N. Calif. PWW to honor coalitions, labors priest

BERKELEY, Calif. – Labor and community organizations and leaders campaigning for living wages, workers’ rights and dignity on the job, peace and solidarity will be honored on Sunday, Oct. 13, at the People’s Weekly World/Nuestro Mundo gala banquet to raise money for the 2002 Fund Drive, launched Sept. 15. The event will take place at 1 p.m. at Hs Lordships restaurant on the Berkeley Marina.

Honorees include the Coalition for Workers’ Rights, made up of ILWU dock workers now in sharp struggle against employer takeaways and threatened Bush administration interference, SEIU city and Port of Oakland employees who have been without a contract since July 1. Also in the coalition are UPS teamsters, the Alameda County Central Labor Council, and community organizations. After winning their contract in July, the UPS Teamsters have vowed to keep up the fight until their coalition partners have won their contracts, too.

A very special place on the program belongs to Father Bill O’Donnell, the retired pastor of Berkeley’s St. Joseph the Worker Roman Catholic Church, who will be honored in absentia.

Fr. O’Donnell – known throughout the area as “labor’s priest” – has just begun a six-month federal prison sentence. He was sent to prison for his role in non-violent civil disobedience at Ft. Benning, Georgia, during last year’s annual mobilization to shut down the notorious School of the Americas, dubbed the “School of the Assassins” by peace and solidarity activists.

While hotel workers at the downtown San Francisco Marriott have just won a great victory after a 10-year struggle by Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 2 and its labor and community allies, other San Francisco hotel workers continue the struggle.

In the East Bay, HERE Local 2850 is battling the very stubborn Claremont Hotel and Spa management for a decent contract and for the right of the spa workers to organize.

In Sacramento, the Living Wage Campaign of over 60 labor and community organizations is working to win a living wage ordinance in the City Council.

This would require employers receiving tax dollars through city contracts, tax breaks, grants and other subsidies to pay a living wage and health benefits, and allow workers to organize.

The coalition includes the Sacramento Central Labor Council and many local unions; organizations of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, seniors and women; peace, housing, religious, welfare rights and environmental groups.

An outstanding cultural program is being organized. Initiating sponsors for the event include Berkeley Vice Mayor Maudelle Shirek, as well as labor council heads Judy Goff of Alameda County, Walter Johnson of San Francisco and Amy B. Dean of the South Bay.

Reservations for the banquet are $40. For information and reservations, call (510) 531-1729.