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Alaska Dispatch: Egypt's labor movement finds its legs

Even after the revolution, workers are still searching for someone who will effectively listen to their demands and help them get their rights.
26.05.12 | Interesting article at Alaska Dispatch

In many respects, the popular revolt against Hosni Mubarak began on April 6, 2008 in Mahalla, Egypt.

Security forces unleashed a torrent of violence against 30,000 striking textile workers and thousands of their supporters, killing several demonstrators and injuring hundreds. The April 6 Youth Movement emerged from that mass action when engineer Ahmed Maher co-founded the group that would slowly galvanize millions of workers and ultimately help touch off the revolution.

Three years after Mahalla, worker Shaaban Hegaz stood in front of the cameras during a rally on International Labor Day — May 1 — holding a banner and appealing to journalists: "Would you take a photo of our demands? We have come all the way from Suez.”

Although Egypt’s labor movement has been born anew in the days and months since the January 25 uprising, wooing workers from the official government union to a growing network of independent ones, activists like Hegaz, 40, are finding an impatient audience these days.

The country’s economy took a massive hit following the fall of Mubarak and voters are hungry for relief. Last year the ruling military implemented a law criminalizing labor strikes that disturb production, imposing penalties of years in prison or thousands of Egyptian pounds in fines.