The following interview was conducted on 14 September 2012 with Kamal Abu-Eita, General Secretary of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU) and the head of the Real Estate Tax Authority Union, which was founded in 2008 as Egypt’s first independent union.
In the first part of the interview, Abu-Eita recounts the lead-up to the January 25 Revolution and how workers’ long-standing struggle for social justice has provided the momentum that paved the way for the eighteen-day uprising. He also explains the role of labor strikes in forcing an end to Mubarak’s rule in February 2011. In the second part of the interview, Abu-Eita expresses concern over the state of the freedom to unionize in Egypt, indicating that the current government is poised to reproduce the legal framework prevalent under Mubarak and that has long hindered the freedom of Egyptian workers to organize and push for more humane standards of living and working conditions. Finally, Abu-Eita warns that the current government has not delivered on the January 25 Revolution’s promise for greater social justice, and has shown hostility toward the aspirations of Egyptian labor. “The goals of the Revolution are the criterion governing our relationship with you [the government]. If you uphold them, we welcome you. If you violate them, we will bring you down the same way we brought down your predecessors.”
[Special thanks are due to my colleagues at the Solidarity Center for making this interview possible.]