South Africa Labor News

(Number 6)
by Free South Africa Labor Committee
Oakland, California, United States
June 1990
8 pages
Type: Newsletter
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Coverage outside Africa: United States
Language: English
Contents: Mandela Calls for Sanctions by David Bacon • Railway Workers Win an Historic Victory by David Shelton • CISTUR Petitions for ANC Demands • SACTU and COSATU Announce Merger • Leader of South African Domestic Workers Union Visits Bay Area by Michael Horowitz • A Postal Worker Looks at Sanctions by David Welsh • Advisory Board, Free South Africa Labor Committee • Mandela to Visit S.F. Bay Area • The newsletter says on February 11, Nelson Mandela walked out of a South African prison after 26 years of imprisonment for leading the liberation struggle of South Africa's Black majority. Outside Cape Town City Hall, he greeted the people of South Africa and the world. He paid tribute to the African National Congress, the organization he was imprisoned for leading, for its tireless opposition to apartheid. He also recognized the role of other organizations in the freedom struggle – the United Democratic Front, the South African Communist Party, the National Education Crisis Committee, and the South African Youth Congress; Mandela paid special tribute to the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the workers of South Africa. The newsletter says Mandela laid out the basic demands and the attitude of the ANC towards negotiations with the South African government, which have been taking place during the last few months: "It is our belief that the future of our country can only be determined by a body which is democratically elected on a non-racial basis. Negotiations on the dismantling of apartheid will have to address the overwhelming demands of our people for a democratic, non-racial and unitary South Africa. There must be an end to white monopoly on political power, and a fundamental restructuring of our political and economic systems to ensure that the inequalities of apartheid are addressed, and our society thoroughly democratized." The newsletter says during the process of negotiations, however, the ANC has pointed out repeatedly that Mandela's freedom, and the negotiations between the ANC and the South African government, have only taken place because of pressure within and outside of South Africa; throughout 1989, the level of popular struggle within South Africa increased so much that the ANC "unbanned itself," and began functioning openly, despite the fact that it was still an "illegal organization." The newsletter says the South African government had to recognize its enormous support, and finally granted it legal status, along with the South African Communist Party, last winter. Outside South Africa, the world sanctions campaign has brought the South African economy to its knees. The newsletter says over 50 years of bloodstained struggle led to an historic victory on January 31, when for the first time the enormous South African Transport Services was forced to recognize the South African Railway and Harbour Workers Union; SATS also was forced to rehire 27 ,000 workers, who were fired when they struck in November, and to agree to negotiate a wage increase; over 1000 workers returned to hostels in which they live, after having been evicted by SATS. The newsletter says since SARHWU was first organized in 1936, it has repeatedly faced violent repression, and all its strikes have led to major confrontations with the government, which owns SATS; SARHWU was instrumental in the formation of the South African Congress of Trade Unions in 1955, and the Congress of South African Trade Unions in 1985; when SARHWU struck for recognition three years ago, the apartheid regime framed a group of strikers for murder and put them on death row; the strike which started this past November was also marked by violent attacks on strikers, 27 of whom were killed; in one incident alone on January 8 in Germiston, strikers were attacked by hundreds of vigilante strikebreakers; eight workers were beaten to death, and over 50 were injured. The newsletter says local unions and trade unionists in the San Francisco Bay Area sent both moral and financial support to SARHWU during the strike; an urgent appeal for funds and support resolutions was sent to local unions in December by the Free South Africa Labor Committee. San Francisco's school bus drivers (United Transportation Union Local 1741) responded, sending a resolution of support by FAX, as did United Public Employees Local 790; San Francisco's Transport Workers Union Local 250A made a donation of $100.00; both Longshore Local 10 and Ship Clerks Local 34 of the International Longshoremens and Warehousemens Union passed resolutions initiating a sister-union relationship with SARHWU, and Local 34 sent $500.00 in support. The newsletter says the Committee for International Support of Trade Union Rights in San Francisco is circulating a petition to South African President F.W. de Klerk; the petition supports a call by the ANC seeking to create a climate for true negotiations with the apartheid government, and leading to the establishment of a non-racial democracy in South Africa. The newsletter says in South Africa many women workers have no other employment opportunity but to do the cooking and cleaning for white families as live-in maids; Myrtle Witbooi, a visiting South African trade union leader, explained the ugly face of South African apartheid to an audience of Bay Area trade union members gathered at ILWU Local 6's hall on May 6; the gathering was jointly organized by the Human and Civil Rights Committee of United Public Employees Local 790 (SEIU) and the Free South Africa Labor Committee; Witbooi was on a national tour of the U.S organized by SEIU; Witbooi, the general treasurer of the South African Domestic Workers Union (SADWU), worked eleven years as a domestic worker. The newsletter says November 1984 – San Francisco longshoremen refused to unload South African cargo for 11 days, honoring a loud, fierce picket line on Pier 80 by up to 400 people, including letter carriers from National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 214. The newsletter says March 1986 – Another Dutch freighter sailed into the bay loaded with South African cargo, and once again, 25 dockworkers and ships' clerks refused to cross the anti-apartheid picketline, which this time included 23 Branch 214 carriers, most of them organized out of Diamond Heights station by shop steward Esteban Oropeza. The newsletter says Since March 1986, little South African cargo has been unloaded in San Francisco. The newsletter says other actions by Branch 214 include a sit-in organized by the San Francisco and Alameda County Central Labor Councils at South African Airways where two branch officers were arrested, which chased the airline out of San Francisco; resolutions pushed by the branch were also adopted at national conventions of NALC, and added to the growing momentum of the anti-apartheid movement. The newsletter says the San Francisco Bay Area will have the honor of hosting a visit by Nelson Mandela on June 30, his last stop on a national tour of the U.S. The newsletter includes a statement made jointly by the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), after meeting in March in Lusaka, Zambia. The newsletter discusses Martin Sebakwane, political prisoners, detainees, the State of Emergency, political trials, removal of all troops from the townships, the United Democratic Front (UDF), the South African Communist Party (SACP), the National Education Crisis Committee (NECC), the Vukani Mwethu Choir, and the South African Youth Congress (SAYCO), and SEIU (Service Employees International Union).
Used by permission of David Bacon, a former member of the Free South Africa Labor Committee.
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers