Mountains are sacred the world over, and when about a thousand of us gathered at the foot of Blair Mountain June 11, you could feel the spirit rising. For five days, several hundred people had walked single file down roads from Charleston, W.V.'s capital. Now, joined by several hundred more, they staked a claim to the historic site of the Battle of Blair Mountain 90 years ago when a faceoff between United Mine Workers and coal companies reached such a peak that federal forces came in to quell the conflict.
So pivotal was that fight that in 2009 Blair Mountain was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a move that would have protected it from surface mining if coal companies had not succeeded in getting it promptly delisted. We had gathered at the mountain on this hot June day to call for honoring the past by protecting Blair Mountain from mountaintop removal, but we had also gathered to march for the future -- a future, we hoped, when all mountaintops would be safe.
"Justice delayed is justice denied." -- William E. Gladstone, British statesman and prime minister, 1809-1898
About 1 million women, according to the Cancer Prevention Coalition (preventcancer.com), work in industries that expose them to more than 50 carcinogens linked to breast cancer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. In a large number of cases, cancer is preventable. This fact applies especially to carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals in the workplace.
“At least one in every 10 cancers – and probably many more – is the result of preventable, predictable workplace exposures,” according to Occupational Cancer/Zero Cancer: Union Guide to Prevention.
Jean Smith holds one end of a 7-feet-long poster that first entered the protesting scene five years ago. It should be a third longer, she said.
“It’s the cost of I-69 expressed in millions,” the longtime opponent of the Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis via Bloomington said, looking down at the small numbers. “When I printed this, the state said it cost $1.8 billion, but we estimated that it cost $3 billion. The state now admits that it’s $3 billion."
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) has calculated the cost to be $4 billion, so the poster should be longer.
Prior to the election in November, we communicated to the public about the importance of voting and supporting candidates who are friends of labor. Unfortunately, the political environment shifted and took many of our labor-endorsed candidates out of office.
We are now forced to deal with upcoming legislation in the state of Indiana that will be on the offensive to weaken labor unions and make them irrelevant in the workplace and in social and political arenas. As reported last month in the papers, Republican Wes Culver of Goshen has already introduced a misleading and intentionally misnamed "right-to-work" bill in the Indiana House of Representatives.
The first and long sitting president of the AFL-CIO, Samuel Gompers, in the late 1800's once said: "What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make childhood more happy and bright."
These values still hold true today and pretty much sums up why we, as labor organizations, support the Monroe County referendum to support our schools. On October 14, 12 local labor organizations held a press conference to announce their support for the upcoming vote on the school funding referendum. We stand by and need to help our community through the support of our schools, support of our teachers and support of our kids.
Because of cutbacks on funding, schools across America are hurting badly. The Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC) is no exception.
In response, South Central Indiana Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and the White River Central Labor Council (WRCLC) held a news conference Oct. 14 to express support for a referendum on increasing property tax that, if voted in come November, would allocate funds to compensate for the $5.8 million shortfall that the MCCSC would experience without referendum funding.
CWA Local 4730
The Communications Workers of America at Indiana University (CWA Local 4730) does welcome the decision of the Indiana University Board of Trustees and President Michael McRobbie for the modest 3 percent pay increase this fiscal year. We applaud their recognition that staff have contributed greatly in maintaining the world class status of Indiana University that has allowed Indiana University the ability to have record enrollments, $600 million in research grants and the ability to raise money for building projects.
However, CWA 4730 also believes that our mobilizations, rallying many sectors on the campus throughout the preceding months since last fiscal year, have contributed greatly in this decision.
Editor's note: Bloomington Alternative contributor Linda Greene participated in last month's U.S. Social Forum in Detroit. What follows are some of her observations from the experience.
"This is what democracy looks like!" is a familiar chant at progressive marches and rallies. The second U.S. Social Forum (USSF), held in Detroit on June 22-26, put the chant into practice. Some 15,000 activists of all colors and kinds gathered for what the USSF Web site billed as a "U.S. movement-building process."
"It is not a conference but it is a space to come up with the peoples' solutions to the economic and ecological crisis," the Web site says. "The USSF is the next most important step in our struggle to build a powerful, multi-racial, multi-sectoral, inter-generational, diverse, inclusive, internationalist movement that transforms this country and changes history."
The debate on the City of Bloomington's decision to boycott businesses in Arizona due to its new immigration law is democracy in action. However, the arguments from people who say they will go out of their way and support Arizona in defiance of Bloomington's decision, like children rebelling against their parents, have missed the opportunity to logically discuss and pinpoint the real culprit -- businesses that employ undocumented workers.
In the immigration discussions, I have barely heard a word about the responsibilities of businesses and employers when they hire workers.
Until the federal government makes some movement on new immigration policy, we have to deal with what is in front of us. As long as undocumented workers can accept jobs with employers who face little scrutiny or oversight by the federal government in their hiring policies, they will continue to seek and find work.
CWA Local 4730 issued the following statement on Feb. 23 in response to IU President Michael McRobbie's State of the University.
Indiana University continues to ignore the needs of its support staff. While many departments have acted responsibly and creatively to avoid cutting staffing levels, it has only tempered the damage caused by having a workforce that is constantly overworked while being chronically underpaid.
The October 2009 Board of Trustees meeting provided ample evidence that IU is willing to continue to fund buildings and faculty hires but not provide for the financial needs of its current staff.