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Against the Poor



  Winter 2007


Voters Overthrow South Dakota’s Abortion Ban

On Nov. 7, South Dakota voters overturned the abortion ban. The ban would have criminalized all abortions, unless the woman’s life was in immediate danger.

Unfortunately a similar bill may be introduced in South Dakota. 23 states have already enacted “trigger laws” that will criminalize abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Legislators in Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee hope to pass South Dakota-style bans in their states.

            Right wing extremists want a federal ban, a “Human Life Amendment” to the Constitution. They even want to outlaw the most effective forms of birth control—the pill, the IUD and the morning-after pill. They call them “abortifacients.” (causing abortion)

            They used to want us women “pregnant and barefoot.”  Now they want us pregnant, barefoot and supporting the family. Is this progress?

Info from National Organization for Women

1100 H St. NW, Washington DC 20005

Politicians Keep Promises to Poor!

 On Jan, 19 the government in the state of Tamil Nadu kept a bold election promise! (Tamil Nadu is in the south of India.)  After the DMK party won the election, they began providing free cooking gas connections and gas stoves to 300,000 families in poverty. They also waived farmers’ loans of 7 billion rupies (about $16 million). They distributed color TVs to the poor. And they are selling rice at 2 rupies per kilogram (20 cents).

            In addition, a piped natural gas supply project will be launched soon in Tamil Nadu. It will benefit over 20 million families. More gas bottling plants will be set up in the near future. The Union Petroleum minister asked the Tamil Nadu government to also take strict measures to reduce pollution in the state and reduce oil prices.

Info from Indian Reporter

7008 N. Western Ave, Chicago IL 60645


Over 4,000 San Francisco hotel workers stopped 13 of the city’s ritziest hotels from  messing with their  medical insurance. And they won substantial wage raises and improved working conditions.

The Multi-Employer Group hotels tried to impose a two-tier medical plan. It would have made health insurance unaffordable for new employees. They also wanted to grant a pitiful wage hike of a few cents. Instead UNITE HERE won a $1 per hour wage increase (50 cents for tipped workers) in each of the next three years. The workers are mostly women of color, white women and immigrants. Workers will also get back pay worth 50-60 cents an hour for each hour put in during the last two years.

Immigrants can keep their jobs for up to a year while dealing with immigration status. No one can be fired for not having a Social Security number match up with federal records. Hotels must do hiring outreach in Black communities to increase the number of Black workers hired.

            The workers’ struggle began in 2004 with a two-week strike. This was followed by a five-week lock-out. They spent weeks of uninterrupted shouting and pot-banging at swank hotels. They passed out flyers to educate people about their bad wages and working conditions. They held rowdy civil disobedience actions and 24-hour picket lines.  They were also prominent at anti-war, immigrant rights and Labor Day events. They got lots of community support. People honored their picket lines and threatened San Francisco’s tourist-dependent economy. The mayor was forced to step in and end the lockout.

            In Aug. 2006, the workers staged another strike. This caused the Multi-Employer Group to lose at least $50 million and they caved in within days.

Info from Freedom Socialist


Wal-Mart Workers Win Millions

In October a Philadelphia jury awarded $78.5 million to 187,000 current and former Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club employees. The jury found that Wal-Mart failed to pay workers for their rest breaks. And they forced employees to work off the clock. The jury also found that Wal-Mart knowingly received an unfair benefit from not paying their employees.

Lead plaintiff Dolores Hummel charged that for 10 years she had to work through breaks. And after quitting time she had to meet work demands in Sam’s Club bakery. She worked 8-12 unpaid hours a month. Jurors found that Wal-Mart workers were forced to work over 33 million rest breaks between 1998-2001.  Company management claimed they were under pressure to cut costs. Store managers received bonuses that sometimes doubled their pay if they reached the profit goal.

Wal-Mart managers are accused of altering pay records electronically for the past decade! They altered overtime punched on the clock. And they claimed workers were on break when they were actually working.

There are at least seven other wage and hour class-action lawsuits and over 50 smaller lawsuits pending. Wal-Mart settled a Colorado case for $50 million. In December, California jurors awarded $172.3 million to 115,919 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club workers who were made to miss meal breaks. Wal-Mart is appealing that case.

In Sept. 2005, workers in Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Swaziland brought a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart. They sued for being paid less than minimum wage, and being beaten and locked in their factories by managers.

Info from Workers World and Industrial Worker


 On Oct. 17 a Fresno Judge issued a restraining order to stop the City from seizing and destroying poor peoples’ property. He also ordered them to stop using bulldozers to destroy homeless encampments. The judge said the police should NOT decide what was valuable property or not. He said “one man’s treasure is another man’s junk.”

Community activists and the homeless are organizing events to draw attention to conditions in Fresno. An event at Fresno City Hall was attended by over 100 people.

Info from


Milwaukee Lawmakers Create Housing Trust Fund

 On any night there are two thousand homeless in Milwaukee. Thousands live two or three families to a single house. Another 20% of the people spend over half their income on rent. Meanwhile, for the past decade, private housing contractors have been making enormous profits. They have been constructing and turning old warehouses and office buildings into six-figure condos for the rich.

