Next up in Brotherhoodization: labor unions

All Unionized and Nowhere to Go - Sada

Enlightening piece by Joel Beinin on Decree 97, discreetly passed by President Morsi a few days after his November 22 legal coup — with the intent to lock out the independent unions born in the years just prior and just after the 2011 uprising and take control of the old state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation:

This is characteristic of the Muslim Brotherhood’s recent political practice. Rather than reform institutions and power centers of the Mubarak regime, it has sought to extend its control over them. But as in other spheres, they do not have a concrete program or enough trained personnel to manage ETUF. Therefore, they are dividing control of the organization with Mubarak era figures. Their common interest is first and foremost bureaucratic—to maintain their positions. The Brothers also seek to limit the extent of independent trade unionism, as it constitutes a potential opposition to their free market ideology.

Very much worth reading.

Update: Karim Maged also signals this piece by Dina Bishara in FP.

Beinin on Egypt's workers

Joel Beinin has a new paper out at Carnegie on the labor movement in Egypt, his field of expertise for something like three decades at least now. He writes:

[W]orkers were quick to mobilize in the early stages of the groundswell that eventually unseated Hosni Mubarak, and they deserve more credit for his ouster than they typically receive. Soon after the uprising began, workers violated ETUF’s legal monopoly on trade union organization and formed the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU)—the first new institution to emerge from the revolt. Labor mobilization continued at an unprecedented level during 2011 and early 2012, and workers established hundreds of new, independent enterprise-level unions. They also secured a substantially higher minimum wage.

Yet, though the labor movement has made headway, problems persist. New unions face funding difficulties and the independent labor movement is internally divided. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—the ultimate power in Egypt since Mubarak’s demise—and ETUF have both repeatedly asserted their power to oppose independent unions and have scored some successes. The movement has a very limited presence in the emerging institutions of the post-Mubarak state and is thus left without much leverage to fend off attacks from its political opponents.

Going forward, the independent labor movement should consider looking beyond street protests over immediate grievances, where it has achieved its greatest successes, and begin training enterprise-level leaderships and forging political coalitions with sympathetic sections of the intelligentsia. Independent trade unions remain the strongest nationally organized force confronting the autocratic tendencies of the old order. If they can solidify and expand their gains, they could be an important force leading Egypt toward a more democratic future.

Timely reading considering a recent upsurge in labor actions across Egypt — in CairoMahalla al-KubraBeni SuefMarsa Matruh and elsewhere — and those are just from today. (via the two leading sources of Egypt labor info on Twitter, @3arabawy and @egystrikes.

The Virtues of a Low(er) Tech Future in Egypt

This commentary was contributed by Nathan Field.

There’s a growing school of thought that promotion of entrepreneurship is an effective solution to the socio-economic problems facing many Arab countries, especially Egypt. In Jobs@Arabia.com Thomas Friedman heaped praise on Oassis500, a high-tech accelerator in Jordan that provides startup money and training to budding internet companies.  A prominent American investor recently profiled FlatLabs6, a similar effort in Cairo.  And the pilot version of the State Department’s Global Entrepreneurship program offers mentorship to young Egyptian entrepreneurs, mostly in the tech and IT space.

The case for promoting entrepreneurship as a solution in Egypt is strong. Why?  A solid argument can be made that the single most important cause of the 2011 uprising was economic — or, in other words, lack of economic opportunities. 

There are more Egyptian university graduates than ever before, with higher aspirations than any previous generation, yet, in an increasingly competitive and liberal global economy, the government has to this point been unable to generate anywhere near enough jobs that meet their expectations. Thus, in February 2011, that discontent — probably exacerbated by the effects of the post-2008 global financial crisis — caused the ranks of Egypt’s previously passionate but relatively small opposition to reach a critical mass, and sweep away the Mubarak regime. 

Friedman and company’s approach is sound.  However, what should not be overdone is the implicit assumption that “startup” means (or should mean) “tech” and especially “internet company.” Virtually every article covering this trend in the Arab world focuses exclusively on web-based companies.  Certainly, they have a place, but an equal, if not greater focus should be on the development of new lower-tech, labor-intensive firms, because they are more likely to make an impact in addressing Egypt’s un and underemployment problems.

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Hesham Sallam on Egyptian workers' plight

There's a very good article by Hesham Sallam, called Striking Back at Egyptian Workers in the new issue of Middle East Report. It details the hostile rhetoric and actions by the military, interim government, and many commentators against the wave of industrial action and strikes that have taken place since the revolution.

