Monday, 21 July 2008

FagorMastercook Protest

Fagor's not a Workplace but a Workcamp: Mondragon Capitalists Fuck Workers in Poland. Strike is Imminent

Fagor is a large appliance manufacturer owned by the Mondragon "Cooperative" capitalist enterprise. In Poland it cooperatives FagorMastercook in Wroclaw. Currently there are serious labour problems in FagorMastercook. Members of the Wrocław group of Union of Syndicalists (ZSP) went Friday to a protest in front of the factory.

The place has become quite militarized. On Friday the firm had over 200 armed security guards from the notorious firm Impel there to protect the factory. The place was surrounded by metal barricades and each worker going in was throughly searched. Some employees say that there is often heavy security and searches.

Despite the heavy security, or perhaps because of it, about hundreds of workers joined in the demonstration on Friday. About 300 people, workers and supporters, were there after the morning shift, and about 200 before the afternoon shift began. The demo was organized by the August 80 union which has been negotiating with the firm for many months to get people a pay raise.

The workers in FagorMastercook have noted many instances of people being fired for belonging to unions or even just agreeing with their postulates. At least 20 members of August 80 were fired.

In FagorMastercook there are a few unions: Solidarity, August 80 and OPZZ Metalworkers. Solidarity and August 80 are calling for pay raises. In June a warning strike took place. Over 90 percent of the workers went on strike. Then a wave of repressions started. Besides firing some unionists and others who supported them, they started to pick out people, have supervisors stand behind them on the line watching their every move, threatening to fire them if they got even a second behind production. This sort of intimidation was probably used to show people that if they tried to organize themselves, the company would find any small pretext to fire them.

On July 9, two members of August 80 were fired for "leaving their workstations". They had been collecting votes on a strike referendum.

Members of ZSP at the demonstration were told that people were threatened with dismissal for demanding pay raises. They also heard that the workers will probably vote to go on strike.

Production workers at FagorMastercook make around 1200 zloties (400 euros) a month. Minimum wage in Poland is currently 1126 zloties a month but this will be raised to 1276 next year. So workers at this highly profitable factory are making almost nothing. That's why one of the slogans of the workers is FagorMastercook: A Workcamp, not a Workplace.

At the end of 2006, the EBRD decided to 17.5 million euro to FagorMastercook. This money was given as part of a restructuring project. FagorMastercook wants to increase production in Poland and achieve economies of scale while making Poland its production hub for Central Europe. The company moved production from Spain when it started new production of gas stoves in Poland about 5 years ago. The production of refrigerators also got moved to Poland. Over 80 percent of the production is meant for export. They increased turnover by about 29% last year.

FagorMastercook works in a Special Economic Zone and received subsidies from the Polish state; it received a direct subsidy of 3.5 million zloties for creating jobs, plus a CIT and corporate real estate tax exemption. So in addition to money from the EBRD, FagorMastercook got help from the Polish state of about 52 million zloties. That's equal to the EBRD's 17.5 million euros at the current exchange rate. This means that the EBRD and Polish state invested more in the FagorMastercook facilites in Wroclaw than Fagor.

Although Mondragon still pushes its "cooperative" worker-friendly image, publishing bullshit reports on how it is concerned about the effects on globalization on the local workforce, for example in Spain, Mondragón Cooperative Corporation (MCC) is a typical capitalist employer operating plants in low-wage countries like Poland, Egypt, Morocco, Mexico, Thailand and China. Employees in these countries are not co-op members. (Some employees in other countries, even in Spain are also non-members; as many as 1/3 of Mondragon workers are not cooperative members. Any cooperative can also apply to MCC to employ up to 40% non-cooperative workers.)

It pretends to be "one of the world's top 10 best employers" and pays completely shit wages here in Poland and is actively repressing unionists. This is even worse than having typical capitalism disguised as a cooperative; it's just typical exploitation of people from poorer countries by those in the richer ones.

ZSP is calling on people to send letters to Mondragon and to Fagor expressing their disgust with the appallingly low wages in Poland and with the recent incidents of repression and intimidation against protestors. We also ask people, if they meet anybody spreading naive reports about Mondragon, to point out what's going on.

Sample protest letter (please write your own version):


José María Aldecoa
Mondragon Corporation Cooperative
Pº Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta
Nº 5 20500 Mondragon
Guipuzcoa, Espana
Fax: +34 943- 796 632
Fax: 34 943-779-300

Fagor Electrodomésticos
Fax: 943 79 68 81

Fagor Mastercook
Fax: 48 22 639-8985

We are writing to support the demands of the workers at Fagor Mastercook in Wroclaw and to demand an immediate end to its repression of unionists.

