NEW YORK: City workers to picket convention site

The United Federation of Teachers, the Uniformed Firefighters Association, and the city’s police union have vowed to begin round-the-clock informational picketing at Madison Square Garden when the Republican National Committee (RNC) takes over the site in preparation for their national convention in late August. They plan to picket for at least 10 days.

All three unions have been working without contracts for over two years, and hope to use this as an opportunity to gain national attention for their situation. They are also looking to shame and pressure Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who the unions say has not been negotiating fairly with them, in front of his fellow Republicans and the nation. Union representatives say that they want America to see how Bloomberg has shortchanged them, even though he constantly refers to police and firefighters as the heroes of 9/11. The UFA alone lost over 300 members in the attacks.

The unions’ leaders have stressed that this is an informational picket, and are not asking other union members to not cross picket lines. This is in accordance with an agreement worked out between the city’s Central Labor Council and the RNC. The agreement stipulates that there will be a no-strike policy as long as the RNC uses all union labor for the convention and for its preparations. This does not mean, however, that the CLC will not be supporting the municipal unions. In an interview with The Chief, a newspaper for city public workers, CLC head Brian McLaughlin said, “We will support them with everything we’ve got, the best way we can.”

This is the second time that these unions have come together in a display of solidarity in about a month. On June 8, the three unions held one of the largest municipal labor demonstrations in recent memory.

TAMPA, Fla.: Cuban Americans protest travel restrictions

In what observers are calling a split in the South Florida Cuban American community, Cuban Americans took to the streets, July 17, protesting new Bush administration travel restrictions to the socialist island. “Enough is enough,” they chanted.

Maura Barrios, assistant director of Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of South Florida, told reporters, “This represents a split among Cuban Americans. A lot of them were saying they were Republicans who voted for Bush, and they’re not voting for him anymore because of this particular issue.”

New travel restrictions limit family trips to 14 days, impose a 44-pound luggage weight cap and mandate that travelers can only spend $300, with a maximum of $50 per day. Under the new regulations, Cuban Americans can only send money to immediate relatives in Cuba, excluding aunts, uncles and cousins.

Rolendo Carbonelo, 59, said he is voting for Kerry and charged that Bush “is restricting my right to travel.” Carbonelo had been visiting his four elderly uncles in Cuba until Bush acted.

Cuban Americans have organized the Cuban Committee to Defend Family Rights to oppose the new measures.

BEDFORD, Ind.: Despite corporate violence, workers win contract

Members of the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE/CWA) Local 84907 in this tiny rural community faced down Visteon, a mega-international auto parts corporation spun off from the Ford Motor Company, and won a new contract in mid-June.

The workers struck on May 30, courageously fended off company-financed armed “guards” clad in black military-style uniforms, and ultimately succeeded in blunting major company concession demands. The local achieved its priority: protecting retirees from health care cuts. “We were trying to keep it off them,” Local 84907 President Earl Wilson said.

In a 528-410 vote, workers accepted a new contract that provides job security for 700 workers for the duration of the four-year contract and “buyouts” of $25,000 for up to 250 workers who face layoff, but includes pay cuts of 79 cents per hour. “All of this is about corporate greed,” Wilson told the World. “Visteon makes enough to pay for health care and the 79 cents an hour.”

Visteon owns 137 manufacturing facilities in 25 countries employing 72,000 workers. It reported revenues of $17.7 billion in 2003.


MILLTOWN, N.J.: First hurdle scaled to prevent deportation

In a 2001 hate crime, Mark Anthony Stroman murdered Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant, who had applied for a green card. Then the U.S. government decided to deport Mr. Hasan’s family, his wife, Duri, and four daughters. It took three years and a national grassroots effort by the National Council of Churches USA and other religious groups to win an act of Congress to allow the Hasan family to remain in the U.S.

On July 8, the U.S. House approved a “private relief act,” HR 867, the first step in granting the Hasan family permanent U.S. residency. The measure now goes to the Senate and on to Bush’s desk.

“I believe that there is no more crucial time to demonstrate to Muslims in America and around the world that we are a tolerant and sympathetic people,” said Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.). “We must seize opportunities to showcase America’s commitment to democratic values that we are making great sacrifices to promote overseas.”

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Julia Lutsky, Dan Margolis and Roberta Wood contributed to this week’s clips.