MIAMI, Fla.: Peace warms Freedom Torch

Students joined “Grandmas for Peace” for a rally at the Freedom Torch plaza downtown demanding no war with Iraq. Hundreds of residents assembled protesting the Bush administration war policy.

The rally flowed from a weekly peace vigil, like many cities and towns throughout the South, where neighbors and friends gather on street corners with signs urging motorists to “honk for peace.”

Miami will host the Feb. 15 peace demonstration. Buses from throughout southern Florida have already been chartered for the march.

WASHINGTON, DC: Militant solidarity wins trucker contract

When 95 percent of over-the-road truck drivers voted to strike, the Motor Freight Carriers Association decided to negotiate with the union and a new contract was hammered out Feb. 5.

The tentative agreement will go to 65,000 Teamster members for a ratification vote. “It’s a huge improvement in job security issues,” said Teamster negotiator and secretary treasurer of IBT Local 63 in Southern California Randy Cammack. He said that company– paid benefits, like health care, dominated the negotiations. The tentative contract does not have any health care co-pays, maintains all benefits if drivers work 60 hours a month and includes a $2.25 raise over five years. Cammack’s local voted 997 – 14 to strike.

Mike Washington, a shop steward at Yellow Truck’s San Bernardino terminal called the deal a big victory. “I think everyone was really worried about the health and welfare. I was amazed. I know a lot of other companies are getting (health care) co-payments these days. Based on what we were up against, we scored big.”

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas: Professor fights deportation

The only reason the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) is threatening to deport the Giraldo family back to Colombia is the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, according to Jose Giraldo, father and professor at Texas A&M, Corpus Christi. Giraldo has lived in the U.S. for 20 years and taught mathematics at A&M for 10. His children were born in the U.S. and now attend college. In Jan. the INS denied Giraldo’s visa. In accordance with INS rules, Giraldo returned to Colombia in 1986, but the country was in a political upheaval. The family was held hostage for seven hours. They decided to leave immediately. The fact that they did not stay the required two years, is the technicality that the INS is using for deportation.

The INS had granted four visas to Giraldo in the intervening years. This is the first denial and Giraldo’s first application since Sept. 11.

More than 275 colleagues and students in the Math Department have signed a petition supporting Giraldo. “There’s certainly an injustice being done,” said associate math professor Blair Sterba-Boatwright. “He (Giraldo) is one of the ones that are most insistent that his students think. He is one of the hardest workers out here.”

AUSTIN, Texas: Workers demand education, health care

Working families, more than 1,000 strong, do not believe that the way to plug the $9.9 billion hole in the state budget is by cutting schools and health care. They took their case directly to the state legislature Feb. 10, rallying on the state house steps and then lobbying their state representatives.

The Industrial Areas Foundation Network and several religious groups organized the protest.

“It is very hard to watch our community implode on itself,” said Pastor Rhenel Johnson, Ebenezer United Methodist Church, “because children are not being educated well enough to even get inside of our universities. If we don’t do something now, even if that means putting taxes in place, we are only going to feed our prisons and not feed our society with good citizens who will help people.”

Students and the administration at nearby Texas A&M University are planning an “orange and maroon” day to protest cuts and tuition hikes in higher education.

BANGOR, Maine: Save worker safety

With their arms in slings, “Keep OSHA here” printed on the cloth, union members demonstrated outside the Federal Building demanding that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offices be kept open. If the federal government closes the Bangor OSHA office due to budget cuts, the only other office is in Portland. The Bush administration plans to consolidate both offices into one located in Augusta.

Rep. Michael Michaud, a paperworker, addressed union members vowing to keep the Bangor office open. “Why should someone from the northern part of the state have to drive an additional 78 miles just to protest their health and safety at work,” said Michaud.

The Bangor OSHA office serves an estimated 4,000 mostly lumber and paperworkers in northern Maine. On Sept. 14, 2002, immigrant workers were killed on a lumber company road in the Allagash Wilderness area.

National Clips are compiled each week by Denise Winebrenner Edwards Barbara Collins contributed to this week’s clips.