JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.: ‘Missouri needs a raise’

Striking a blow for decency and solidarity, hundreds of union workers collected 210,000 signatures on petitions, more than double the required minimum, to put a referendum on the November ballot calling for an increase in the minimum wage. If voters approve the measure, Missouri’s minimum wage would rise from $5.15 (the federal minimum) to $6.50 an hour, and would include a built-in cost of living increase based on the rate of inflation. Over 42,000 Missouri workers would get a desperately needed raise in pay.

“Union members, churchgoers, people of all stripes in Missouri recognize that minimum wage workers deserve a raise,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Hugh McVey. “This is not just an economic issue, it’s a moral issue, too.”

The federal government has not raised the minimum wage in nine years, so workers at the state level are taking matters into their own hands. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have already boosted their minimum above the federal figure, and labor and religious activists in Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania and Ohio are working hard to have their states join that list.

BALTIMORE: Marching to end the death penalty

“These are ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said the Rev. Bob Wickizer, welcoming 50 marchers who were walking from Baltimore to Annapolis to protest Maryland’s death penalty. “That’s what this is going to be about. It’s not going to be about people with white collars changing people’s minds about the death penalty. It’s going to be about electricians and students and street people making change through these extraordinary acts.”

Michael Stark, organizer for the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, said the group decided to begin their march on May 6 to arrive in Annapolis in time to support the appeal of Vernon Lee Evans Jr., who is fighting to overturn his death sentence. Marchers rallied at the State Capitol.

Evans’ lawyers charge the system is riddled with racism. A University of Maryland study found that in Baltimore County the prosecutor pursued the death penalty in 80 percent of the cases when the defendant was African American and the victim was white — a much higher rate than in other cases.

RUSSELLVILLE, Ala.: Klan burns cross against immigrants

Ray Larsen is the imperial wizard of the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in South Bend, Ind. He drove all the way to this small town in northwest Alabama to spew racism to a Klan rally and face the wrath of scores of counter-demonstrators defending equal rights for immigrant workers.

Klan members from Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia attended the rally.

German Garcia, a Russellville resident and supporter of immigrant rights, said the Klan claims it has to “fight back” against immigrants. But “we don’t have a fight with them,” Garcia said.

Sonja Zelada of Florence, Ala., held a sign reading, “All one people.” Police stepped between Zelada and the Klan when a shouting match broke out.

Russellville’s elected officials issued a permit for the Klan rally.

A 22-foot-high burning cross lit up the night following the rally as Klan members in hoods and robes circled the icon of racist terror.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards ( Roberta Wood contributed.