This part of Sallam's piece on the treatment of strikers post-revolution is spot on:

Shortly after the resignation of Husni Mubarak on February 11, Egypt witnessed the rise of what Egyptian authorities and media outlets began describing as ihtijajat fi’awiyya or small-group protests. The Arabic term fi’a simply means “group,” but has acquired negative connotations and might be compared with how the term “special interest” is used to disparage American labor. 

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Links for 08.22.09 to 08.30.09

Eric Hobsbawm's On Empire: when Hobsbawm writes, Angry Arab reads carefully | I just read this book and completely agree with Angry Arab's praise. ✪ Global BDS Movement | Website of the Boycott - Divestment - Sanctions movement. ✪ How settlements in the West Bank are creating a new reality, brick by brick | World news | The Guardian | Good story on the settlements by Rory McCarthy. ✪ Boycott Israel -- latimes.com | An Israeli's call. ✪ Privatization by other means: How the Public Transport sector was “murdered” at 3arabawy | How five years ago, eager to justify the privatization of public sector transport, the government stopped making spare parts available for Cairo's buses. Outrageous and worthy of more digging. ✪ Important Film | A cartoon for children against sexual harassment. ✪ Israeli watchdog sees no settlement freeze | "The construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank is continuing 'as usual', a group reported, despite the Israeli government's announcement that it has stopped initiating new housing projects." ✪ Ramadan under siege « In Gaza | On the pauperization of Gaza: there is food, because of the tunnels, but only for the few who can afford it. ✪ Mehdi Karoubi, un mollah atypique et réformateur, devenu le porte-parole de la contestation en Iran - Asie-Pacifique - Le Monde.fr | On the other reformist candidate in Iran. ✪ مدونة محمد بن عبد الكريم الخطابي | A new blog dedicated to the Moroccan anti-colonial hero Abdel Krim.
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Links for 07.21.09

Israel weighs confiscation of more Palestinian land - Haaretz - Israel News | In other words, trend set in past 40 years set to continue, despite what Bibi says, unless more forceful action is taken. BM News: American troops expected in Egypt this September « Bikya Masr | 425 National Guard troops expected to be stationed near Rafah. Apollo astronauts advocate trip to Mars - Bring the Tang | I love the space program, even thought it might be pretty pointless in the end. But can't we seize all the assets of Goldman Sachs and use them to build a rocket for Mars? Come on... Saudi Authorities Arrest Over 65,000 Illegal Immigrants in Three Months |
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Saudi Security apparatus has revealed that it has arrested over 65,000 illegal immigrants and 1,084 smugglers attempting to illegally enter Saudi Arabia during the second
Internationally Recognised Core Labour Standards In Morocco | WTO report on labor issues in Morocco. Make no little plans - The National Newspaper | On NYU's plans to open a school in Abu Dhabi as part of "global network university" and questions about academic freedom in the Gulf.
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Links for 07.13.09

Class action at 3arabawy | Hossam's latest article, covering a strike at a QIZ factory, highlights practice of forcing workers to sign a resignation letter when hired so they can easily be fired. Maybe Ahmadinejad just likes gallopinto | The Majlis makes a good point about the huffing and puffing made by Hillary Clinton over the fact that Iran is boosting its ties with Latin American countries. Maybe if Bush hadn't let the Monroe Doctrine slip, this would have not have happened. La mafia sicilienne, colombienne et russe s’offre les services d’El Qaida au Maghreb | Algerian newspaper claims AQIM working with Moroccan, Sicilian, Russian and Colombian mafias for drug trafficking. The Dark Sahara by Jeremy Keenan [PDF] | New book by Jeremy Keenan, leading investigator of Algerian govt. involvement in "Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb." Qashtamar Rules Everything Around Me (Q.R.E.A.M.) « THE BOURSA EXCHANGE | Very funny. Britain revokes five Israeli arms export licences - Yahoo! News | Out of 182, over Gaza war. Note here that the Perfidious Albion claims humanitarian concern, as if they don't continue to export arms to other unsavory types, or that this decision did not come out of domestic pressure rather than routine humanitarian review. Israel to keep only Hebrew names on road signs (AFP) | This reminds me of the Flemish-Waloon road sign wars of Belgium - except they had the good sense to keep the English: "AFP - The Israeli transport ministry said on Monday that it will get rid of Arabic and English names for cities and towns on road signs, keeping only the Hebrew terms."
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Links for December 4th

Automatically posted links for December 4th:

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