Workers at Fagor Mastercook are demanding an pay raise of 1000 zloties since salaries there are barely above minimum wage and are well below the national average. Over 90% of the workforce participated in a warning strike in June. Afterwards, many union members and leaders were fired. Workers have complained that they have been harrassed and intimidated. Peaceful demonstrators were met by 200 armed security guards.

This type of exploitation is a disgrace. Enough of your hypocrisy !

We are looking forward to the workers' imminent strike and ultimate victory.


If you sent a protest, let us know. If you sent a different text, send copies to:
Read more!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Lionbridge Solidarity Actions

The first week of July saw the beginning of international solidarity actions with Jakub G., a union activist unfairly dismissed from the Warsaw office of Lionbridge Poland.

On June 30, activists from Priama Akcia in Slovakia visited the local office in Zilina. Leaflets were given out and a toy lion was left for the management. In a rather grotesque turn of events, the manager of the Polish and Slovakian offices, Jacek Stryczynski, claimed that the lion was something like a death threat and made a very ridiculous and paranoid representation of the event in one of a string of e-mails sent to frighten and promote division amongst employees.

On July 1, a picket was held in Brussels. Leaflets were given out and people spoke to the workers at the office. In Paris the next morning, members of CNT-AIT got a more harsh reception from security but still managed to hand out leaflets to the employees. In Lisbon, the offices of Lionbridge got some information posters about the case.

On July 4, pickets took place in Dublin, Copenhagen and in Madrid. In each case, leaflets were given out to employees and passersby.

July 4 marked the beginning of Jakub’s case in the Labour Court. The management of Lionbridge presented no evidence to support their false claim that he was fired for stealing confidential information which was supposedly leaked in an article. When asked which information was confidential, the lawyers claimed that the revenue of the firm was confidential information. Of course this is total bullshit: Lionbridge is a publically listed company and information about it’s revenue is published in its annual report and is filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Since Lionbridge’s arguments are bogus and they have no evidence to support their fabricated claims, they tried to submit an interview with Jakub made after his dismissal as evidence of his hostility towards the company but this could not constitute grounds for dismissal and naturally was not allowed. The company thus tried to stall and postpone, citing the lack of some original English-language version of an article.

Some time after the court session, there was a picket in front of the Warsaw office of the company. Due to a torrential storm, the crowd was smaller than anticipated, but still about 40 people stood there is the pouring rain. The company turned the office into a bit of a fortress; 4 vans of riot police were waiting there and police and corporate security were filming from many points in the building. Following a string of scary e-mails implying that the job security of all the workers was threatened and warning that “the protest was taking place during working hours”, few people dared venture out of the building until after the picket had ended.

In the meanwhile, Lionbridge employees and freelancers from around the world have sent their best wishes.


Background of the case

In December 2007, workers in the Polish office of Lionbridge - a multinational translation company - created a trade union based on non-hierarchical principles – KFP. On Feb. 12, 2008, Jakub G., a workplace union representative in Lionbridge Poland, was dismissed on disciplinary grounds. The dismissal came shortly after the announcement to management that a union had been formed in the workplace and despite the fact that Jakub was protected by Polish Labor Law as an elected union representative.

Jakub was warned by members of the management that having a union would make the company “less competitive”. The reason given for Jakub’s dismissal was “damaging the company’s image” by writing an article which was published on the Internet. No proof of that allegation was given, and in fact another person has admitted to writing the article. The article in question was in fact based entirely on information publicly available on the internet.

Incidents of firing union members in disregard of the law are fairly common in Poland, including firing protected union officials. Most often summary dismissals are given shortly after the creation of a union.

Jakub has filed a court case against Lionbridge at the Polish Labour Court. The next court hearing will take place on August 13th. Read more!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Report on the picket of Lionbridge in Dublin

Anarchists, trade unionists and social justice activists placed a placed a lunchtime picket on the offices of Lionbride in Dun Laoghaire on Friday the 4th of July as part of an International Week of Solidarity with Jakub G, a longstanding Polish Lionbridge employe who was fired for encouraging fellow workers to join a union to protect their pay and conditions in Lionbridge's Warsaw office.

Despite the fact that workers had been warned not to speak to the 'dangerous anarchists' by Lionbridge management the picket in Dun Laoghaire was a good natured affair with about 20 activists distributing more than 100 leaflets to workers leaving or returning to work on their lunchbreak. Before we finished up Damian Moran of the Pitstop Ploughshares spoke about some of the labour and other struggles recently engaged in in Poland.

