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Article

9 Mar 2021

Author:
Ma Moe Sandar Myint, Ma Ei Ei Phyu, Ma Tin Tin Wai, Jacobin

Myanmar: Garment workers occupy central role in fight against authoritarianism, interview with three female labour organisers

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“Workers in Myanmar Are Launching General Strikes to Resist the Military Coup”, 09 March 2021

Days before Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party was deposed in a coup last month, Jacobin conducted an interview with the head of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM), Ma Moe Sandra Myint….

But in the following days, as work stoppages, walkouts, and marches rocked the streets, garment workers proved crucial to the movement against military rule. On February 22, the growing momentum culminated in a nationwide general strike with garment workers at the center…

… Now, workers are applying the know-how they acquired from years of labor organizing to the struggle against a return to military rule.

.... Unions have also called on international brands like The North Face and H&M to pressure factories not to fire those who miss work due to their involvement in the movement.

On the evening of February 27, Jacobin caught up with FGWM’s Ma Ei Ei Phyu and Ma Tin Tin Wai just after labor organizations were officially banned. The next day saw the bloodiest crackdown to date…

[Ma Ei Ei Phyu:]

The NLD didn’t create absolute protections for labor, but there were some huge developments. It gave us hope to improve our wages. Under the military dictatorship, our labor rights will be violated. We can’t accept the dictatorship at all. Even if we will be dismissed from the factory because of striking and protests, we will fight until the end.

[Ma Moe Sandar Myint:]

Workers want democracy because we have thoughts, and we are not passive. We need freedom to ask for workers’ rights — protection and benefits. Only democracy can provide that.

[Ma Tin Tin Wai:]

We are fighting for the whole country. If the military leadership is to win, there will be no labor unions. And if there are labor unions, they will not be real labor unions: the government will intervene, and the union will become only for show.