NEW ORLEANS: Workers fight for full pay

Hair stylists, grocery and retail cashiers, service reps, accountants, and hundreds of other workers around the country have gone to court to halt corporations from forcing them to work to “off the clock” — for no wages.

Trudy LeBlue, a stylist at the chain SmartStyle, part of the Regis Corporation here, along with 50 other salon workers, never dreamed she would have to go to court to get paid. In an interview with the New York Times, she said she often worked 40 hours at the New Orleans salon, but was only paid for 20 hours.

“If you weren’t doing hair or a perm, they’d tell you to get off the clock, but you still had to stay in the salon,” she said.

David Lewin, a UCLA professor, says that this form of corporate cheating has exploded in an attempt to maximize profits. “There’s more of this stuff going on than 10 and 20, especially 30 and 40, years ago,” he said. “There are a lot of incentives to engage in these kinds of practices because they result in higher profits for the company and they can lead to higher bonuses for local managers.”

Workers are fighting back in the courts and winning. A year ago, the Labor Department ordered T-Mobile, the cell phone company, to pay 20,500 workers $4.8 million in stolen wages. Earlier this year, Hanna Steel Co. paid out millions to 522 nonunion steelworkers.

FARMINGVILLE, N.Y.: Immigrant workers face attack

Local politicians in this segregated New York City suburb of 1.5 million are riding into office on a vicious wave of anti-immigrant racism.

In the latest effort to criminalize immigrant workers, Suffolk County Commissioner Steve Levy, a Democrat, tried to use routine traffic stops to detain immigrant workers. Action by the police union stopped the proposal.

“It’s like we are going backwards,” said Irma Solis, organizer at the Workplace Project, a Hispanic advocacy group in Farmingville. “It is another wave of attacks against the immigrant community.”

Paul Tonna, a Republican county legislator, has defended immigrant day workers and tried, but failed, to establish hiring halls for workers. “It is not just bigotry,” he said. “It’s an economic issue.”

In 2000, two immigrant workers were kidnapped in Farmingville by white men and beaten with a crowbar. Three years ago, a group of white teenagers set fire to a home of a local Mexican family.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.: State to cut kids’ health care

Chairman Muhammad is a single mother who has applied four times to Gov. Jeb Bush’s KidCare program, which provides health care to the state’s children. During Thanksgiving week, she, along with 50,000 families statewide, received a letter rejecting her application. Nov. 30 is the last day to apply for health care, although the official notice from KidCare omitted this life-and-death detail.

Muhammad’s son suffers from asthma and attention deficit disorder and depends on prescriptions costing $100 a month. Under KidCare, Mohammad, 42, a risk management specialist for a Miami insurance company, paid $5 a month.

“I know how these things work,” she said. “I’m starting to think somebody’s throwing away applications. I’m probably too expensive or something.”

The state Legislature made life more complicated for 340,000 children last spring. It not only cut funding for the program, but also created a complicated paperwork maze. In contrast, state legislators enjoy not only full-time staff, but also full health care benefits.

WASHINGTON: Empty chairs at holiday dinner table

November marks the highest death toll for U.S. military personnel since the invasion of Iraq. The Pentagon released causality figures Nov. 29 that said 135 U.S. soldiers were killed during the month.

Since the U.S. installed an interim government in June, Iraqi resistance has grown steadily, costing the lives of 42 U.S. soldiers in June, 54 in July, 63 in August and 80 in September. With the Nov. 2 presidential election on the horizon, military action subsided in October, resulting in 63 soldier deaths.

Because Gen. Tommy Franks of the U.S. Central Command announced, “We do not do body counts,” the number of Iraqi families mourning the death of a loved one is unknown. An international web site, iraqbodycount.net, estimates that between 14,563 and 16,742 Iraqis have been killed since the invasion. A recent report in The Lancet, a British medical journal, suggests about 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died as a result of the U.S. invasion and occupation.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).
Julia Lutsky contributed to this week’s clips.

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