BALTIMORE, Md.: Cuba aids Black farmers

Taking advantage of a law that allows Cuba to buy food directly from U.S. producers, the NAACP brokered a deal between hard pressed African-American farmers and the socialist country.

Cuba has been strangled by a U.S. embargo for 40 years.

African-American farmers are vanishing. Last year African-American farmers marched on the Agriculture Department, demanding an end to racist lending practices. Federal money flows to Agribusiness corporations, like Archer Daniels Midland, but Black family farmers are losing their land.

The new deal will provide Cuba with food and, hopefully, save African-American family farms.

Pennsylvania used the same law when it established a sister city state with Santiago, Cuba, last year. The goal is saving family farms in the state.

LOS ANGELES: Workers freed from sweatshop get U.S. residency

In 1995, Immigration and Naturalization (INS) officials raided a San Gabriel factory where workers from Thailand had been kidnapped and forced to work for less than 60 cents an hour under 24 hour armed guard.

Finally, in November 2002, 71 of the workers were granted permanent U.S. residency.

“I am happy, happy, happy,” Sirilac Rongsakare said outside a Los Angeles garment factory where she now works.

The story of the Thai workers in San Gabriel is a centerpiece of the Smithsonian Institution’s critically acclaimed exhibit on sweatshops, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops 1820-Present.”

After the raid, workers filed lawsuits to collect years of back pay, eventually receiving only $4 million in settlements. Depending on seniority, workers received from $10,000 to $80,000 apiece.

Seven of the sweatshop operators pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, requiring indentured servitude and harboring illegal immigrants. Six received prison terms and the seventh was deported to Thailand after cooperating with prosecutors.

ELK GROVE, Ill.: Long lines at the airport and unemployment office

United Airlines (UAL), second largest airline in the country, announced that 9,000 more workers will be laid off, reducing flights by 6 percent in the name of private profits. Already, 2,100 workers are laid off.

Despite congress’ $1.8 billion bail-out of UAL after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the company says it faces Chapter 11 bankruptcy by Dec. 2.

In addition to layoffs, the company plan calls for $5.8 billion in worker concessions.

DETROIT, Mich.: Corporate tax cuts = layoffs in juvenile court

Employees of Wayne County Circuit Court – nearly all of them working in areas involving children – are being laid off to help balance the budget of the state’s largest circuit court.

The layoffs, effective Nov. 29, include 13 probation officers whose caseloads total nearly 600 low-level juvenile offenders.

Layoffs affect members of Locals 1905, 409 and 3309 of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

In a letter distributed by Local 1905, President India Williams, a juvenile probation officer, described the action as “gestapo tactics” and an assault on unionized employees.

“In the end, these decisions are simply part of a growing national movement to eliminate the unionized workforce in this country and dismantle basic public services through privatization,” Williams wrote.

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Judge William Webster forced to resign

Despite a ringing endorsement from the Bush administration, William Webster, former FBI director and former director of the CIA under Reagan, resigned from chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Accounting Oversight Board less than four weeks after his appointment.

The accounting oversight board was established by Congress over the summer in the wake of the flood of corporate scandals, starting with Enron and WorldCom. The legislation calls for the new five-member board to be running by April 25. It will be funded by fees assessed on publicly traded companies.

Amid a storm of controversy, SEC chairman Harvey Pitt resigned on Nov. 4, as well as the agency’s chief accountant, Robert Hardman.

With the Webster resignation, the SEC is looking for a new leadership, which must pass Senate muster. Webster got the job in a 3-2 vote of the five SEC commissioners. Pitt and the two Republican commissioners with strong ties to the accounting industry approved Webster; the two Democratic commissioners voted no.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Weinebrenner Edwards.
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