in the form of a poster.  The poster called for solidarity with the imprisoned leader of Tehran’s bus drivers union, Mansoor Osanloo, through acts of civil disobedience beginning on March 4 around Tehran’s Valiasr square.  The statement purported to be an offcial statement of the union (formally known as the Syndicate of Vahed Company Workers of Tehran and Environs).  Subsequently, in an article for the popular web journal Tehran Bureau, a staff member at Iran Labor Report wrote an analysis of the union statement as it had appeared on the various websites.

It now appears that the poster-statement was not authentic and that the union’s leadership had not issued the statement. Moreover, the provenance of the statement is still not clear. The union had apparently not published an official disclaimer earlier on due to the recent disuptions with internet use in Iran.  Subsequent to this, the union requested that the inauthenticity of the statement be made public and that henceforth no reference would be made of it.

Iran Labor Report which is the voice of Iran’s beleaguered labor movement gladly honors the union’s request and removes from circulation the link to the article.

Iran Labor Report editorial board
February 15, 2010

________________________________________________________________________________________

Source: Tehran Bureau

by Hamid Farokhnia in Tehran (Hamid Farokhnia, who is using a pen name, is a staff writer at the Iran Labor Report. He covers labor issues for Tehran Bureau.)

In a potentially significant development, a leading constituent of Iran’s labor movement has now unequivocally aligned itself with the Green Movement.

On February 12, Tehran’s Bus Drivers Union (Syndicate of Vahed Company Workers of Tehran and Environs, or SVCWTE) circulated posters throughout Tehran declaring itself fully on the side of the democratic movement and called on the Greens to support the beleaguered union through acts of civil disobedience.

The poster reads:

“Green Traffic Every Day at 6 p.m. from March 6 to March 22”

“Call to Action from SVCWTE to the People of Iran, Especially the Democratic Green Movement, for Civil Disobedience.”

“Starting March 6, we the workers of Vahed Company will wage acts of civil disobedience (or white strike) to protest the condition of Mansoor Osanloo in prison. We appeal to the Iranian people and to the Democratic Green Movement — of which we consider ourselves a small part–to join us by creating a deliberate traffic jam in all directions leading to Valiasr Square.”

“To Publicize Information is a Form of Struggle”

The Bus Drivers Union’s February 12 statement has far-reaching consequences for both the democratic and labor movements. As many observers have commented, the Achilles’ heel of the protest movement continues to be its failure to produce cohesive forms of political and economic demands. In ignoring the workers’ economic grievances, Green Wave leaders and activists may miss an opportunity imperative to their struggle. Without the mass-scale backing and active participation of the Iranian working class, the democratic movement lacks the muscle to wrest concessions from the regime, let alone bring it to its knees.

For its part, the fledgling labor movement has come to appreciate the centrality of the protest movement in the general democratizing process. Clearly, no talk of organizing the unorganized masses of workers can take place as long as the coercive powers of the regime remain intact; hence, illuminating the interdependence of the two movements in their common struggle.

The decision to issue the statement has probably not come easily. By siding itself unambiguously and openly with the protesters, the union is opening itself up to charges of subversion and sedition. The government and its supporters consider the democratic movement to be a tool of foreigners and therefore, appeals to the Greens for civil disobedience is likely not going to sit well with the authorities. When union leaders decided to issue this statement, they must have contemplated the risks of this decision. For the union’s incarcerated leaders like Osanloo this could mean the introduction of new punitive measures like the cutting of food rations or visits, and beatings and long periods of solitary confinement.

What makes the statement especially noteworthy is the fact that the bus drivers union is in a way “the advance guard” of Iran’s new labor movement–and its conscience. The bus drivers were the first to organize themselves in a broad-based union (sugar cane workers and teachers followed), the first to stage a coordinated high-profile strike and the first to have remained undeterred by either blandishments or threats. For these reasons, their tactics and collective decisions are closely followed and emulated by the entire labor movement.

The statement may presage a budding Green-labor alliance in the making, should the Green Movement proceed as decisively as the Bus Drivers Union.

Copyright © 2010 Tehran Bureau

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