PROVO, Utah: BYU students protest Cheney

Right-wing politicians know they’re in trouble when an appearance by Vice President Dick Cheney at Brigham Young University gives rise to a student protest. BYU is widely regarded as the nation’s most politically conservative campus.

The university invited the vice president to deliver the graduation address. That action generated a petition campaign calling on the school to rescind the invitation. In the first week, the online petition garnered over 2,300 signatures of students, alumni or members of the Mormon Church. Earlier this month, over 200 students rallied on the campus, protesting the Cheney visit because of his role in the Iraq war, torture and corruption, including his ties to defense contractor Halliburton.

On graduation day, April 26, scores of students and their supporters, organized by the College Democrats, lined the vice president’s route holding high handmade signs reading, “Mormon for peace” and “Make soup, not war.”

“This war has been mishandled,” said Darren Jackson, 22, leader of the College Democrats.

Students are not “robotic conservatives,” said Diane Bailey, who led the April 3 protest rally.

BYU is in Utah County, where voters gave 85 percent of their vote to Bush/Cheney in 2004. Statewide, 72 percent of voters cast their ballot for Bush.

Cheney received only one other invitation to be a commencement speaker — the U.S. Military Academy.

LEWISTON, Maine: Pray for the dead, fight like hell for the living

“We built this country,” electrician Peter Keefe told 200 workers here honoring Workers Memorial Day and May Day, the international workers’ day. “It’s time to take it back.”

The newly formed Western Maine Central Labor Council hosted the breakfast of scrambled eggs and home fried potatoes on April 28.

Workers Memorial Day commemorates workers who have been killed or injured on the job. The date, April 28, coincides with the establishment of OSHA in 1970.

Keefe’s union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, called for fully funding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The union is in a fight to halt the sale of Verizon to the debt-ridden FairPoint Co., and is fending off Verizon’s efforts to cut the health and safety budget. Verizon is also slashing jobs and trying to force wage and health care concessions.

Reps. Tom Allen and Mike Michaud, the latter a former paper worker and member of United Steelworkers Local 37, called for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, demanding that the state’s two Republican senators support the bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize.

Michaud also said that the murder of union activists in Colombia is enough to reject the Bush administration’s Free Trade Agreement.

Meanwhile, in another Workers Memorial Day observance in downtown Pittsburgh, Pa., hundreds bowed their heads April 30 to remember the 42 members of the Steelworkers Union around the country who went to work and never returned home, 18 workers from various trades who died at work in Allegheny County, and the many working-class military service personnel killed in Iraq. Union members struck the bell for each worker killed at work.

“This is Bush’s America,” said USW President Leo Gerard. “Seven thousand workers killed at work across the country in 2006. That is like 23 planes crashing in the U.S. But 7,000 workers dead and OSHA, under Bush, cuts deals with companies, excludes workers and their health and safety committees, and cuts spending. That’s not our America.”

He called for lawmakers to enact legislation similar to a law in Canada that enables companies to be prosecuted in criminal court for endangering workers’ lives.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr W.T. Whitney Jr. contributed to this week’s clips.