Safeguard the vote

In 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer made her famous, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired” speech at the Democratic Party Convention. She called for the seating of the integrated Mississippi Freedom Democrats and removal of the segregated Mississippi delegation.

In that speech Hamer described how the state police had arrested and brutally beaten her. Her crime? She wanted to register to vote. The racist terrorists, who stood in the way of progress 40 years ago, took the lives of many innocent people and fighters for freedom, including Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman.

In 1964, the battle for voting rights was really a battle for democracy for all. That battle goes on today.

Forty years later and in the best tradition of Fannie Lou Hamer, another southern African-American woman stood before the Congress of the United States. Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) rose to support a bill to invite the UN to send monitors for our November elections. In 2000, she said, 27,000 ballots of predominantly African American voters where thrown out in her district alone. She pointed out that the leadership of Congress had participated in a coup by helping to steal the 2000 election.

For telling the truth, Brown was shouted down. Her remarks were stricken from the record and she was censured and silenced for the rest of that day. Her colleagues told her “to get over it.”

The struggle of Fannie Lou Hamer and Corrine Brown is no minor political misunderstanding. It is a struggle for the soul of our nation. We, as a nation, must never “get over it” until full equality and fair elections are a reality.

After the failure to count all votes in Florida in 2000, our elections do need to be monitored by outside observers. On Nov. 2, we also need grass-roots people’s election watchdog committees at every polling place to make sure that every vote is freely cast and counted.

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Retirement with dignity: all hands on deck

It’s cannibalism. Airline workers, coal miners, steelworkers, their families and their communities are being eaten alive by hit-man bankruptcy court judges carrying out a contract ordered by the largest corporations in the country.

United Airlines, US Air, Bethlehem Steel, Horizon Resources and 34 others took workers’ hard-earned money invested in their pensions and health care, ran into bankruptcy court, and walked out the door with treasure. Did any of the $1,000-dollar-an-hour lawyers, judges, CEOs or corporate board members ever fly a plane, operate mining machinery or pour a heat of steel? As one miner put it, “What gives this judge the power to take everything we ever worked for, give it to a tiny group of people who don’t know what work is?”

Stealing retiree health care benefits is a death sentence, especially for coal miners afflicted with Black Lung.

The unions are leading this fight to protect working families. In West Virginia and Kentucky, in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Chicago, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Minnesota, they have marched, fought in the courts and lobbied for their members’ lives.

They are up against the corporations’ best of all possible worlds — Republican control of all three branches of the federal government. The Bush administration stands firmly on the side of the rapacious corporations.

Damning the Aug. 8 decision by bankruptcy judge William Howard which trashed union contracts and legalized Horizon Resources’ theft of health care, pensions and job rights for 3,100 coal miners, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts thundered, “If this decision doesn’t cause America’s working families to start looking around at who is running this country — and which direction we are headed — then I fear for our nation!”

No one is secure. No wages, overtime, health care or retirement fund is safe. The only power we have is how much we are able to take. All hands on deck Nov. 2. Let’s answer the call of coal miners, airline workers and steelworkers for economic security and justice.