Meanwhile the case taken by Jakub against Lionbridge in the Polish Labour Court also started on Friday. Lionbridge claim to have dismissed Jakub for publishing an article online which leaked “confidential company information”. No proof of that allegation was given, and in fact another person has admitted to writing the article. The article in question was in fact based entirely on information publicly available on the internet. Lionbridge claim they can prove Jakub wrote the piece yet yesterday asked that the case be postponed until August so that they could prepare their evidence. (see here for a full account of what went on in court: )

We're confident that Jakub will win his case and he will continue to have our support to ensure that he does so.

The text of WSM leaflet distributed at Lionbridge in Dublin after sacking of worker in Poland can be found at . If you want to distribute copies of this leaflet the PDF file of it is at

From WSM webpage. Read more!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Unionists Protest Lionbridge the Cowardly Lion

About court case and protest

Lionbridge stalls the court and tries to defend its actions as the case gets more political.

On July 4, proceedings started in the Warsaw Labour Court in the case of Jakub G against Lionbridge Technologies. Jakub was fired in February 2008, shortly after becoming a representative of a newly-formed union in the Warsaw branch of that company.

No Arguments in Court

Lionbridge was represented by not one, but two high-priced lawyers from the Warsaw office of a well-known international law firm. The courtroom was full with observers from no less than three trade unions, some left political groups, four mainstream newspapers, the independent media and Jakub's friends and supporters. Lionbridge claims that Jakub published an article on the internet using confidential information, that he used the company e-mail to transfer confidental data and that he acted to the detriment of the company.

Jakub prepared all the evidence to prove that the allegations were false and it was already submitted to the court. This included many source documents that had to be translated and notarized. Instead of dealing with these documents, which had been used by the company as the basis for their dismissal (the court documents referred to the article written on the Polish internet site "CIA"), the lawyers tried to submit an interview with Jakub made by the Slovakian group Priama Akcia as evidence of Jakub's "disloyalty to the company". The court, naturally, would not admit this evidence as the interview was made after Jakub was already out of the company and could not constitute grounds for dismissal.

The lawyers also claimed that the alleged confidential information was leaked not in the Polish version of the text, but in the English one and that Jakub was especially trying to withhold copies of the English versions of the text. This was quite amazing since both the dismissal letter and the court documents referred to the Polish version of the text and the only reason that everything was submitted in Polish certified translation was because that is the official language of the court and documents, as a rule, should be submitted that way. The head of Lionbridge told the court that he had to go on vacation and asked for the next hearing to be postponed one month.

False Claim with No Chance

The lawyers also made quite an interesting claim that the alleged "confidential information" which was leaked was information concerning the company's revenue. They claimed that this type of information is "stricly confidential, was never published anywhere and was known only to Lionbridge employees". This was the only "proof" of leaking confidential information offered in the court.

It is hard to judge whether the lawyers could be so astoundingly incompetent that they failed to check this or whether this was just a shameless attempt to introduce false arguments in the case solely to buy time. Information concerning the revenue of large public listed companies is generally public, especially in the United States where financial reports of companies with more than a certain level of assests and shareholders must be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on a 10-K form. (Lionbridge is an American-based global company.) Revenue information is available not only to shareholders, but is published on the web pages of the Commission ( On Lionbridge's 10-K forms, published openly on the internet, anybody can find out the revenue of any of Lionbridge's local offices. Anybody can also just type in the words "Lionbridge revenue" to see that it was common practice for Lionbridge to release information about their revenue to the press. The revenue of the Polish office was also printed in the Polish press.

It is quite hard to believe that a professional lawyer would not check this information, even more so as I submitted a letter to the firm, which Lionbridge submitted to the case as evidence, giving all the sources of information for the article in question, "Lionbridge, Globalizing Low Wages". Among the sources I submitted were the sources of information on the company revenue. There is no chance that the false allegations of leaking confidential information for the article can stick.

This leaves the company with only one strategy: to try to convince the court that, for political reasons, they should be spared from having to reinstate their former employee.

The Lion's Red Herring

The court date was preceded by an international solidarity campaign on behalf of the unfairly dismissed unionist. Protest letters were sent and solidarity pickets took place in Slovakia, Portugal, France and Belgium. The attention drawn by these pickets unnerved the Polish management of the company. In an attempt to weaken sympathy with Jakub, two letters were sent by management to workers of the Warsaw office, one of which was later leaked. The letters accuse the unionist of threatening the financial stability of the company because of the protests and warn workers that their job security could be on the line should the firm suffer because of the negative publicity.

