On Human Rights Day, December 10, join UE and unions throughout the world in taking action to support the working people of the Philippines, where trade unionists and activists are facing increasing repression and violence.
UE’s ally in the Philippines, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), reports that under President Duterte, the very basics of unionism — “organizing, asserting the right to collectively bargain and [ … ] strikes against management abuses and exploitative company policies” are being treated as “criminal acts.” Union members and leaders have been spied on, profiled, portrayed as terrorists, arrested and targeted for assassination by police and paramilitary groups. 43 unionists have been killed since the beginning the Duterte administration.
Many of those targeted have been “red-tagged,” or labeled as “communist” or “terrorist” regardless of their actual beliefs or affiliations — not unlike the red-baiting attacks leveled at the UE in the 1940s and 50s. The United Nations, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch have all condemned the widespread use of “red-tagging” to suppress dissent in the country. UN officials noted recently that “The criminalizing discourse used by Philippine public officials undermines the value of the vital work of human rights defenders, denigrates them in the eyes of the public and may put them at risk of threats, violence or other forms of harassment.”
UE’s officers sent a letter of protest to President Duterte today, noting that “Our own union came under similar threats 70 years ago, with members of the US Congress and other elected officials falsely accusing our leaders of seditious activities. In some instances, they tried to prevent our members from doing their work because of their alleged associations. Our members knew that these attacks were simply attempts to disrupt worker solidarity so that the boss could get the upper hand. We resisted those abuses of our organization then, and we know that unions in the Philippines will stand strong against infringement of their rights now.”