CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas: Wal-Mart locks up workers

With 1.2 million workers in 3,500 stores, Wal-Mart has hit upon a trick to increase their profits which even its competitors condemn. The mega-store locks in workers overnight in about 10 percent of its stores. Workers re-stock shelves, clean and unload trucks. They are threatened with firing if they use the fire exits.

One night Michael Rodriguez’s ankle was crushed by an electronic cart. “I was yelling and running around like a hurt dog that had been hit by a car,” Rodriguez told the New York Times. It took an hour on the phones for his co-workers to find a manager with a key to open the door so that Rodriguez could go to the hospital. “You could be bleeding to death and they’ll have you locked in,” he said. “Being locked in in an emergency like that, that’s not right.”

The multinational corporation says locking the doors increases productivity, controls “shrinkage” (theft) and “protects employees in (so-called) high crime neighborhoods.”

Locked in workers have gone into labor, suffered heart attacks, had asthma attacks, and suffered serious job injuries.

SAN FRANCISCO: DaimlerChrysler charged with murder

Between 1997 and 1983 at the DaimlerChrysler Mercedes plant in Gonzalez-Catan, Argentina, the corporation directed security forces to kidnap, torture and murder 17 union leaders, charged a group of Human Rights activists who filed suit here Jan. 14.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Pittsburgh labor lawyer Daniel Kovalik said that an internal report commissioned by DaimlerChrysler documented cases in which company officials passed on the names, addresses and sometimes personnel files of workers to state security forces with what the authors of the report described as “fatal consequences.”

DaimlerChrysler joins multinational corporations Coca-Cola, Fresh Del Monte and Drummond Coal in court facing felony charges, including murder of union organizers.

EDMONDS, Wash.: Slick Chevron-Texaco

Just as 2003 drew to a close, Chevron-Texaco overfilled a barge at a fuel transfer station, dumping 4,800 gallons of oil into Puget Sound. The oil spread out over 105 square miles, landing at a protected marine estuary, a sacred land of the Suquamish Native American Indians.

Whales migrate through this area. Herring spawn here. Now the Suquamish clam beds are black and their fishing is destroyed. Crabs are black with muck. At least one seal has died and sea birds are endangered, their feathers thick with goo.

Environmentalists have called for tougher environmental protections around oil-transfer facilities.

TAMPA, Fla.: Patriot Act goes to court

University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian has been under secret surveillance by the FBI for nearly 10 years. When Congress enacted the Patriot Act in 2001, Al-Arian’s surveillance turned into an arrest. Charged with 50 counts of racketeering, Al-Arian goes to trial in 2005.

John Ashcroft’s Justice Department alleges that Al-Arian used his charity as a cover to raise money for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Al-Arian’s defense attorney, William B. Moffitt, says that he will challenge every part of the complicated legislation. Calling the Patriot Act a product of a “frightened society” overreacting to the heinous acts of Sept. 11, Moffit said, “What we have done is precisely what the people who attacked on 9/11 hoped we would do.”

Al-Arian remains in jail.

WASHINGTON: Science panel calls for universal health care

In one of the most detailed, comprehensive and carefully researched studies, the National Academy of Sciences is adding its authoritative voice to the movement for universal health care.

The 16-member panel said, “The lack of health insurance for tens of millions of Americans has serious negative consequences and economic costs, not only for the uninsured themselves, but also for their families, the communities they live in and the whole country. The situation is dire and expected to worsen. The committee urges Congress and the administration to act immediately to eliminate this longstanding problem.”

Although the panel did not develop a health care plan, it set out five guiding principles. Health care should be universal; continuous, with workers not losing coverage when they change jobs; affordable to individuals and families; affordable and sustainable to society; and characterized by access to quality, effective, safe, timely, patient-centered with equitable treatment for all.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (
Gabe Falsetta, Julia Lutsky and Phyllis Wetherby contributed to this week’s clips.