In Egypt, workers do not make a living wage.
The Mahalla textile strikes
Egypt is famous for its cotton. With 20,000 workers, the Mahalla textile mill is the biggest in Egypt.
For three years in a row (2006, 2007, and 2008) they went on strike to raise their wages. What did they want? A minimum wage of $200 a month. (That
is, $1.25 an hour.)
Thanks to Mubarak, the strikes were crushed. But the workers’ courage inspired Egyptian young people,
both factory workers and professionals.
A general strike, 2011
No matter what the country, a general strike is highly unusual. It requires a high degree of solidarity among workers nationwide.
Nevertheless, that is what happened during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
In January, the young people took to the streets. In February, the trade unions joined them.
Everybody and his brother refused to go to work. Nationwide, this brought the cities to a screeching halt: banking, transportation, industry (oil, textiles,
tourism) and the professions (doctors, lawyers, journalists). Even government workers refused to go to work.
There were two demands:
Political: Mubarak had to resign.
Economic: Higher wages.
The general strike brought the country’s economy to a screeching halt ... and that is what brought down the government.