Egypt's Factory Privatization Campaign Turns Deadly

by Joe Stork
published in MER192

The Egyptian government’s campaign to sell off the cream of its state-owned factories to private investors took a violent and murderous turn after some 7,000 evening-shift workers at the Kafr al-Dawwar Spinning and Weaving Factory staged a spontaneous sit-down strike on September 30, 1994. Security forces quickly sealed off the plant to prevent other shifts -- the factory’s work force totals around 22,000 -- from joining the strikers who were protesting recent firings and cuts in bonus and incentive pay.

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Book Review

by Zjaleh Hajibashi
published in MER193

Lila Abu-Lughod, Writing Women’s Worlds (California, 1992).

Edmund Burke III, ed., Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East (California, 1993).

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Egypt's New Labor Law Removes Worker Provisions

by Marsha Pripstein Posusney
published in MER194

After prolonged negotiations, the Egyptian government has drafted a law to diminish dramatically the state’s role in labor affairs. Expected to go before Parliament this spring, it gives both private employers and public-sector managers far greater leeway to hire and fire, and to set wages and benefits for future employees. In an explicit quid pro quo for the “right to fire,” the law also legalizes strikes, which have been banned since 1952. It signifies the government’s formal withdrawal from the Nasserist “moral economy,” in which Egyptians came to expect the state to guarantee job security and a living wage in exchange for their contribution to national production.

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Gaza's Workers and the Palestinian Authority

by Amira Hass
published in MER194

The story of the January 1995 strike in a private health clinic in Gaza City was published in only one paper, al-Watan, a new weekly affiliated with Hamas. Neither al-Quds nor al-Nahar, dailies in tune with the Palestinian Authority (PA), reported on the first workers’ strike under Palestinian self-rule.

Palestinian Trade Unions and the Struggle for Independence

by Graham Usher
published in MER194

Not so long ago, to visit the Erez checkpoint on Gaza’s “border” crossing with Israel was to witness a modem slave market. Tens of thousands of Palestinian workers would wake up at 3 am and gather at Erez for the privilege of working in their occupier’s economy, predominantly in construction and agriculture, undertaking the “dirty work” that Jewish workers would not do, for a wage on average a third less than their Jewish peers. At least 30 percent of Gaza’s GNP derived from wages earned in Israel.

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Making It on the Middle Eastern Margins of the Global Capitalist Economy

by Janet Bauer
published in MER202

Victoria Bernal, Cultivating Workers: Peasants and Capitalism in a Sudanese Village (Columbia, 1991).

Jenny White, Money Makes Us Relatives: Women’s Labor in Urban Turkey (Texas, 1994).

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Tunisian Labor Leaders Reflect Upon Revolt

by Chris Toensing
published in MER258

The Tunisian revolution of January 2011 drew upon the participation of nearly every social stratum. Organized labor threw its weight into the struggle early on, in an important sign of the breadth and depth of opposition to the rule of the dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In mid-March, the Sacramento Central Labor Council (AFL-CIO) hosted a delegation of leaders of Tunisia’s powerful labor federation, the Union Générale Tunisienne du Travail (UGTT), on a visit to the United States. The Council co-hosted the Tunisians with the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center. Abdellatif Hamrouni is secretary-general of the country’s federation of public works employees and a member of the UGTT general assembly.

Room to Breathe

Creating Space for Independent Political Action in Morocco

by Daniel Burton-Rose
published in MER209

Less than a block from the seventeenth-century walls that surround Rabat’s medina (old city) is the Association Tamaynut. Inside the three-room office one can attend meetings, listen to lectures and participate in passionate discussions. A young man, Ibrahim, is there every weekday from morning until night. One of Morocco’s many thousand unemployed college graduates, he spends his free time doing volunteer work that he finds gratifying.

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The Social History of Labor in the Middle East

by Christopher Alexander
published in MER210

Ellis Jay Goldberg, ed., The Social History of Labor in the Middle East (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996).

The advent of structural adjustment programs since the 1980s has rekindled interest in workers and labor organizations, perhaps the greatest “losers” in recent reform processes. This edited volume includes chapters on Turkey, Egypt, Syria, the Maghreb, Israel and Iran. Its chronological range extends from the Ottoman era to the contemporary period.

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