19 June 2009

Iranian Teachers Enter the Fight

Looks like Iranian labor is starting to make its presence felt more. Through a good Iranian-American friend I got a translation of this statement from the Teachers Trade Association of Iran. It calls for the release of Ali-Reza Hashemi, the organization's director, who was arrested three days ago, most likely as part of a general crackdown on dissidents. Hashemi certainly has a record of militancy, he was arrested only last year after helping to organize a strike involving thousands of Iranian teachers (which is where the photo is from). As the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center reported at the time, about 70 percent of teachers live below the poverty line in Iran and teachers are paid well below the rates given for other government workers (one estimate showed they received about $100 less a month, a substantial sum considering their average monthly salary of $300). However, as of late April of this year, the Pay Parity Act had not been implemented, despite Ahmadinejad's promises (surprise!)

The statement is also significant because its the first I've seen of Iranian labor officially siding with the "Green Revolution" camp, stating that the "Teachers' Organization of Iran, further, supports the goals of Messrs. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and calls on the election authorities to annul this election and undertake a free election." This suggests a different tone than the more generalized initial statement from Khodro workers about the right to demonstrate.

Overall, the situation remains too in flux to be certain of much. However, it does seem significant that already established civil society groups, such as labor, are increasingly entering the fray. While a significant part of the power of the movement in Iran comes from its ability to continue and grow even when its leaders are imprisoned, the presence of existing organizational networks, especially those that can temporarily disrupt and even paralyze the economy, certainly should add strength to the overall struggle.

Here is a summary/translation of the teachers statement:

"Sazman-e Moalleman-e Iran" ("Teachers' Organization of Iran") is writing a statement protesting the arrest three days ago of its leader, Ali-Reza Hashemi. It expresses the view that the wave of arrests by the government will only serve to unite the people, etc. it says, "The only way out of this situation is to accept the request of the candidates and to honor the will and the vote of the people." It expresses extreme objection to the arrest of Hashemi and other activists and says that freeing those who have been arrested will serve to decrease the amount of conflict in the country. It also says "The Teachers' Organization of Iran, further, supports the goals of Messrs. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and calls on the election authorities to annul this election and undertake a free election."

1 comment:

  1. The NEA just passed a new business item concerning the solidarity between teachers in the US and teachers in Iran.

    New business item 31
    The NEA will publicize and seek members' participation in the campaign for the defense of labor and human rights in Iran and for the release of the recent arrested Iranian trade union leaders, including Ali-Reza Hashami of the Teachers Organization of Iran.

    Background/Rationale
    This campaign has been launched by the Education International, three other international union federations, and Amnesty International. We must stand with our Iranian colleagues and others who have rallied for the rights of working people in Iran. Solidarity is international.

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