            In May 2004, 130 faith and community advocacy groups formed the Milwaukee Housing Trust Fund Coalition. They began petitioning city leaders to establish funding for affordable housing.

            In Feb. 2006 the Mayor created the Trust Fund Task Force with a 13-member committee to explore the city’s need for affordable housing. Six of the members came from the Housing Trust Fund Coalition. Throughout 2006, Coalition members took their cause to the streets.

            In May, about 100 Coalition members set up a “cardboard condo development” in a park near city hall. In August, they set up rows of tent shelters at a meal program. In Sept. congregations sent 2,000 house keys and postcards to elected officials about the need for affordable housing laws. Throughout the year, hundreds of Coalition members testified at hearings on affordable housing and at Zoning and Neighborhood Development meetings.

            On Nov. 14, the city approved legislation to create ongoing funding for affordable housing. The 2007 city budget includes $2.5 million to create the Housing Trust Fund. This is a pool of money for building and rehabbing low-income housing.

            The Trust Fund Task Force looked at other cities with housing trust funds. They found that each dollar a city invests generates five to ten times its value in supporting funds. The city’s $2.5 million investment can quickly become tens of millions to build new housing,  and create new jobs.

            The Housing Trust Fund legislation identifies three non-governmental sources to fund itself beyond 2007. The main reason that no new affordable housing was created before is that there were no subsidy dollars available. The Housing Trust Fund changes that.

            In 2007 lawmakers will appoint an advisory board to control housing trust fund expenses and write proposals. They will also request the private sector to submit proposals for new affordable housing developments and ensure future funding. To learn more go to www.communitychange.org/issues/housingtrustfunds.

Info from Riverwest Currents

PO Box 716, Milwaukee WI 532011


            The labor court in Nazareth ruled that employment bureaus must consider the availability of transportation when sending job seekers to workplaces. The judge also ruled that the suspension of welfare payments was unjustified as the claimant cannot be defined as a “work refuser.” He ordered the bureau to return the welfare payments that were loss by the plaintiffs. This case set a precedent for thousands of welfare recipients in Israel’s Wisconsin Plan.

Info from Sawt el-Amel: The Laborer’s Voice

labor court in Nazarethth



Stop The Wisconsin Plan In Israel!

URGENT CALL FOR ACTIONION  Israel’s welfare-to-work experiment “Wisconsin Plan” has entered its decisive phase. The two-year pilot period is about to end in June 2007. Currently, the Government and Knesset are discussing the future of the Plan.

Almost every day, different stories are on the news or in the Wisconsin centres: the Wisconsin Plan will be extended – the Wisconsin Plan will be amended – the Wisconsin Plan will be abolished – the Wisconsin Plan remains as it is… For us, the Wisconsin Plan participants from Nazareth, there is only one sustainable solution: the Wisconsin Plan must be abolished!

In the past one and a half years, the Wisconsin Plan has exacted a high price from us and gave us nothing in return. We leave our children and our sick and elderly alone at home day after day. Our husbands and wives do time in the so-called “employment” centres. We – especially those of us who are women – are trafficked as day labourers under inhumane working conditions. We are forced from one menial job to the next, without getting paid. Or we are assigned to Community Service Jobs, which rather deserve the name “Forced Labour.” We are humiliated by the officials. They treat us and our children as if we were of lesser value than them. And if they consider us "uncooperative", we lose our welfare allowances for one month. And yet, none of us has received any vocational training that would allow us to enter the job market. And none of us has found decent employment that lasted longer than a few days.

On the contrary, the Wisconsin Plan drives us ever deeper into the vicious circle of poverty and unemployment. Its mere existence is an excuse for the government not to invest in other employment programmes in the Arab community. They should invest in the development of industries and public infrastructure, vocational training programmes, and affirmative action to combat racial discrimination.

Moreover, we are losing our time in the Wisconsin centres. We could better spend it undergoing job training, raising our children or organising the household. It has become a common phenomenon among our children that they get into trouble at school and in the neighbourhood. We no longer have time to supervise their homework or listen to their daily worries. And like every parent, we wish our children a brighter future than our own.

The reason we approach you with this urgent call is because the Wisconsin Plan is a global issue. The Plan reached us here in Nazareth from the United States (from Wisconsin, to be exact). And it is implemented by foreign companies (and their Israeli partners). Private corporations from the United States (Maximus), the United Kingdom (A4e) and the Netherlands (Alexander Calder and Agens International) administer it.

We call on you to join us in our struggle to end the Wisconsin Plan in Nazareth and all other pilot areas in Israel. Please support our campaign. Send letters, emails or faxes to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour. Ask them to abolish the Wisconsin Plan in Israel. Eli Yishai, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Lab

 Signed by 200 Wisconsin Plan Participants from Nazaretheth

Sawt el-Amel: The Laborer's Voice; PO Box 2721; Nazareth 16126 Israel

Tel.: +972 (0)4 6561996; Website: www.laborers-voice.org



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