OLYMPIA, Wash.: Ballot measure opposes nuclear waste dump

A petition campaign to enable voters to decide to halt the federal government from dumping nuclear waste in this state garnered 280,000 signatures of registered voters. A coalition of organizations submitted the signatures, about 82,000 more than required, to the State Board of Elections on Jan. 2. Washington’s total population is a little over 6 million.

Standing before stacked up boxes of petitions, 4-year-old twins of one activist held up hand-lettered signs reading, “Clean up your mess. It’s not polite to pollute.”

Gerald Pollet, executive director of Heart of the America Northwest, an environmental group focused on the Hanford Nuclear Plant, said, “Urgent action is needed to protect our families from the risks of more than 70,000 truckloads of radioactive waste on our roads. 70,000 potentially deadly accidents, and 70,000 rolling ‘dirty bombs’ which are terrorist targets. Protect our state from being used as the nation’s radioactive waste dump.”

The initiative, tentatively called I-297, now goes to the state Legislature, which reconvenes Jan. 12. The Legislature then has three options: it can ignore the measure, thus automatically sending it to the November ballot; it can create an alternative question to appear alongside the original; or it can pass it outright.

JEFFERSON, Wis.:Striking Tyson workers garner support

Until February 2003, members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 538 had never been on strike. In fact, not in the 125-year history of the prepared food plant had there ever been a strike. But Tyson came to the table demanding concessions: work-rule changes and severe health care plan takeaways. All 450 workers walked out. Tyson imported scabs.

Union members then organized a campaign that forced the University of Wisconsin to withdraw $200,000 in bond investment from Tyson among scores of rallies, leafleting, fundraising and organizing.

Recently, 29 members of the U.S. House and Senate signed onto a letter urging the country’s largest meat processing corporation to return to the bargaining table and negotiate a just contract. “We are further concerned that the situation at your Jefferson plant risks eroding the workingclass values that have made America great,” wrote the members of Congress. “Those values hold that worker productivity and corporate profitability should equal job security, rising wages and benefits that provide health care and retirement security to working families. They represent a cornerstone of a democracy dependent on a strong middle class and give moral force to the belief that hard work and efficiency resulting bottom line profitability should bring a rising standard of living.”

Support for members of UFCW 538 can be sent to UFCW 538, 2228 Myrtle St., Madison, WI 53704.

WASHINGTON: Poison the air and hop to Wal-Mart

John Peter Suarez, assistant administrator for the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office of enforcement and compliance assurance, is resigning from his post, effective Jan. 31, to become chief counsel for Wal-Mart. Suarez was one of the administration’s most outspoken defenders of its environmental record.

The record Suarez defended was a little thin. He boasted that under the Bush administration, the EPA conducted 18,880 inspections in 2003, up 7 percent from 2002. In the last year of the Clinton administration, the EPA conducted 20,417 inspections.

The office that Suarez ran has been under a cloud with a series of high profile resignations, including Sylvia Lowrance, a 24-year career employee, and Eric Schaeffer, a lawyer and Bush I appointee. Schaeffer has charged that the Bush II administration is undermining efforts to control and decrease air pollution from power plants.

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