Hidden struggles: Sicilian union heroes honoured at last
Behind the firewall of the Financial Times website is a story that dominated page 7 of the print edition today, about a period of Italian trade union history probably not well known in the UK or elsewhere. You all know the stereotypes about the Sicilian mafia, and probably about mob involvement in the US trade union movement. But as the pink ‘un reported today with due respect, the relationship between the trade union movement and the mafia is one of trade union courage and loss.
On Thursday, Angelo Rizzotto was at last able to take part in the (state) funeral of his socialist trade unionist uncle Placido, murdered in 1948 by the mafia “for leading a campaign to implement a law that would allow peasants to gain land rights”. His remains were only recovered in 2009 from the deep mountain fissure where the mafia dumped his body 64 years ago. As Angelo reminded the mourners, his uncle was only one of more than 40 Sicilian union activists killed by the mafia in the decade between 1946 and 1956, with no one ever convicted.
Trade unions across the world – in Iraq, in Nigeria, in Colombia – are fighting corruption and violence deployed by elites – criminal or otherwise – against the people. Placido Rizzotto and his colleagues are part of a long tradition of standing up for ordinary people against terrible odds. Next time you’re feeling bowed down by the struggle, remember what he sacrificed, and fight on.