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On the picket line

December 16, 2005 | Page 15

Workers' rights are human rights

ORGANIZED LABOR used International Human Rights Day to highlight employers' violation of workers' right to organize with a series of protests across the U.S.

-- In Portland, Ore., the protest of 1,000 people also denounced the World Trade Organization (WTO) on the eve of that organization's Hong Kong summit. The protest, which was endorsed by 50 unions and other organizations, included a speech by Ramon Ramirez, an organizer with Piñeros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), who spoke of the struggle to unionize the 350 workers at the Three Mile Canyon dairy farm.

Marchers stopped at the offices of Benson Towers, a condominium that is using nonunion labor, and several protesters briefly occupied the office. The rally finished with Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, giving a rousing speech urging a "reversal of the global race to the bottom."

-- In Austin, Texas, a coalition of labor groups marched and rallied for a host of local struggles. The rally of 100 was held in front of the headquarters of Capital Metro, the transit company where bus drivers, mechanics and maintenance workers have been in contract negotiations since June.

After a one-day strike in September, the company resumed talks with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1091, but management still wants a two-tier wage system, drastic reductions in health care benefits and a cutoff of pension benefits.

What's more, a vigil was called to protest an Austin City Council proposal prohibiting day laborers from soliciting a job while standing on street corners. Louis Malfaro of the Texas AFL-CIO and Austin Central Labor Council promoted a petition supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers should stop trying to destroy union efforts, he said. "We're out here today to put a stop to it."

Cindy Beringer and Paul Dean contributed to this report.

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