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Social Unionism--Salvadoran Style | The Nation

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Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Social Unionism--Salvadoran Style

For the first time in Salvadoran history, a new union is bringing together workers from the country's phone companies, Internet sector, radio and TV stations, and newspapers and magazines. The organization, known as SITCOM, calls itself a "social-movement union," determined to fight for the rights of consumers as well as workers.

Founded in March, SITCOM seeks to work with both grassroots groups and the opposition FMLN political party to resist further privatizations in the communications industry and to revise the privatizations that have already taken place.

The neoliberal Salvadoran government of President Francisco Flores Perez has resisted the union at every step, throwing legal roadblocks in the way of its organizing campaigns that make the GOP gutting of US labor laws look positively worker-friendly. The Ministry of Labor eventually refused to recognize SITCOM and issued a proclamation invalidating the formation of the union, citing unspecified technical reasons. Since then, Minister of Labor Jorge Nieto has refused union leaders' repeated requests for a meeting. Now, the Salvadoran government has publicly released the previously secret list of workers who signed the documents of incorporation, fostering fears of reprisals.

SITCOM is seeking support worldwide, particularly in the US, where the Campaign for Labor Rights (CLR), a Washington, DC-based organization that works to inform and mobilize antisweatshop activists, is organizing assistance along with the longstanding activist group, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), now finding new relevance with the anti-privatiziation campaigns of the present.

There are numerous ways you can help:

1. Fax (011.503.263.5280) or email (informacion@mtps.gob.sv) the Salvadoran Minister of Labor, Jorge Nieto, politely imploring him to immediately recognize SITCOM, quickly meet with its leaders and take effective action to defend the legal rights of SITCOM supporters across El Salvador. (CLR has well-written letters in both Spanish and English, which you can send with a few keystrokes.)

2. Fax or email Philip French, the acting head of the US Embassy in El Salvador, and tell him to convey your demands to the El Salvadoran government--Fax: 011.503.278.6011; Email: congensansal@state.gov.

3. Donate to CISPES's Emergency Salvadoran Fund. One hundred percent of all contributions go directly to the Salvadoran workers' struggle. Make tax-deductible checks payable to "CISPES Education Fund," with "Emergency Fund" marked in the memo line, and send to: 130 W. 29th St, 9th Fl, NYC, NY 10001 or call 212-465-8115 to use a credit card.

4. Let CLR know if you took action on this campaign. It's helpful in all sorts of ways as the group moves forward in resisting privatization in El Salvador and elsewhere.

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