Such logic is typically used in global corporations and this is not the first time such comments could be heard in the Polish office. Upon the creation of the union, Jakub was told essentially that unions undermine the competitiveness of the company. It was sometimes heard in the firm that the employees were all competing with Indian and Chinese workers and that acting out of line in anyway could mean that their jobs would be quickly lost to those countries.

In a letter to the employees and later (in an interview with a journalist from Poland's leading newspaper), Jacek Stryczynski, head of Lionbridge Poland, gave an emotional account of the inappropriateness of the protests, especially fixating on a stuffed toy lion used in Slovakia. (See picture here: He told the journalist that he was "being persecuted by the Communist International". (For some people, anybody who criticizes a corporation must be a communist.) The letters sent to the employees could well be considered red-baiting. They constantly speak of anarchists and anti-globalists and insinuate that these actions have nothing to do with the welfare of the workers but with Jakub trying to make a career in the anti-globalist movement. (The fact that Jakub isn't an anti-globalist is another matter.) One letter implies that people with such political ideas cannot work in global companies which appears to be evidence of discrimination on political grounds - another violation of the Polish Labour Code.

Protests on the 4th of July

Protests in front of Lionbridge's Polish headquarters were seriously hampered by a downpour of torrential rain but a good crowd of hardcore activists came anyway and protested in the storm. (Thanks to people from ZSP, WRS, IP, FA, LA, SMS, etc.)
The management must have been thoroughly panicked after the visit of Priama Akcia to the Zilina office with a stuffed lion toy so long before we arrived, four vans of riot police appeared to protect the office from potential toy-carrying unionists.

There were some speeches and slogans. Besides that, ZSP (Union of Syndicalists) submitted a request for a translation job to the company. ZSP asked Lionbridge to translate an article about violations of workers' rights into all languages to be published on their website. (We don't think the firm will take the job.)

On the same day, solidarity actions were also held in Ireland, Copenhagen and in Madrid. (Huge thanks to everybody who took part in these actions or will take part in the ones planned for the future.) Leaflets were handed out with basic information about the case and about worker organizing.

Employee Reaction

In Ireland, employees were warned against talking to demonstrators or taking their leaflets. In Poland the employees had been warned beforehand that the demo was going to take place during working hours and of course leaving during working hours could carry serious consequences. A few might have been genuinely frightened by the totally unnecessary police presence and the amount of people from security filming the demo, so only a few brave ones came out and talked to the rain-soaked protestors. Unfortunately, a couple of employees later sent nasty emails to Jakub about the inappropriate form of protest in Slovakia (concretely, the mistreatment of the stuffed toy), but for every mail like that, Jakub, myself and others have received dozens of letters of support from Lionbridge employees and contractors around the world, especially freelance translators who also complained that they are often paid very late.

As one can expect, there are others in Lionbridge who may not be so gung-ho on the corporation's practices and who were genuinely offended by the e-mail sent to employees suggesting that people with certain political views shouldn't be employed by the company. This does not seem to be limited to people with leftist or liberal leanings: one person who wrote to me a couple of times in fact seems to be a quite patriotic American who is just genuinely concerned about good jobs being outsourced around the globe. (This earned Lionbridge a place on CNN's Lou Dobb's "Exporting America" list of US firms sending jobs abroad.) That person wrote that he wishes us well on the fourth of July and saw the case as an attack on freedom of speech and political thought, which are values he hopes every American would fight to uphold.
Read more!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Solidarity Action in Copenhagen

On July 4 there was a solidarity picket in Copenhagen in defense of the union in Lionbridge Poland and against repression. Participants handed out leaflets to Lionbridge and other workers in the building.

Thank you for the solidarity! Read more!

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Starbucks Action in Wroclaw

Members of ZSP from Wroclaw held a picket at the country headquarters of AmRest corporation. AmRest runs restaurants like Pizza Hut, KFC and Burger King in Poland and it will be opening Starbucks cafes here in the fall. The picket July 1 was a part of an international action against union busting at Starbucks. Our comrades demanded the
reinstatement of Cole from the Grand Rapids IWW and Monica from CNT in Sevilla, Spain who were fired for trying to organize unions in Starbucks.

Members of ZSP promised to investigate the workers' rights situation in the
restaurants owned by AmRest and will also encourage the workers of Starbucks to
organize. Some workers from one chainhave already contacted ZSP. Read more!

