July/August 2002 - VOLUME 23 - NUMBER 7&8
B E H I N D T H E L I N E S
Global Labor RepressionMore than 200 trade unionists were murdered or disappeared in 2001, according to the International Confederation of Free Trade Union's Annual Survey, released in June. More than 4,000 unionists were arrested, 1,000 injured and 10,000 fired.
The worst violence against trade unionists by far occurred in Colombia, which recorded 185 of the 223 assassinations or disappearances in 2001.
In Colombia, the report found, the worst repression was directed against unionists from the public sector resisting privatization -- much of it required by International Monetary Fund (IMF) lending programs. The report notes, and condemns, the impunity enjoyed by most of the authors of these crimes.
In its section on the United States, the report condemns the commonplace denial of rights guaranteed in law. "At least one in 10 union supporters campaigning to form a union is illegally fired," the report notes. "For every 30 people who vote for a union in elections in any one year, one will be illegally fired. At least one worker will be illegally fired in over 30 percent of all union-organizing campaigns."
Reviewing the global phenomenon of labor repression, the report notes that the "evidence still points to a direct relationship between attacks on workers' rights and accelerated global liberalization of trade and investment."
The Senate's Nuclear WasteAcceding to the demands of the aggressive nuclear lobby, the U.S. Senate voted 60-39 in July to authorize the opening of a permanent high-level nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.
The vote overrode a veto by Nevada, which does not want the dump. Under prior law, after presidential recommendation to proceed with the dump plans, the Nevada governor had the authority to veto the dump; but that veto could be overridden by Congressional action.
Nuclear waste has been building at nuclear power facilities throughout the United States, which has continued to generate nuclear power without any plan for permanent disposal of waste.
The Yucca Mountain proposal envisions waste being transported by train and truck from across the country to Nevada, and encased in the mountain.
"This vote loudly declares that scare tactics and fear mongering cannot supplant common sense and sound science," says Bruce Josten, U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive vice president for government affairs.
Safe energy advocates -- Josten's "fear-mongerers" -- harshly denounced the Senate vote. They have criticized the Yucca Mountain plans both for risks it poses during transport of enormous amounts of waste (calling the waste-laden trucks and trains "mobile Chernobyls," given the near-certainty of transportation accidents) and the environmental and public health risks at the site, where leakage into groundwater supplies is feared.
Critics have also called attention to the enormous costs associated with the project, noting further that by the time dump construction is completed, the dump will be inadequate to handle all of the existing waste in the country.
Anti-nuclear activists vowed that the Yucca Mountain project would be stopped despite the Senate's vote. They promise lawsuits under a variety of theories, and a massive campaign of civil disobedience.
In Germany, "it now requires some 30,000 police and $100 million to move a cask [of nuclear waste] just 250 miles, disrupts the transportation network of much of the country, and requires a police state in large parts" of the northern part of the country, says Steve Kamps of the Radioactive Waste Project at the Nuclear Information and Resources Service (NIRS). "The U.S. is talking about thousands of shipments, averaging 2,000 miles. There will be thousands of protesters along these routes."
Drug UpdatesBrand-name drug companies have been rocked by legislation and government reports since the last issue of Multinational Monitor went to press.
Schering said in a statement that "the ruling confirmed the company's longstanding position to vigorously defend" the case, and that its challenged agreements with the generic companies had actually aided consumers.