Mick Lynch won’t leave his detractors“nonsense.” Its aim is to obtain a pay rise, job security and better working conditions for British railway workers. Lynch’s outspokenness and thinly disguised contempt for politicians and the media thrust the 60-year-old leader of Britain’s National Union of Railway, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) into the national spotlight. He is leading the RMT in what is Britain’s biggest series of rail strikes in decades, withmore actions planned this week and in August. Already, the strikes have led to the promise of a5% salary increase, but workers want more. Now columnists claim that Lynch has become amore effective spokesperson for the British working class than Labor Party leader Keir Starmer.
Born in a poor working-class area of London, Lynch left school at 16 to become an electrician. He was then blacklisted for belonging to a trade union movement and went to work for Eurostar rail, while rising within the RMT. Conservative Party politicians tried to cast him as a “union baronwho wants to hold Britain to ransom. Lynch was accused of being “a marxist,” “a dinosaur,” and refuse to negotiate with the government. He hasreplied to these claims by insisting that he works for union members who have not had a raise in almost three years, stating that they “need to have some dignity at work”.
hit the waves
News from Heaven’Kay Burley was one of the first to suggest that Lynch might be inciting violence, wondering if the RMT picket line would resort to the violent tactics used by miners in the 1980s. “Well, does that sound like the miners’ strike? ” he replied, stepping away from the camera to reveal the people on the picket line speaking friendly to passers-by. “You seem to have gone into the world of the surreal,” he added with a look of disbelief. WhenPiers Morgan discovered Lynch had a Facebook profile picture of “The Hood,” the villain of British children’s TV show “Thunderbirds” (the resemblance is startling), Morgan thought it was a prick moment. Morgan asked why Lynch compared himself to an “evil criminal mastermind”, to which Lynch mockingly replied, “Yeah, he’s the most evil vinyl puppet in the world. That’s where your journalism is at these these days?…I’m a working class guy with a labor dispute…don’t you want to talk about the problems?
Lynch’s movement didn’t just win concessions on pay rises. It also fundamentally changed the discourse in Britain on trade unions. Before the strikesinvestigation found that 37% of Britons supported the walkouts and 45% opposed them. After Lynch’s television and radio appearances, the same survey found that 45% of people now supported the strikes and only 37% opposed them. “Mick Lynch cleaned up all the media picadors who took a chance today,” actor Hugh Laurie – famous for his scathing bashings in the TV series ‘House’ –tweeted after the first hit. Inspired by the success of the RMT,postal workers, employees of British Telecomsteachers and others have also gone on strike, seeking salaries that keep pace with runaway inflation.
‘Be fed up’
In 2018, Zingiswa Losi became thefirst female president of South Africa’s largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). She was elected unopposed to lead a federation of more than 1.6 million members. COSATU played a central role in the fall of apartheid and belongs to the “Tripartite Alliance” with the South African Communist Party and the ruling ANC. However, Losi hasrecently warned the ANC that the workers are “fed up” and called for thearrest of corrupt politicians.
Canton to management
Losi was born in 1975 in the poor neighborhood KwaZakhele Township on the outskirts of Gqeberha. Her mother worked as a domestic worker and her father as a debt collector in a furniture store. Losi served in the South African army before working at a Ford engine factory, where she became a shop steward for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. She was elected second vice-president of COSATU in 2009. Asa lot in COSATU began speaking out against corruption during Jacob Zuma’s years as South Africa’s president, Losi became the undisputed favorite to take charge.
No children’s gloves
Recently, Losi threw guns at corruption. She claims that the police, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the judiciary treat corrupt politicians with “child gloves.” She went on to say that “the justice system must serve everyone, including sending high-profile politicians to jail.” COSATU and Losi are nowreconsider their alliance with the ANC. “Some members of our movement have chosen to steal everything. Now we have a choice – we can allow the ANC to die or we can go to our ANC branches and make sure the elected officials are not crooks. She has warned in the past that COSATU will not unconditionally support the ANC.
She’ll throw the kitchen sink at injustice, if she needs to. Lawyer and activist Saru Jayaraman scored a big victory for Michigan workers last week when a petition sponsored by his service industry workers organization, One Fair Wage, led the State Court of Appeals torestore two laws which increase the minimum wage, minimum tips and vacation pay. Laws had been weakened by a Republican-led state legislature. “This is a victory for democracy and for workers,” Jayaraman said of the court rulings, which will raise the state’s service-sector minimum wage to $12 an hour.
This is the latest in a series of victories for Jayaraman, co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), which has helped restaurant workers fight successful wage battles and sexual harassment cases. WhenOZY spoke for the first time at Jayaraman in 2018, she was preparing for walk the Golden Globe Awards red carpet withAmy Poehlerwho was impressed with his work.
A little advice
Jayaraman grew up in a working-class Chicano/Latin neighborhood in Southern California. Growing up, her “friends and their families were restaurant, custodial, construction workers,” she told OZY in 2018. “I saw a lot of injustice in the way we all been treated and the low expectations placed on us.” But his focus on restaurant workersstarted after 9/11, when asked to create a relief center for the 13,000 workers who lost their jobs in the wake of the tragedy. That company became One Fair Wage, which is working to advance ballot measures aimed at increasing service-sector wages in the United States.
Jayaraman argues in his 2021 book, “A fair salarythat sub-minimum wage for tip workers in the United States “is a distinct legacy of slavery.” After abolition in 1865, restoration employers hired newly freed slaves. Taking advantage of their position, they did not pay them a salary but instead forced them “to rely entirely on tips”. This practice has essentially continued. Jayaraman also points out that 70% of tipped workers are women, who often face inappropriate behavior from customers, including sexual harassment. AsJayaraman reported, sexual harassment has increased in restaurants during the pandemic. But catering workers are also pushing back like never before, she wrote for The Guardian earlier this year. “There is so much hope,” she said.
What is a fair minimum wage in the United States, given the current inflation rate and labor shortage?
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