Solis confirmed, 80-17

The Senate Feb. 24 voted 80-17 to confirm California congresswoman Hilda Solis as labor secretary, two months after Obama nominated her.

Her nomination was held up by Republican obstructions over her pro-union activities and her support for the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act.

Labor leaders John Sweeney and Ana Burger hailed the victory and the grassroots support of millions that overcame the political and ideological delay. Solis becomes the first Latina labor secretary.

A vote for D.C.

Legislation giving residents of the U.S. capital a full voting member of Congress cleared a hurdle this week and headed toward passage, meeting demands first made by democratic activists two centuries ago.

On a vote of 62-34, two more than the needed 60, the Senate began formal consideration of the measure and acceded to the demand of people in Washington, a city also known as the District of Columbia, for full political representation. The district’s more that half a million residents pay taxes, yet are not represented by any voting member in Congress.

NY Post’s Murdoch apologizes

After the New York Post’s offices were flooded with hundreds of thousands of e-mails, calls and protests, media mogul and owner, Rupert Murdoch, apologized for the racist and violence-inciting cartoon it published.

The cartoon, by Sean Delanos, who is no stranger to other insulting cartoons, depicts the recent stimulus bill’s “author” as a dead monkey, covered in blood after being shot by police.

Neither the cartoonist, nor the editors have been held accountable. Protests and boycotts continue. The New York Post, meanwhile, does not divulge any information about its news room diversity.

Ludlow finally recognized

On April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, Colo., one of the bloodiest chapters in the nation’s labor history was written. Thugs hired by several coal companies, John D. Rockefeller and the Colorado militia attacked a peaceful encampment of striking miners and their families. By the end of the day, 20 were shot or burned to death, including 14 women and children.

It has long been a hallowed site: In 1918, the United Mine Workers of America erected a monument there. Yet for decades, despite the efforts of historians and labor activists, there was no state or national commemoration of the site.

But last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Ludlow a National Historic Landmark.

A dedication ceremony is planned for late June.

Violence shelters need to keep lights on

Women’s safety advocates called on Congress to hike funding for the nation’s domestic violence shelters. During grim economic times, shelters struggle mightily to do more with less.

The advocates immediate goal is full funding of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which funds basic operating costs at many of the nation’s 2,000-odd domestic violence programs and shelters.

“They use the money to keep the lights on,” said Monica McLaughlin, public policy specialist at the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, a bipartisan group of female lawmakers in the House, says she will push for more money for women’s safety this year.

Digital TV transition delayed

Imagine turning on your television and all you see is black and white fuzz.

This might be the scenario for the estimated 6 million U.S. citizens who have been left in the dark when it has come to the nation’s required digital television transition. Many of the 6 million are elderly, low income and/or disabled.

U.S. households will now have until June 12, instead of Feb. 17, to prepare their television sets for the transition from analog to digital broadcast. If you don’t have a digital TV, a converter box must be purchased. The government is offering $40 coupons towards the purchase of the box. But they expire quickly and there is a waiting list. For more info go to:

30,000 Haitians to be deported

The United States is set to deport more than 30,000 Haitians to their impoverished homeland, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced last week. A protest, in response to the decision was held Feb. 21 in Broward County, Fl. Haitian activists and immigrants called for a halt to the arrests and a suspension of the deportations.

As the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, Haiti’s troubles significantly increased with the passage of four deadly back-to-back storms last fall — Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike — that killed more than 800 persons and worsened the nation’s food crisis.

Haitian President René Préval has urged the United States to grant Haitian nationals in the United States temporary protection status (TPS) as victims of natural disasters, insisting Haiti is still struggling to recover from last year’s devastating hurricanes and cannot handle the return of its citizens.

Haitian grassroots activists and immigration advocates have renewed the call for TPS, which has been granted to nationals from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Sudan, but never for Haitians.

Free choice and small business help each other

Writing in the Massachusetts-based Herald News, Sen. John Kerry argued that the labor-backed Employee Free Choice Act and small business are mutually dependent and compatible. Kerry is the former chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee.

Kerry said a U.S. Small Business Administration report “indicated that small business bankruptcy rates are lower in states with high unionization rates than they are in states where fewer workers have a voice.” He also said that history has shown when unions thrive, so do small businesses. And when workers are organized in unions, costly training for high turnover rates has been reduced and productivity increased.

Kerry also said big Wall Street and corporate interests oppose the law and ironically these big business interests have hurt small businesses. “I don’t think [small businesses] have much to worry about,” regarding employee free choice, Kerry said.

Republic Windows and Doors workers on tour

UE Local 1110 President Armando Robles and other officers recently toured the country to make public their sit-in at Republic Windows and Doors in Chicago, which won a severance package.

They have travelled to Michigan, Connecticut and points between ,speaking about their struggle and offering solidarity to workers who find themselves confronting a closed factory, in violation of federal notification law.

They began a 24-hour-sit-in in early December. The company called the police to tell them they had to exit the building. Robles stated to the police this is not your fight, it is between the company and the workers. The police went back to their cars. Workers brought their children to help in the protest. Numerous visitors come into the shop to bring food, sleeping bags, and music.

UE Local 1110 has been in negotiations with a California company to see if they could reopen the plant. They are hoping that if this happens all the workers will be hired back. They will have to go through bankruptcy court to get it approved. They are hoping that, by March, they will have confirmation for the company to reopen.