Archive: August, 2007

Pardon Michael Vick

My friend Pete is a retired labor lawyer who lives in Manhattan. Since his wife, Madelyn, is much younger and still working, Pete has only his Golden Retriever-Lab mix to talk with. Today they are visiting the dog park where West Seventy-second Street meets the Hudson River. Pete is reading the New York Times sports section. Max is under the bench, pretending to be asleep.

“Max, I think they should pardon Michael Vick, don’t you? It says here in the paper that a lot of people think he’s guilty only of hanging out with the wrong crowd. His father says he’s a natural dog lover, says Michael is a good-hearted person who couldn’t bring himself to shake off a bunch of freeloading friends and they got him into dogfighting.”

Max scratches a load of dirt into Pete’s Birkenstocks. (More)

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Child Labor or Ancient Art?

CAIRO — This is a city where things are not always what they seem to be. Take President Hosni Mubarak (please, some might add). Mubarak is regularly pummeled in the opposition press as an 89-year-old faded revolutionary whose time has passed. But even if you don’t speak the language, you can plainly see from the dozens of ten-story banners hung about the city that Mubarak is a hardy, handsome, competent leader of no more than 50. Then there’s the ubiquitous sight of men young and old, rich and poor, who at the end of the day can be seen dozing off on street corners, in hotel lobbies and in better restaurants, seemingly from the pleasing effects of small amounts of hash smoked along with the tobacco in their water pipes. Not true, as any one of them will tell you. The noxious odor comes not from hash, but from sprinklings of rosemary, thyme, mint and other herbs. Then there are the thousands of young boys and girls who appear to be working as child laborers in hundreds of carpet and rug plants across Egypt. Caution: Don’t you believe it. (More)

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Women Workers Lead Egyptian Strikes

In the recent “winter of labour discontent” in Egypt there were more than 250 strikes , work stoppages and sit-ins involving about 250,000 workers. But, according to journalist Jano Charbel, none was more dramatic than a sleep-in by female workers at textile plant in the Nile Delta. (More)

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August 2, 2007

Students Educate Me

CAIRO — Do you think workers in Egypt will ever have the right to strike? Have you ever had a period in the United States when there were so many strikes? Are workers in the U.S. able to join unions? Do U.S. workers have rights and how do those rights compare to those of workers in Egypt? Do you think our workers will ever be able to have real unions?

I was visiting a class for young journalists at American University in Cairo being taught by long-time Chicago Tribune labor reporter and Mideast correspondent Steve Franklin. The media had been caught by surprise last fall when a series of strikes by factory workers began sweeping the country. (More)

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August 1, 2007

Strikes Sweep Egypt, Labor Center Pays

CAIRO —The more than 200 strikes are over. Tens of thousands of workers are back on their jobs, having won several small but important victories in the most widespread labor unrest in Egypt in decades. But the Center for Trade Union & Workers Services (CTUWS) is out of business, its four offices closed and its activities banned in retaliation by the Egyptian government for the role it allegedly played in sparking the strikes. (More)

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