BOSTON, Mass.: Boston marches for gay rights, peace

Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), the mayors of Boston and Providence, Rhode Island, State Sen. Jarrett Barrios, State Rep. Byron Rushing and Boston City Councilor Felix Arroyo led 100,000 marchers, including a contingent from the Communist Party of Massachusetts, through the heart of the city demanding equal rights for Gay, Lesbian Bi-sexual and Transgendered (GBLT) people, June 14. “Healthcare Not Warfare” banners and signs dotted the crowd. “End Racism and Homophobia” placards were everywhere. Marchers demanded an end to violence in their communities. It was a political celebration and the largest in New England.

The AFL-CIO’s affiliate organization, Pride at Work, mobilized trade unionists as well as the locally-based Gay and Lesbian Labor Activist Network.

NEW YORK, N.Y.: General Electric heeds footsteps

Over 24,000 union workers at General Electric (GE) plants across the nation were prepared to turn out the lights when the company reached a tentative agreement with the unions on June 16. The main issues are health care, pensions and job security.

The unions argued that GE can absorb the rising costs of health care and improve pensions. GE made $15 billion in profits in 2002. Profits soared by 20 percent this year with most of divisions posting double-digit increases. GE owns NBC, aircraft engine plants, appliance factories, financial systems for businesses and medical systems.

No details of the tentative contract were available at the time of this writing. Officers from the two largest unions at GE, the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE) and the United Electrical Workers (UE), are recommending acceptance of the new four-year agreement. “IUE-CWA has met its goals of safeguarding affordable health insurance and substantially increasing pensions for our members,” said IUE president Ed Fire. Steve Tormey of UE said he expects union leaders and members to accept the proposed contract.

At least one local union president has expressed reservations. Randy Payton, president of IUE Local 761 representing 3,000 workers at GE’s appliance plant in Louisville, Ky., says that if the agreement does not include enhancements in the early retirement package, then he may vote against it.

FARMVILLE, Va.: After 44 years, a diploma

Over 400 African Americans received honorary high school diplomas from the Prince Edward County school district June 15 because in 1954 it shut down rather than obey the Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation order. Prince Edward was the only county in the country that closed for five years rather than desegregate its schools in 1959.

Dorothy Holcomb proudly walked across the stage to receive her diploma. She is now a member of the Prince Edward Board of Education, but in 1959 she was a Prince Edward student tossed out on the street. Her father rented a ramshackle home in another county where she could go to school. “This is where I should have been in 1967,” said Holcomb.

CLIFTON, N.J.: Registered immigrants face deportation

Zeinhom Ayoub Ramadan, 33, thought he was living in a free country where he could fulfill his dream of work, family and peace. But since the post-Sept. 11 crackdown by Attorney General Ashcroft on immigrants, mainly those from Middle Eastern and Asian countries, Ramadan and more than 13,000 other immigrants are facing deportation.

Ramadan readily complied with an order from the Justice Department to register with the government. “I was working hard, living in a free country,” he said. “Everything was right. The people here were great. I respected everything here and everyone respected me. Why should I be afraid?” Ramadan and 144,513 other young men lined up and registered. Of that group, 13,434 are facing deportation proceedings, 2,783 were detained, and 99 are still in jail as of June 1.

Under the new laws, Ramadan could be on a plane back to Egypt before there is even a hearing on his case.

PORTLAND, Ore.: Company pays homeless with pizza

Pizza Schmizza is a 26-restaurant chain corporation in Oregon and Washington. It has begun hiring homeless men to hold up a sign reading, “Pizza Schmizza paid me to hold this sign instead of asking for money.” Only instead of wages for advertising, the corporation gave the men pizza, pop and a few dollars.

“The signs were meant to be humorous,” said Pizza Schmizza owner Andre Jehan.

Gary Ruskin, director of an advertising watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, said homeless people should be paid the minimum wage, or else they are being exploited.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Gary Dotterman (via contributed to this week’s stories.