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News and reports

December 15, 2006 | Pages 14 and 15

Bring the troops home now
Gay marriage is a right
Free Mumia

No to "no match," yes to immigrants

BERKELEY, Calif.--The Berkeley City Council passed a resolution October 24 formally opposing the Homeland Security Department's proposed changes to Social Security "no-match" regulations.

This was a joint effort on the part of immigrant rights activists from area unions, churches and the community. San Francisco has also passed a similar resolution, and activists are working on getting Oakland to do the same.

The new rules would give power to the employer to act as immigration cop and fire workers whose Social Security numbers at work don't match the number that the Social Security Administration has on file.

Employers are already using this as cover to fire workers who are leading organizing drives in their workplaces. Local examples include the Woodfin Hotel in nearby Emeryville, where workers are fighting to force management to obey a living wage ordinance, and Cintas, where workers in San Jose are fighting to form a union.

City officials cannot legally force private employers to resist the new federal regulations, but by taking a stand, they can support activists fighting for justice in their workplaces.

-- In Chicago, immigrant rights supporters are challenging Jays Foods' plan to fire workers on December 16 who received no-match letters and Stockyard Meats' plan to fire workers December 26. Workers at Jays are debating a possible boycott of the company and the most effective action to stop the terminations.

Activists from the Chicago Workers' Collaborative and the March 10 Movement attended the recently held Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation (ILLCF) conference to appeal for support for Jays workers.

After discussion, conference organizers agreed to return food from Jays included in their lunch. And the ILLCF voted to demand that Jays end plans to fire immigrant workers and to support a boycott of the company.

-- In Madison, Wis., organizers from UNITE HERE, Chicago Workers' Collaborative, Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, Latinos United for Change and Advancement, ISO, Student Labor Action Coalition and fired Cintas workers met to discuss their response to the termination of 15 workers from the local Cintas plant as part of the 400 no-match terminations by the company nationwide.

Activists have created a rapid response network to mobilize against terminations and raids. They discussed organizing a rally in early spring and proposing legislation protecting workers from no-match letters.

Shaun Harkin, Kathryn Lybarger and Alex Stone contributed to this report.

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Bring the troops home now

SAN FRANCISCO--Some 65 activists from more than 20 organizations met and agreed to initiate a January 27 rally and march at Powell and Market Streets in solidarity with the protest planned for Washington, D.C., on the same date.

Bob Watada, on behalf of his son Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, addressed the meeting and urged everyone to "support his son by organizing against this illegal war."

Everyone agreed that the march's demands should begin with "Bring the troops home now from Iraq and Afghanistan" as well as "Stop racist attacks on Muslims and Arabs." There was some discussion about whether or not to include "End the occupation of Palestine" with the other two.

Some felt that would alienate potential supporters, but after a debate, an overwhelming majority voted in favor of including Palestine as a central focus in the march and felt that it was especially important to highlight Israel's role as America's central military ally in attacking Lebanon and threatening Syria and Iran.

To get more information or help organize the march, contact the January 27 Antiwar Committee at 510-484-5242 or e-mail [email protected].

-- In New Britain, Conn., close to 80 people turned out for Connecticut United For Peace's (CTUP) December 9 "Out now!" antiwar conference.

The conference provided an opportunity for activists to deepen their understanding of the war in Iraq and the politics of the broader Middle East and to strategize ways to include larger numbers of people in the upcoming January 27 national demonstration in Washington, D.C.

The strategizing session took up tactical questions of rebuilding mass demonstrations as well as the need to reach out to antiwar GIs, Arabs and Muslims in building for the January 27 march.

Todd Chretien and Jay Poppa contributed to this report.

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Gay marriage is a right
By Tristan Brosnan

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.--After state legislators refused to vote on a gay marriage ban November 9, local antigay Catholic groups called for a demonstration here. These demonstrations were organized by Catholic Citizen and Vote On Marriage, two gay-bashing groups that veil their bigotry with the claim that legislators and voters, not the courts, should decide whether gay couples get the right to marry.

As gay rights protester Tony Shannon put it, "Instead of saying we're against gay marriage, they put a spin on the debate by saying it's about democracy, that people should be able to vote on rights of gays and lesbians, and I'm just sick of it."

Marching in loud and angry, progay rights counterprotesters overtook the steps of City Hall, where the bigots were demonstrating. In the face of chants of "Bigots, go home," the antigay bigots fled the steps for the park across the street.

The counterdemonstration had an amazing feeling of confidence and victory. In solidarity, minister Luis Alvarenga, a local leader in the immigrant rights movement, spoke of the need for all oppressed groups to unite and fight against all forms of discrimination and oppression.

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Free Mumia
By Jaan Fulano and Eric Augenbraun

PHILADELPHIA--Close to 500 people gathered at City Hall on December 9 in protest of Mumia Abu-Jamal's 25-year incarceration. The protest, called by the International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal, drew contingents from around the country and featured spirited speeches.

Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther and radical journalist, was accused of killing a white police officer in 1981. His supporters claim that his trial was unfair and was the product of racial and political persecution. Veteran activist Pam Africa spoke of flawed police testimony and intimidated witnesses, and protesters carried signs connecting the criminal justice system and racism.

Speakers charged Black Democratic politicians with doing little to help Abu-Jamal's case. In particular, speakers singled out Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), who supported a House resolution denouncing Saint-Denis, a French town that recently named a street after Mumia.

The event was considerably smaller than in years past, but organizers and speakers stressed the important role of protest, even small ones.

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