ANNISTON, Ala.:‘Stop burning of chemical weapons’

Despite years of protests and court action by residents, the U.S. Army began burning chemical weapons along one of the most densely populated sections of the Atlanta to Birmingham corridor of I-20 on Aug. 9. Over 250,000 people live within a 30-mile radius of the burn site where the Army has begun burning 660,000 weapons packed with VX gas, mustard gas and sarin, a deadly nerve gas. The weapons are of Cold War vintage and have been stockpiled for decades.

“We’re very disappointed,” said David Christian, a grassroots leader of protests demanding that the burning be moved. “They’re putting poisons in the air and we may not know for decades what the effects will be.” The Army has previously disposed of chemical weapons in Tooele, Utah, and Johnston Atoll, near Hawaii.

BRADENTON, Fla.:Harris confiscates seniors’ drug leaflets

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), the infamous Florida Secretary of State in the 2000 elections, took a “fact sheet” about the current prescription drug bills in Congress and copies of her voting record from retirees distributing the information at a public town hall meeting. Retired workers, members of the Alliance of Retired Americans (ARA), attended that meeting to not only ask questions about the pending legislation, but to blow the whistle on Republican efforts to privatize Medicare.

Harris also insisted that all questions be submitted in writing before she would answer any.

“This is wrong,” said Tony Fransetta, Florida ARA president. “We have never been restricted in what we hand out at other town meetings.”

Harris’ seat is up in 2004.

ASHEVILLE, N.C.: Union victory over Verizon

Communication workers, 150 members of CWA Local 3673, went back to work Aug. 11, following a solid 12-week strike that achieved wage, health care and pension improvements and control over overtime. Workers voted to approve the new contract which includes a 12 percent wage increase over the three-year life of the agreement.

This western North Carolina unit of Verizon had been part of GTE. The settlement can only help the 85,000 union members at Verizon in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states who are still in contract negotiations with the communications monopoly.

“These members really hung together in a strike that was all about family issues, not money,” said Communication Workers’ southeast district leader Jimmy Smith. “Their sacrifice and solidarity paid off with a fair settlement that they can be proud of.”

CWA Local Union 3673 President Tommy Pool publicly thanked all the communities, merchants and restaurants in the rural mountain towns who supported the union members. Over 50 CWA and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) locals sent donations and volunteers for the picket lines, some from as far away as Austin, Texas, La Porte, Ind., and Lafayette, La.

WASHINGTON, D.C.:Stockade nation

The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that while the country’s crime rate continued to decline, the number of people in state or federal jails skyrocketed. Commenting on the sharply racist edge of incarceration, the Charleston Gazette (W.Va.) wrote, “something is horribly wrong as long as 10 percent of Black men, ages 25 to 29, are in cells compared with only 1.2 percent of white men.”

The report covered 2001-2002 and found that 2,033,331 Americans are in jail, a 2.6 percent increase over 2000-2001. Meanwhile, statistics showed that crime declined, nationally, by 0.2 percent.

According to The Sentencing Project (analysis available at sentencingproject.org), 60 percent of the people in federal prison are serving non-violent drug convictions. It costs taxpayers at the federal and state levels $40 billion a year. The cost for each person behind bars is $20,000 each. Louisiana leads the country in the rate of incarceration. For all age groups, Black men are jailed at a rate that is 7.6 percent higher than white men. One in every 19 African American men is in jail.

ROCKFORD, Mich.: Wolverine threatens to boot jobs abroad

Tannery workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 600 A, have been on strike for over six weeks fighting to improve their pensions and prevent the fashionable Wolverine Worldwide from sending their jobs to other countries. Currently, only 10 percent of the boots are made in the U.S.

Wolverine responded by advertising for scabs in local newspapers in July. No talks are scheduled.

For more information or to express solidarity: www.ufcw.org

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner
Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Jack Blaine, Gabe Falsetta, and Joel Wendland contributed to this week’s clips.

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