LOS ANGELES: March for right to drive

State law bars undocumented immigrant workers from getting a driver’s license, but hundreds of immigrant workers marched 50 miles from Claremont to Los Angeles to demand the legal right to drive a car. Organized by the Pomona-based Latino Roundtable, the “Pilgrimage for Human Rights” began Dec. 4, passed through 27 cities, and ended Dec. 7 with a rally at the Federal Building here.

Pedro Tobar, 23, a factory worker in Ontario, joined the march as it approached L.A. “They’ve taken my car away three times in the last year,” he said. Tobar commutes to Santa Ana after dropping his three children off at school. “We need licenses. Not to do bad things. We need to get to work, take our kids to school. If we don’t work, we don’t eat.”

Latino Roundtable President Jose Calderon estimated that 1,000 people participated in the march over the four days. “At a time when there’s an economic downturn, the immigrants are always blamed,” he said. “But we know immigrants contribute more than they take out. Studies show it.”

NEW YORK: ‘Save money – don’t privatize’

Hundreds of building trades and municipal worker union members lined up outside City Hall, Dec. 8, to testify before the City Council Committee on Contracts. The City Council is considering expanding the use of private outside contractors – privatization – to do the work of Board of Education workers. The board’s workers say that not only will privatization result in more layoffs, but will cost taxpayers more money, to boot.

Veteran steamfitter Joseph McManus, member of Steamfitters Local 638, told the World, “Privatization is not the answer.” For example, McManus explained, “We work around the clock, including weekends, for the same benefits. When a contractor does the same job, they always run over in-house costs.”

A South Carolina-based company, Gordian Group, manages maintenance work for the School Board and charges a 13 percent fee. The industry standard is 3 percent, another example of taxpayers getting gouged.

According to the Civil Service Coalition of Building Trades and Municipal Unions, the Board of Education plans to reduce work performed by city workers from the current 64 percent to 14 percent.

MEDIA, Pa.: DNA frees man from Death Row

Nicholas Yarris spent 21 of his 42 years under the threat of execution for the 1981 rape and murder of Linda Mae Craig. Last week DNA testing proved that Pennsylvania prosecuted the wrong man and Craig’s murderer is still free.

Yarris is the 10th person in 2003 and, since 1973, the 112th person to be found to be found innocent of murder charges carrying the death penalty.

Jeff Garis, executive director of the Pennsylvania Abolitionists United Against the Death Penalty, renewed calls to Gov. Ed Rendell to declare a moratorium on the death penalty in the state. Rendell supports the death penalty. “Millions in tax dollars have been wasted on these cases,” Garis said. “All the while the real killers have escaped justice. Let no one say this exoneration is irrefutable evidence that the ‘system works’; this exoneration is irrefutable evidence that immediate moratorium on executions and system-wide investigation is essential for ensuring justice in our justice system.”

Meanwhile Texas plans to execute three more people during the week of Dec. 8, bringing that state’s total to 27 for 2003.

NATIONAL: MoveOn.org house parties

Use of the Internet to spread the truth about the Bush war on Iraq reached a new benchmark Dec. 7 as an estimated 50,000 people gathered in 2,200 homes from Alaska to Florida to watch the video, “Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraqi War,” by Robert Greenwald. The event was organized by the Internet web site, MoveOn.org, which claims over 300,000 subscribers.

About 40 people attended the video showing at Ann Smith’s house in the Faircrest Heights community near Los Angeles. “When MoveOn decided to organize the house parties,” said hostess Smith, owner of the New School of Cooking, “I thought, ‘Why not?’ I made a promise to myself to work politically this year, because this is the year that counts. There is an element of preaching to the choir, but this is a choir that needs to sing a little louder. After seeing the film, a lot of people felt they had a responsibility to get more involved. I’ve never had a party where I liked so many people.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards
(dwinebr696@aol.com).

Gabe Falsetta and Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s clips.

Correction: Last week’s clips erroneously reported that a rally took place in Sacramento on Dec. 3 to protest Gov. Schwarzenegger’s cuts in programs serving the developmentally disabled. In fact, the event took place on Dec. 10.

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