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Solidarity Action in Paris

Activists from CNT-AIT in Paris visited the Lionbridge Office. They got past the guards, into the office where they distributed leaflets. They also had some words with the director of Lionbridge.

Thank you for the Solidarity! Read more!

Lionbridge Solidarity in Portugal

Members of Associação Internacional dos/as Trabalhadores/as, the Portuguese section of the IWA, made a solidarity action at the Lionbridge Lisbon office. They hung solidarity posters at the office of Lionbridge and sent protest letters to the firm.

Thanks for the Solidarity! Read more!

Kickoff of internationl week of actions against anti-union practices of Lionbridge

On Monday 30th June Priama akcia IWA Slovakia organised the second protest action in the seat of Slovak branch of Lionbridge or as Irish folks called it - "Lying Bridge" First news show that the action week initiated in cooperation with Polish anarchosyndicalists slowly brings its first results. What is needed now is to push even harder before 4.7.2008 when the trial starts!

Events in Zilina, Slovakia

This was our second action in Zilina branch of Lionbridge (first was in March together with International Secretary of IWA/AIT - We went to 3rd and 9th floor where LB operates. On the 3rd floor we met with a few employees, had a
talk and spread leaflets.

Then we went to 9th floor where management seats to express our protest against the practices of the company and to show our support of Jakub and to give them small present (hanged lion with the Lionbridge name to stress that the company is digging its own grave - see In the hall a person who introduced himself as Víte(zslav ?i?lák approached us. We asked if we can meet with the manager, to which we received the reply that there is nobody there who could have time to meet us. We knew that the Polish manager was not there.

However, several things showed us that the Slovak manager was there and that he just cowardly sent this stooge. We didn't want to leave that easily, especially after this arrogant dealing with the guy saying ?and now please leave". However, we left after a while (that, we think, was a mistake). We handed out our present for the management. The guy said: "I hope there is no bomb in it" so we at least had a good laugh. We also noticed a felt pen sign next to the entry doors on the
9th floor saying "Readmission for Jakub!" that made the management so angry that Priama akcia received an e-mail from the owner of the building (not LB) that we are not welcome there anymore because of this.

At the parking place we spread some leaflets to windscreen wipers and left the place with thoughts what was done wrong and right. We would like to thank non-PA members for support of the action.

Events in Warsaw

In our article Join an international week of protests against the labour
practices of Lionbridge corporation
( we wrote about ways to
help in the case of dismissed unionist Jakub G and other details.
Today, 2nd July, just 3rd day of the action week, we can clearly see the first
results of international pressure. Moreover, the Polish management received info
about the 4th July solidarity demo in front of the Warsaw company office. Their
response? Panic in the Warsaw branch. In other words, a crisis meeting was
called in a hurry to find what to do. One of results is that they want to block
the case from getting to mass media. Also last week's visit by the Labour
Inspection that was interested in Jakub's case was stressful for the management.
It seems the Lion doesn't like publicity. Which we will give it with pleasure;)
For those who want to know more about the background and concrete lawsuit
matters, we refer to articles from the website of Union of Polish Syndicalists
Czy publiczne informacje moga; byc' tajemnica; firmy?
( and O sprawie

Events worldwide

Besides our action on 30th June and international call for solidarity that
caused many e-mails and other forms of protest by individuals and organizations,
there will be other actions. For example in Madrid, Dublin, Copenhagen and
Warsaw on the 4th of July. Check news at the website of the Union of Polish
Syndicalists ( There are also connections being
made with translator's associations which are interested in the case. For
example, the Irish ITIA published info about Jakub's case
International pressure with actions directly in Poland shows itself to be a
strong weapon that will lead to successful outcome. The fact is that Lionbridge
management knows well they have no chance to win the court case.

The campaign goes on! And you can still easily join

Lionbridge thought that Jakub wouldn't defend himself. They were wrong. Now it
is important to put such a pressure, that they immediately give in and accept
Jakub's readmission. They have to feel that lawsuit will only hurt their
reputation and that they cannot act towards unions like that. That's why we
again appeal to show your solidarity. We believe you can find a few spare
minutes and we want to say thanks beforehand for that. Just click on article
Join an international week of protests... and you will learn how to do it.

Priama akcia Read more!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Action in Brussels

On July 1 our Belgian comrades visited Lionbridge offices in Brussels to protest against union busting practices in Poland. They gave out leaflets and spoke to the workers there.

Thank you for the Solidarity! Read more!