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Views in brief

June 2, 2006 | Page 8

OTHER VIEWS BELOW:
Hurdles for GM transfers
The fight for immigrant rights

Corporate fix hurts schools

RECENTLY, TALK-show host Oprah Winfrey focused on "America's education crisis." Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, and his wife, Melinda, were guests. Stand Up is their national campaign to improve education for youth. Does Oprah know that the $27 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also gave $4 million to the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD) for "educational reform?"

At the district's Sacramento High School (SHS), students' scores on standardized tests were low. Officially, such exams are the best measure of what modern education can provide to the nation's youth. Crucially, the SCUSD had taken state funds to improve SHS students' test scores. Subsequently, the scores lacked the desired improvement.

SHS risked becoming a "failed school." Later, to avoid state sanctions, the district decided to close SHS, located in the low-income, largely non-white neighborhood of Oak Park. Against that backdrop, Starbucks Corp. and inflated home prices are sprouting in this gentrifying area.

Former NBA star Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns--an SHS grad, and a guest on Oprah's recent show--was tapped to improve the education of SHS students, heading up the St. Hope Development Corporation. SHS was re-opened by KJ's corporation, which has run it as a charter school, praised on the Winfrey show.

Significantly, many SHS parents and labor union members opposed the school's privatization. Parents formed the Sacramento Coalition to Save Public Education. Some SHS teachers did not want to work without a union contract for a corporation.

Legitimizing the drive to privatize SHS was the Sacramento Bee, the city's one daily paper for over a decade. The McClatchy Co. publishes the Bee. The Sacramento-based publisher is also the pending buyer of Knight Ridder Inc., the 12 union papers of which are on the selling block.

KJ's corporation, in the context of "seed money" taken by the SCUSD from the Gates Foundation, took over a public high school and weakened labor unions. In the language of the market, non-union labor is more "flexible," making it is easier for bosses to fire workers. This flexibility also weakens the political power of teachers' unions.

Oprah's recent two-part "special report" on the crisis in U.S. public schools included this gem: "I've often said that I believe that education is freedom." Presumably, this includes freedom for billionaires to shape school reform as they see fit. But freeing public education by turning it over to corporations is no freedom at all.
Seth Sandronsky, co-editor, Because People Matter, Sacramento, Calif.

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Hurdles for GM transfers

I AM a transfer General Motors employee. I would like to inform you about a big concern to me and my union brothers and sisters.

When you transfer, you will lose seniority. This impacts vacation preferences, shift preferences, layoffs and job applications in the plant you are going to. Seniority jobs will be filled when you get there. Even after your 30 years, you may get bumped by someone with 21 years of seniority.

The time is now to change this. I am on the bottom of the totem pole for all of these considerations. As transfers, we suffer many indignities. This does not have to be one of them. It is pure happenstance that my plant closes while another stays open. I have done an excellent job throughout my career, no matter what has been asked of me.

Prior to the United Auto Workers local absorbing new employees, they will have taken the majority of the seniority jobs for their own people. The least we can ask for is our rightful seniority to work with when we get there. We have to pick up and move our families, transfer to a new environment, find a new home and are frequently treated like outcasts.

I implore you to consider this request and take it seriously. I hope this does not fall on deaf ears.
R.A., from the Internet

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The fight for immigrant rights

ABOUT THREE months ago, I joined an activist group based in Plant City, Fla., called Immigrants United for Freedom (IUF). I "socially awoke" about 10 years ago at the age of 18, and had been waiting for my immigrant brothers and sisters to do same all along.

As a former farmworking migrant, I have seen consistent social and economic injustice throughout the Eastern U.S.--from the apple orchards of Greenville, Mich., to the "hell on earth" orange groves of my economically backwards slum/ghetto hometown, Dade City, Fla.

After just two weeks as a member of IUF, I was given authorization to initiate my own chapter and take the position of president of IUF in Dade City. Immediately, the IUF in both Plant City and Dade City embarked on a never-before-seen mobilization and unification of local activists, Spanish-language radio stations, church groups, and basically every closet Marxist in the Tampa Bay area!

As you might imagine, it wasn't easy work to join the ideas and strategies of these very similar, but at the same time very different positions, into one good unified social movement. As a construction worker in the Tampa area, I personally witnessed how my immigrant coworkers slowly but surely embraced and then joined in the nationwide revolution--because let's be honest and sincere, this is what has evolved from the current immigration reform crisis.

The bottom line is that more than 7,000 people came out to protest and march in solidarity with all of the undocumented immigrant workers living in this imperialist country. The local newspapers, television stations and even Clear Channel, the right-wing radio conglomerate, stated that this was the biggest and most energetic rally in Tampa history.
Oscar Salas, Dade City, Fla.

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