SACRAMENTO, Calif.: Labor/community coalition wins living wage

It took four years of hard, smart work to produce a 6-2 vote by the Sacramento City Council approving a living wage ordinance, Sept. 30. Sacramento is the 18th city in the Golden State making a living wage the law.

The law covers businesses with more than 25 workers receiving $100,000 or more in public money loans or subsidies and exempts non-profit corporations with less than 100 workers.

On Jan. 1, 2004, $9.00 an hour with health care is the law, or $10.50 an hour without health care. Raises are phased in until $10 an hour is reached in 2007.

Coalition leaders included Manny Gale, Eric Vega, and Ruth Halbrook.

“Nobody’s going to get rich, but it is a beginning,” said Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) activist Chris Jones.

LAPEER, Mich.:Get the gov’t out of the bedroom

Over 300 rallied on the courthouse lawn demanding equal privacy for all and condemning efforts by the state legislature to criminalize and discriminate against same-sex relationships.

The rally took place in an atmosphere of fear orchestrated by the fundamentalist religious right, and a dozen counter-demonstrators, some in Nazi garb, taunted and cursed residents who demanded equal rights for all, including privacy rights.

The equal rights rally drew representatives from 20 local organizations who spoke out against bigotry in all its forms.

“We are organizing an equal rights group in Lapeer,” said organizer Joe DeNeen. “We have to be organized to act and answer the religious right every time it rears it ugly head. We need to march on Lansing to crush the so-called ‘Marriage Protection Act.’”

WASHINGTON: It’s October. They’re back.

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its session Oct. 6 with 45 cases on the docket.

The same court which anointed George Bush president will decide on campaign finance reform, as in McCain-Feingold; whether public money can fund religious education; gerrymandering in Pennsylvania; the rights of accused to remain silent, as in the Miranda warning; and whether the Americans with Disabilities Act covers people who have successfully completed drug rehabilitation.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.: We the People say ‘Stop the reactor’

“Once they start up a bad (nuclear) reactor with bad management with bad procedures and processes and a bad coolant system, does anybody really think they are ever going to stop until something really bad happens?” thundered Ann Harris, leader of a citizens group, We the People. The organization has marched, petitioned and sued to halt the opening of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, but the Bush administration has given the green light and the plant is scheduled to open this month.

TVA is the largest publicly owned utility in the country providing electricity to 8.3 million people in seven southern states.

The people’s objections reached the halls of Congress where Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) both weighed in to stop the opening. They pointed out that the civilian reactor will be producing a military nuclear component, tritium, a bomb ingredient, in addition to electricity. Making a bomb part, they argued, destroys the nonproliferation principle of “separation between atoms for peace and atoms for war. The United States had made the same case – unsuccessfully – to North Korea.”

The government has not made tritium since the closing of the Savannah River plant in 1988.

LUBBOCK, Texas: Don’t drink the milk

It was seven out of seven, as researchers at the Institute of Environmental and Human Health, Texas Tech University released findings that a toxic chemical used in rocket fuel has polluted the local milk supply. Scientists demanded federal government action to protect not only milk, but the farmers and ranchers who daily provide milk and other food products.

Taking samples from Lubbock’s grocery stores, scientists found excessive levels of perchlorate, an explosive component in rocket and missile fuel, in the community’s milk. Perchlorate contamination attacks the human thyroid gland, disrupting the production of hormones. It has been linked to lowered IQ, mental retardation, loss of hearing and speech and deficits in motor skills.

“These troubling results are the first indication that perchlorate is not only contaminating the drinking water and irrigation water, but that livestock can pass it on to humans,” said Senior Analyst Renee Sharp, who worked on the study and also worked on similar research in Colorado. “How much more evidence do we need before the government takes action to protect our water, our food and ourselves from this toxic chemical?”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (