LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Huge protest over health care cuts

Tens of thousands of teachers, education support personnel, parents, school board officials and students led the way as the largest protests in Kentucky’s history shook the Republican state government from Hazard to Louisville to Covington to Frankfurt on Sept. 27. The issue was health care. Twenty-three school districts canceled classes in support of the demonstrations.

The Kentucky Education Association (KEA), representing 29,000 teachers and support workers across the state, organized the demonstrations to restore health care benefits and halt skyrocketing family out-of pocket payments.

The target of the protest was Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who has slashed state payrolls, including teaching jobs, cut health care benefits and jacked up insurance premiums. Fletcher, currently in Europe, has called for a special session of the Legislature on Oct. 5 to address the crisis.

Jacqueline Breckenridge, a classroom assistant, sat on a cardboard box amid a sea of 3,000 to 4,000 who jammed Louisville’s Waterfront Park. The box bore the inscription, “My new home,” a comment on the impact of spiraling heath care payments on Breckenridge’s personal budget.

Defying state law barring teacher strikes, KEA set Oct. 27 as a strike day. “What we are asking now is that the legislators do their jobs to keep Kentucky learning, so on October 27th, we’ll still be doing our jobs,” Frances Steenbergen, KEA state president, told the crowd of over 500 in Hazard.

MIAMI: Unemployed picket presidential debate

Tight security, floods, rain and hurricane debris were not deterring hundreds of unemployed workers who were planning at press time to line up along Route 1 outside the University of Miami, Sept. 30, protesting the loss of 1 million jobs during Bush’s tenure.

The AFL-CIO and People for the American Way, who organized a similar picket line during the Republican National Convention in August, mobilized the workers.

Official statistics for Miami say that the unemployment rate in this city is 16 percent higher than the national average, and that for workers between 18 and 24, the rate is 12 percent.

PHILADELPHIA: Workers occupy City Council, next day 20,000 rally for Kerry

Philadelphia streets and government offices rang with voices of workers Sept. 23-24, demanding economic justice and regime change on Nov. 2.

Hundreds of city workers and their supporters from the police and firefighters unions, building trades, peace groups and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union took over City Council chambers, Sept. 23, demanding that Mayor John Street speak to them and agree to contract negotiations.

The city employees have been working without a contract from three months. City Council members recently voted themselves a raise.

After a morning of back and forth between union leaders, the City Council and the mayor, Street entered council chambers and announced that round the clock negotiations would begin Oct. 2. If there is no progress, the unions vowed to return, in force, every Thursday.

The next day, over 20,000 filled Hill Field at the University of Pennsylvania supporting Sen. John Kerry for president. The platform featured Military Moms on a Mission, who said that they would rather trust their son’s lives to John Kerry than George W. Bush. Their presence was ignored by the media.

“There is no question about it,” John Kerry thundered. “The president’s mismanagement, miscalculation and misjudgment of the war in Iraq made the war on terror harder to fight.” The Democratic candidate said the Iraq war has weakened the U.S., draining resources, including aid to cities, and shattered long-standing international alliances.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Protests greet Giuliani and O’Reilly

The Sacramento Chamber of Commerce was on the inside to hear former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and right-wing TV talking head Bill O’Reilly, Sept. 24, but outside over 500 people protested both. Demonstrators included “Air America” host Christine Craft, who has exposed Giuliani’s pre-9/11 profiteering from the sale of defective radios to New York’s fire department, and Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council.

“This is a huge outpouring of people,” said Camp. “Many of these folks have never carried signs. What we have done here is engage people in the process of taking back their government from George W. Bush.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Dan Bacher and Rosita Johnson contributed to this week’s clips.

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