PITTSBURGH: ‘Health care, not warfare’
When 400 single-payer health care, peace and labor activists started their march, Aug. 15, demanding health care and ending the Iraq war, they were surprised that a small group of Bush-Cheney supporters crashed their action.
Bill Neel, a march marshal and retired steelworker who was arrested in 2002 for defying the “Free Speech Zone” pen when Bush spoke here, couldn’t understand what the Bush-Cheney group was doing in the march since they oppose both single-payer health care and peace. Neel went toe to toe with Bush supporters.
“The Bush people are all summer soldiers,” said Neel, who served in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, “who want the poor to fight their wars and want their children to pay for it. I was a peace marshal but I’m allowed to get angry now. All of us should be angry. What this administration has done is made us all enemies and united the world against us.”
Billionaires for Bush, a street theater group, had the crowd laughing at the arrogant Bush tax cuts while denying veterans health care.

DENVER: Renewable, Green heat and electricity
On Aug. 2, little red wagons pulled by children rolled through the streets of Denver delivering petitions bearing 110,000 signatures to the Secretary of State. The children were part of a grassroots campaign of over 1000 volunteers to place the issue requiring seven of the state’s utility corporations to use renewable sources, solar, wind and others, to generate 10 percent of their electricity by 2015.
The state requires 67,000 signatures of registered voters to achieve ballot status for the initiative. The petitions are being reviewed.
Republican Speaker of the Colorado House, Lola Spradley, supports the campaign because “Ranchers and farmers can harvest a bumper crop of renewable energy that can bring important economic development to rural Colorado.”
Democratic Congressman Mark Udall is on board. “It is a crucial time to think about energy security,” he said. “We need to prepare for the future by reducing our dependence on unstable foreign energy sources.”
Money is rolling in to stop the campaign. Xcel, one of corporations that would be regulated if the ballot issue is successful, leads the corporate pack. It raised natural gas, used for heat, by 73 percent in 2003 and plans another rate increase of 15–20 percent this fall. Xcel’s executive, Wayne Brunette, took home a reported $2,461,671 in 2003 and he is just one of a bevy of executives who cleared $1 million. Their priorities, according to Denver Post columnist Diane Carman, are clear: “namely, profits.”

LOUISVILLE, Ky.: Kroger workers approve contract
Over 10,000 grocery workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 227, walked the picket lines to save their health and pensions and they won. Workers voted to approve a new contract, covering workers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, by a 4–1 margin, Aug. 10. The contract failed at stores in five rural Kentucky communities.
Kroger workers struck in California, West Virginia and Kentucky for their health care. Workers hit Kroger where it hurts, their profit margin, to hang on to life and death medical benefits. Kroger said the strikes cost the corporation $246 million in profits.
“Going in, I didn’t think we’d get to where we got on health insurance,” said union negotiating committee member Stephen Hopkins. “Both sides walked away a little mad — and that’s a good contract.”
Grocery workers will continue under their current health care plan until 2007 when they will choose between a plan where they will pay a weekly co-payment or a plan with no co-payment, but reduced benefits. Their pensions are intact. Workers won an 8 percent wage increase over the three-year life of the agreement, improved seniority protections and store transfer rights.

CHARLESTON, W.Va.: Rainbow/Push, unions plan Labor Day
On Sept. 6, this battleground state will see the biggest Labor Day celebration in years. Jesse Jackson is coming to town for the rally on the Kanawha riverfront joining Willie Nelson, Asleep at the Wheel, Indigo Girls and the Carpenter Ants. While the rally officially endorses no candidate, its theme is “Reinvest in America: Put America Back to Work,” the same as a caravan led by the Rev. Jackson and United Mine Workers Union President Cecil Roberts in June.
“We have two goals,” said organizer George Korn, an Ohio University communications professor, “One is to have a great time and celebrate labor. The other is to continue to call attention to the issues this (election) campaign is all about: jobs, health care and education. It is about change. Wal-Mart jobs [Wal-Mart is the largest employer in West Virginia], McDonald’s jobs are not jobs to help parents send their kids to college.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that since Bush was sworn in, West Virginia has lost 334,000 manufacturing jobs.

ATLANTA: African American woman to run for Senate
When the new Congress is seated in January 2005, the now all-white U.S. Senate may have not one but two African American senators, Democrats Barack Obama from Illinois and Denise Majette from the Peach State. Majette, who defeated Cynthia McKinney for Congress in 2002, becomes the first African American and first woman ever nominated for the office by either Republican or Democratic Georgians. Georgians went to the polls Aug. 3.
Majette was the only African American in a field of eight candidates, which included one other woman. “In terms of my appeal, it’s not just to African Americans. I won a county in the northern part of the state, right near the Tennessee border, and it is one of two counties here in Georgia that has no African American residents,” she said.
“I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for all the sacrifices that Dr. King and John Lewis and Joe Lowery and countless other people made for me to be in the position that I’m in, being a sitting member of Congress as an African American woman and to be the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate from the state of Georgia,” Majette said.
National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com).