LOS ANGELES: Council bars sweatshop products

In the heart of the “sweatshop capital of world,” LA’s labor leaders, workers and cuty residents demanded the city only buy products made by workers who labor under humane conditions and are paid fair wages. They won.

In a 13-0 vote, Nov. 9, the City Council approved an ordinance requiring that the city and its contractors purchase products — from police uniforms to paper clips — from an approved list of vendors who have signed a “labor code of conduct.” The council appropriated $50,000 to enforce the new law. If a company violates the code, it loses its contract.

Guadalupe Hernandez, a sweatshop worker for 12 years, testified about poverty wages and 12-hour workdays. “I’m a taxpayer and I don’t want my tax money used for this type of exploitation,” she told the council.

Councilman Eric Garcetti, author of the ordinance, rejected arguments from the Garment Contractors Association of Southern California that LA’s 1,000 garment companies, employing 30,000 workers, would lose profits and close their plants if the law was passed. Garcetti said the employers have to obey labor laws, and that “taxpayers should not subsidize sweatshops.”

SMITHERS, W.Va.: Union-busting hurts communities

Reporters needed a shoehorn to squeeze into Valley High School, Oct. 21, as over 1,500 coal miners, their families, and others jammed into the gym to attend a public hearing on the economic and social impact of coal company union-busting and the corporate slashing of health care and pensions. A blue-ribbon panel, consisting of elected officials, ministers, and others, heard the testimony.

Smithers is located in Fayette County, southeast of Charleston, and its population is 876.

Earlier this year, the bankruptcy of Horizon Resources, a major coal company, resulted in a federal judge tearing up the United Mine Workers union contracts, which provided health care and pensions, and selling off the corporation’s mines. The notorious A.T. Massey Energy Corporation bought two of them near Smithers. Massey has announced that it plans to reopen the mines in early 2005, but to operate them nonunion.

Students testified that they would have to leave college or stop participating in school activities if the coal operators eliminated their health insurance. Retired miners detailed the life-and-death choices they make when coal companies and judges choose to rob them of health care and pension checks. Elected officials said that Smithers would collapse because the tax base would be wiped out by the judge’s corporate decision.

A report from the panel, called the Community Impact Board, is expected in two weeks.

OKLAHOMA CITY: Peace marchers undeterred by Bush election

Over 200 residents marched Nov. 7 by the Murrah Building National Memorial, site of the April 1995 homegrown, right-wing terrorist bombing that killed 168 federal workers and family members, in a post-election demonstration for peace and an end to occupation of Iraq.

The silent march demonstrated “our expression of our continuing commitment to peaceful pursuits, regardless of the election outcomes,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of Peace House.

Marchers brought their message to the community as they lined up behind banners reading, “Spiritual March for Peace” and “Give Peace a Chance.”

At the rally following the march, things got a little noisier. Residents and activists strode up to the open mike to speak for peace and justice, and to sing songs like “This Land is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie classic from the Great Depression.

CHICAGO: City college teachers ratify pact

The City Colleges of Chicago and the union representing its striking full-time faculty have reached an agreement on a new contract, allowing tens of thousands of students to resume classes on the system’s seven campuses.

The agreement between City Colleges negotiators and representatives of the Cook County College Teachers, AFT Local 1600, was reached on Nov. 5, and was ratified by a 95 percent affirmative vote by the union’s membership on Nov. 7.

The teachers agreed to accept a 3 percent raise. While they successfully rebuffed a drive by the administration to immediately increase their teaching load from 12 to 15 hours a week, a 15-hour class load is set to take effect in 2008.

Although Perry Buckley, president of the AFT local, characterized the contract as generally fair, he expressed concern that several part-time teachers who joined the three-week walkout in solidarity with the union are facing dismissal. Buckley said such actions appear to violate a clause in the contract that forbids reprisals against “students, clerks or any other person” for supporting the strike.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Brad Jenzen and Rosalio Muñoz contributed to this week’s clips.