PHILADELPHIA: A decent job is a human right

Hundreds marched through a driving rain here on Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, demanding that the proposed layoff of city workers be halted, public transportation be fully funded, and all homes be adequately heated.

Marchers began in front of the Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) company which is threatening to shut off heat during the winter. “Someone will die this winter because of this new policy,” said Service Employees International Union Local 668 President Ray Martinez. “PGW We say no rate hikes; no shut-offs.” PGW has raised rates 60 percent in four years.

Marchers were mindful of the costs of the Iraq war. “All the resources in this country are being put into this war and are not being put into our cities,” said Michael Berg, father of slain U.S. contract worker Nicholas Berg. “It’s the poor people who are suffering.” The Center for American Progress estimates that the Iraq war has stripped $592 million in federal funds from Philadelphia.

Facing a $62 million budget deficit, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, (SEPTA), announced that it was laying off 1,400 workers, slashing service and raising fares to $3. Marchers demonstrated on the front steps of SEPTA’s office building, demanding full funding. City Hall was next where marchers protested the proposed city budget, which involves layoffs of some 1,300 city workers.

LOS ANGELES: Janitors win against supermarket chains

Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway grocery stores tried to pull a slick one on 2,000 janitors and it will cost the corporations $24 million under a tentative settlement.

From 1994 to 2001, immigrant workers, most from Mexico, worked “off the clock,” never had a day off and got short paychecks. Working with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Legal Fund (MALDEF), the workers sued and won. They stand to receive between $4,500 to $9,300 in back pay.

MALDEF lawyers proved in court that the contractor who employed the janitors, Building One Solutions, puffed up their profits by not paying the workers. The judge agreed that the grocery corporations knew about the flagrant abuse and ordered them to pay up.

HARLAN, Ky.: Miners sue to improve safety

For coal miners, safety equipment is not just a flowery paragraph in a corporation’s mission statement. It is life-and-death.

Twelve coal miners, all suffering from Black Lung, a disease caused by breathing coal dust, went into court Dec. 9, charging that the 3M Corp. sold defective dust masks and respirators. They are looking to have the devices pulled from the market and are seeking compensation for medical costs and punitive damages for endangering their lives.

“I think we should be compensated, but that still doesn’t help any,” said 30-year veteran miner Joe Day. “The money just won’t buy health.”

The miners’ lawyer, Eric Jacobi, said that Black Lung disease kills 1,000 miners each year.

BALTIMORE: Free Eddie Conway

Thirty-five years ago, Eddie Conway was a Black Panther. At the time, the Black Panther Party was in the crosshairs of the notorious COINTELPRO, the FBI’s counter-intelligence program. COINTELPRO trashed the Bill of Rights, ultimately forcing the first congressional oversight of the intelligence community. (See the recent PWW article on Conway, 10/30.)

Conway is still in jail but not forgotten. On Nov. 6, scores of people jammed the University of Baltimore demanding Conway’s freedom and drawing attention to the escalating assault on democratic rights and the growing rates of imprisonment.

Speakers recalled the COINTELPRO terror on African American communities and called for a renewed fight to free political prisoners and protect civil rights. For more information on Conway’s case, visit

NORTH POLE: Vote for Grinch

Voters throughout the world have been lining up at the polls to cast their ballot for the Grinch of the Year. Santa Claus and members of Elves Local 1219 are tallying the vote. Polls are open 24/7 and close on Dec. 25 at midnight.

This year’s nominees include Wal-Mart, Comcast, Angelica, Continental General Tire and Cintas. “We are counting every write-in vote, one by one, as well,” said Claus, who has been designing toys and delivering them into private living rooms for generations.

Voting takes place at the Jobs with Justice web site, “Vote early; vote often,” urges Rudolf R. Reindeer, Claus’ director of transportation.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (
Rah-ed Ghuma, Rosita Johnson, Julia Lutsky and Kelly McConnell contributed to this week’s clips.