The Cairo bus workers’ strike, in the week before Mubarak fell, helped take the revolution out of Tahrir Square and spread it across the city.
Bus workers were organising before the revolution—and once Mubarak was gone they turned networks of activists into an independent union. Elected committees represent each bus garage. They can make their own decisions about strikes. Members can easily call their officials to account and recall them if necessary. The reps are closely attuned to the rhythms and moods of the workplace.
The Egyptian state sees the bus workers as a real threat. Ali Fattouh, a leading activist, was summoned for trial at the State Council on 7 May. The case was then postponed until 4 June.
His charges are highly symbolic of the continuity between the old regime and the new military rulers. Ali faces the sack under a charge brought through pre-revolutionary legislation of what we would call “bringing the company into disrepute”. He could also be jailed for incitement to strike under new laws brought in since the revolution.
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