Production workers at Cargill Turkey were unfairly dismissed on April 17, 2018, while trying to unionize. Listeners will probably recognize the name Cargill: Based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Cargill is the largest privately held corporation in the United States. And Cargill’s reach is truly global, with operations around the world focusing on the trade, purchase, distribution and production of agricultural commodities, energy, livestock and ingredients for processed food. When workers at a Cargill starch plant in Bursa-Orhangazi tried to unionize under Tekgıda-İş (the Tobacco, Drink, Food and Allied Workers Trade Union of Turkey), they were dismissed for their union activity. Under Turkish law, companies like Cargill can simply pay fines for such human rights violations and factor it into the “cost of doing business.” However, these same companies are not required to reinstate unjustly dismissed workers, even if Turkish courts have definitively ruled that the dismissals were illegal.
For over 1,000 days, these workers and Tekgıda-İş have been fighting an ongoing battle with Cargill to have their jobs reinstated. In this special episode (our first interview that is accessible to both English and Turkish speakers), we talk with Suat Karlikaya, a lead organizer with Tekgıda-İş, about Cargill Turkey’s retaliatory dismissal of workers who tried to unionize — and what listeners in and beyond Turkey can do to show solidarity. English and Turkish translations are provided by Burcu Ayan of the IUF (the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations).
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Maximillian Alvarez is a writer and editor based in Baltimore and the host of Working People, “a podcast by, for, and about the working class today.” His work has been featured in venues like In These Times, The Nation, The Baffler, Current Affairs, and The New Republic.