Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Brunswick, Maine, United States

I'll be taking an 'unpaid leave of absence' from my job at the Global Network from December 15-March 15, 2020 in order to help my friend Lisa Savage on her campaign for the US Senate in Maine. She's running as a Maine Green Independent Party member and needs to gather 2,000 petition signatures of registered Greens during that period. I'll be back to GN after March 15.

Friday, October 09, 2009

MEETING WORKERS IN BUSAN

Overlooking Busan seaport with Yun, Taek Geun
Meeting the striking tug boat workers in Busan


I am writing this on the train from Busan back to Seoul in South Korea. Last night I spoke to 50 well dressed leaders of the Busan YMCA who were dedicating a peace center inside their tall office building. Along with the peace center they opened a fair trade coffee shop inside the center. I was surprised to see the extent of the political work of the YMCA Christian peace movement in Korea since my experience with YMCA's in the US is that they have swimming pools and hand out basketballs and towels. But apparently the Koreans have decided to remain true to the original precepts of the YMCA vision.

Prior to my YMCA speech GN board member Sung-Hee Choi and I spent the day visiting three different labor struggles in the Busan seaport. Busan is the largest port in the country and also hosts a US Naval base which is a receiving station for most of the weapons that come into the country for distribution to US military bases throughout Korea.

Our escort yesterday was Yun, Taek Geun who is a railroad worker and is also the Vice-President of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions Busan Regional Council (KCTU). He also serves as the Chairman of the KCTU reunification committee and has led worker trips to North Korea several times. Yun told us that in the past workers have gone on strike in opposition to the transfer of US military weapons on the railroads from the Busan port.

The railroad workers in Busan are now struggling against privatization of the rail system. Like most governments worldwide, the current right-wing government in South Korea is doing all it can to destroy social progress and to expand their military budget (with strong US backing).

We met with the dockworkers that unload the huge ships that are bountiful in the Busan port. They too have overworked and under paid and do not presently have a union but are trying to get recognized by their government as the representatives of the cargo workers.

Our third visit was with the tugboat workers, the photo above, who are currently on strike. Today marks their 61st day on strike as they also attempt to get the companies and government to recognize their right to have a union. Currently they have no protection under the law and work 24 hours in a row with no overtime and no benefits like vacation or sick days. One of the tugboat workers told me, "We want to live like a human being."

I was invited to speak to the workers for a couple of minutes and told them about my visit to the Stella D'Oro workers last weekend in New York City who are also fighting against corporate exploitation. I also briefly described the work of the Global Network and said that growing militarism in all our countries was being used to oppress the people of the world to benefit the interests of the corporations that now run virtually all our governments.

On my trip to Korea last August I met with one of the leaders of the KCTU in Seoul. He arranged for Sung-Hee and I to visit the workers in Busan. The KCTU is heavily involved in connecting the peace movement with the labor movement - something I wish we saw more of in the US.

This morning I asked Yun, Taek Geun what he thought about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. He laughed. I loved his response. I just can't get over this decision to give Obama this prestigious award. The man has essentially done nothing except talk and expand the war in Afghanistan-Pakistan! To me it cheapens the idea of the award. I can think of thousands of people who have actually worked for peace in the world that would be much more deserving of the Nobel Prize. I've already read some people saying that he deserved it because he has called for nuclear disarmament, but talk is cheap.

As Cindy Sheehan says in the post below, why not give Bush the award. What a sad joke.

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