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  Summer 2009


Supreme Court Rules that Teen Can Not be Strip Searched at School 

The Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that school officials violated the constitutional rights of Savana Redding, a 13-year-old Arizona girl. Her school strip-searched her after a classmate accused her of having ibuprofen. This is the biggest victory for students’ rights in the 20 years.  Following are exerpts from Savana’s own story.


Civics 101

“People of all ages expect to have the right to privacy in their homes, belongings, and most importantly, their persons. But for far too long, students have been losing these rights the moment they step foot onto public school property.

I learned this lesson firsthand when I was strip-searched by school officials just because another student who was in trouble pointed the finger at me. I do not believe that school officials should be allowed to strip-search kids in school, ever. The U.S. Supreme Court did not go quite so far. But it did rule that my constitutional rights were violated when I was strip-searched.

I’m happy for the decision and hope it helps make sure that no other kids will have to experience what I went through.

Strip searches are a traumatic intrusion of privacy. Forcing children to remove their clothes for bodily inspection is not a tool that school officials should have at their disposal. Yet, until today, the law was apparently unclear. It potentially allowed for the most invasive of searches based on the least of suspicions.

Our fundamental rights are only as strong as the next generation believes them to be. I am humbled to have had a part in preserving the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights.

Savana Reddin


Cuba celebrates International Day Against Homophobia 

Cuba's Center for Sex Education (CENESEX) led a celebration in May. It commemorated the International Day Against Homophobia.

Hundreds of gay Cubans danced in Havan’s streets and attended workshops about sexual diversity and gay rights.

"We're calling on the Cuban people to participate...so that the revolution can be deeper and include all the needs of the human being," said Mariela Castro Espin, Center director. She is the daughter of President Raul Castro.

The Havana Times accompanied this story with photos and a history of homophobia in Cuba.


5000 Employees Win Victory at Pork Plant

       After 17 years of struggle, workers at the world's largest pork plant won a union contract in July. Workers won sick leave, time-and-a-half holiday pay, and a $1.50-an-hour raise over the next four years.

Eighty-four percent of the 5,000 employees at Smithfield Foods' Bladen slaughterhouse approved the contract. It ended a long and bitter fight over unionization in North Carolina.

        Workers are especially pleased that they will now be able to challenge management decisions through a formal grievance process.

    "We really did accomplish something with this union," said Mattie Fulcher, a 10-year employee. "We might not have gotten the raise that we wanted, but that will come in time. This is our first contract, and it is a start."

    Fulcher said that she got a 40-cent-per-hour raise and an extra week of vacation. She began earning unpaid sick time for the first time. In the past workers earned disciplinary points leading to firing if they stayed home sick.

    The contract also guarantees 30 hours of work and only slight increases in health insurance costs. Union members will pay dues of $7 a week. Those who chose not to join will not pay dues. But they are still be covered by the contract.

   The United Food and Commercial Workers Union represents the workers.  North Carolina has the nation's lowest rate of unionization. So winning a Union for such a large bloc of workers  is a victory. The union is organizing meatpacking plants across the Southeast.

    Workers had complained for years about unsafe conditions. They slaughter and butcher as many as 32,000 hogs a day.They cut meat as it moves along conveyor belts. The lines moved too fast. Knives weren't sharp enough. And the repetitive work often caused serious injuries. If injured workers couldn't perform their jobs, they were fired.


President Pledges to Serve the Poor and Women

When Mauricio Funes became the president of El Salvador, his first words were: “This presidency will be dedicated to Bishop Oscar Romero, to his ‘preferential option for the poor.’” Funes pledged to serve the poor, reform the electoral system, root out corruption and improve conditions for women.

       Funes’s election brings an end to 150 years of rule by US funded right wing regimes. These regimes ravaged El Salvador with wars, genocide and corruption. The former ruling party, School of the Americas graduate and death squad leader Roberto D’Aubuisson founded ARENA. His death squads murdered over 70,000 people, including Bishop Romero and Funes’s own brother. Millions of Salvadorans were forced to flee to other countries during the eighties.          

       The ARENA party saturated the media with a smear campaign against Funes and his party. US Republican Congressmen threatened to cut off money sent to El Salvador by US Salvadorans. They also threatened to hunt out illegal Salvadorans.

       Salvadorans refused to be swayed by Republican threats and fear mongering. And US activists got a declaration of neutrality from the US embassy.


Immokalee Workers Win in Florida Tomato Fields 

Two of the largest organic growers in Florida agreed to implement the principles of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers “penny-per-pound” program. The workers will get 72-77 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they pick-- up from 40-45 cents. Since the campaign started in 2005, it has won support from Taco Bell, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway and Whole Foods Market


Four Women Win Seats in Kuwait Parliament 

Just four years ago, women in Kuwait won the right to vote. This May, four women won seats in the Kuwait Parliament. Fundamentalists lost eight of the 24 parliament seats they had held.


Rev. Pinkney Wins Probation Violation

In July, Rev. Pinkney won the Probation Violation—Free Speech—issue. (His probation was revoked for writing an article). Pinkney had spent over a year in eight Michigan prisons for this alleged violation.

       All of Judge Dennis Wiley’s decisions were rescinded by the Appeals Court. This included the decision to imprison Pinkney.

       Judge Butzbaugh ruled that Pinkney’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 28 was not a threat to Judge Wiley of Berrien County. It did not serve as a lawful basis for revoking his probation.

       The decision did not overturn the original charges against Pinkney of vote tampering. It did state that Berrien County committed 13 errors in this trumped up case against the political activist minister. But the judge ruled that the 13 errors were “harmless.”

       Rev. Pinkney says that all of the errors were harmful. But he is pleased that he will be able to resume the battle for Benton Harbor’s survival against the giant Whirlpool takeover.


Miami Activists Win Center

After 2 years, Miami en Acción (MIA) and Miami Workers Center (MWC) won the battle for a new community center in Roberto Clemente Park.

MIA had demanded the demolition of the old, dilapidated community center; to speed up construction of the process; and to increase size of the new building.

 Organizer Saraí Portillo stated, “We won these demands through dedicated grassroots organizing, direct action, and smart communications work. The city fought back hard. They locked us out of community meetings. They shut out residents' voices in the rebuilding process. But we kept our eyes on the prize and won. Moving forward we will defend the victory and expand it. We will monitor the hiring process and ensure that residents get jobs in thecenter’s construction. We will keep the pressure on to increase funding for the center and to ensure community control of the park and center.”

This is a significant Right to the City victory for Miami. It demonstrates the power of building grassroots leadership to struggle for racial and economic justice. Control and access to public space is a crucial component of democracy.


Illinois to Cap Energy Costs for Low-Income

Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, signed an affordable energy bill on July 10. The plan allows low-income households to pay no more than 6 percent of their income towards their energy costs! That means a mom with an income of $600 would only have to pay $36 per month for gas and electric.


Sources: ACLU OnLine ~The Cuba Central Team ~ Truthout ~ Presente! ~ Workers World ~ Ms.~ Kalamazoo Gazette~ MWC emai l~ People’s Weekly World

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