CHICAGO: Hospital workers demand right to organize

“If they feel they can hang up on a congresswoman, just imagine what they think they can do to their workers,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky told over 1,000 nurses, housekeepers and laundry workers who rallied demanding that their boss, Resurrection Health Care (RHC), recognize their union and bargain a contract.

Despite Catholic teachings on workers’ rights, RHC, a Catholic nonprofit complex that includes eight hospitals, has fired pro-union workers and intimidated and harassed others since organizing efforts began four years ago. Although RHC is a nonprofit, it has enough money to hire expensive union-busting lawyers and consultants.

Workers are taking risks to organize to improve patient care, increase the nurse-to-patient ratio and raise their standard of living.

Rally organizers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said RHC is a “notorious example” of why the Employee Free Choice Act, which just passed the House, must become law.

Two Catholic pastors joined Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama and national AFSCME President Gerald McEntee in addressing the union rally. McEntee delivered a check for $1 million from rank and file union members across the country.

BRUNSWICK, Me.: Impeachment effort grows

Residents of this community of 21,000 met March 1 to launch a petition drive urging their state Legislature to call on the U.S. House of Representatives to start an impeachment investigation against President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Over 80 coastal residents filled the Curtis Memorial Library and donated over $3,000 for ads in the local newspaper.

Even without publicity, their campaign, led by Peace Works, has already gathered 2,500 petition signatures toward their 10,000 goal.

Impeachment meetings were also held in Rockland and Belfast.

Meeting organizer Stan Lofchie said residents learned about a little-known section of the U.S. Constitution allowing state legislatures to petition the House to begin impeachment proceedings. Maine residents join impeachment campaigns in Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Vermont.

TACOMA, Wash.: Residents, vet arrested in protest

Citizen pressure to halt the Iraq war continued as dozens lined a police cordoned-off area to protest shipments of war material. Protesters stayed behind a white line drawn by police, but cops charged the demonstration, arresting three people, including a veteran.

“There were no rocks, no weapons,” said Zoltan Grossman, an Evergreen State College professor who was on the scene. “People were not carrying anything but signs. We were on public space, on gravel, and there was a white line that police told us not to cross. I didn’t see any of the protesters cross that line.”

Police arrested Evergreen College student Caitlin Esworthy, Navy veteran Walter Cuddeford, and Jeffery Berryhill, charging them with assault. All three remain in the Pierce County jail on $10,000 bond.

DALLAS: First African American DA brings justice

By his own estimate, Craig Watkins, 39, was a long shot to become the first African American to win a county District Attorney seat in Texas. But Dallas County voters cleaned house in November. Voters also tossed out 42 Republican judges and six other Republican countywide officeholders.

Watkins accepted the resignation of two dozen high-level white prosecutors and replaced them with minority and female attorneys. In a first for the entire country, he allowed the Innocence Project, a national advocacy group that has pioneered DNA testing to determine guilt or innocence, to review hundreds of Dallas County cases dating back to 1970. Dallas County leads the country in post-conviction exonerations based on DNA testing.

Watkins had applied twice to be a prosecutor and was rejected twice by the same office, which produced a handbook on how to exclude nonwhites from Texas juries. Before winning election, Watkins had been a defense attorney.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Jury convicts Libby

Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief aide now faces jail, maybe for 30 years. It took the jury 10 days, but the panel returned a guilty verdict against I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby for obstruction of justice, perjury and lying to the FBI during its investigation of the leak of CIA Operations Chief Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity to the media.

Libby is the highest administration official convicted so far in an ongoing investigation into the outing of the CIA officer.

Plame Wilson was chief of operations for the Joint Task Force on Iraq, charged by the president with finding evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The investigation started when her husband, Joseph Wilson, wrote an op-ed in The New York Times debunking the administration’s claim that Iraq was building a nuclear bomb. Several days later, syndicated columnist Robert Novak outed Plame Wilson.

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

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