03 December 2008

A Wrap-up of Today's News.

Republican Chambliss Winner in GA Senate Run-Off

Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss has won a run-off election in Georgia against his Democratic challenger Jim Martin. The incumbent received 57% of the vote, a huge increase over his count on November 4th, when he couldn't break the 50 percent mark. Although high-profile democratic supporters have been campaigning in Georgia for Martin, the party could not maintain the surge in Democratic voters it experienced on Election Day. Chambliss' victory makes a Democratic super-majority in the Senate impossible.

UAW Considers Concessions to Help Auto Industry Secure Loans

With an industry on the verge of collapse, U.S. auto execs are once again in Washington this week, seeking more than $30 billion in emergency federal loans. It's a high-stakes drama for domestic autoworkers and the millions of U.S. jobs dependent on the auto industry. Doug Cunningham of Workers Independent News reports.

"Millions of jobs will be lost in this country if we lose this industry."

That's United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger at an emergency meeting of the UAW in Detroit today. There, Union officials considered more concessions to help the auto companies secure federal loans. GM, Ford and Chrysler, who presented recovery plans to congress yesterday, employ roughly 250,000 people. And more than a million retirees get auto company pension checks. Gettelfinger says these federal bridge loans are critical to the industry's survival in the United States. And, he says workers and their unions are not to blame for the auto industry's crisis.

"Are we going to blame the auto workers who are, by the way, ten percent of the cost of an automobile? Or are we gonna take a look at what's happened to our economy, to the housing crunch, to the Wall Street bailout and the failures on Wall Street?"

The UAW says it may scale back its jobs bank benefit that pays workers for a time after they're laid off. The union may also allow the auto companies to delay payments into a retiree health care trust fund. For Free Speech Radio News, I'm Doug Cunningham in Madison.

Subway Restaurant Agrees Work with CIW on Farm Wages

In a historic agreement, Subway Restaurant, the world's fastest growing franchise, has entered into a partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee workers or CIW. The company committed yesterday to work with the coalition to improve wages and working conditions for the Florida farmworkers who harvest the tomatoes they use. FSRN'S Andalusia Knoll has more.
For the past decade the CIW has successfully organized for better wages and working conditions in Florida's tomato fields. Under the new agreement, Subway Restaurant will pay one penny more per pound for tomatoes from the Florida Growers. The restaurant joins fast food giants McDonalds, Taco Bell and Burger King, as well as the national supermarket chain Whole foods that have all signed similar agreements. But the money from at least two of those deals is accruing in escrow because the agreements don't stipulate how to distribute the funds to the workers. Subway's deal is similarly lacking. But the agreement with Subway includes more than just financial stipulations. According to Megan Cohorst, co-coordinator of the Student Farmworker Alliance, a partner organization to the CIW, Subway has also committed to a code of conduct monitored by farm workers that will:

"Make sure that there are no abuses, that there are no cases of physical violence, that workers are getting their wages and there are also for example no cases of modern day slavery, which is something that has happened in the past decade. The third is a three way dialogue, a real voice for farmworkers, so they are no longer under the table but sitting at the table with the corporations who are essentially purchasing the fruits of their labor."

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers says it will next put pressure on more national supermarket chains as well as the food service industry. For Free Speech Radio News I'm Andalusia Knoll.

Protesters Crowd Mumbai in Fallout to Terrorist Attacks

Fallout from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai continues today. Thousands of people swarmed the Gateway of India monument to join a rally in solidarity against terrorism. Last week's attacks left nearly 200 dead and 300 injured. PC Dubey has more.
The protesters in Mumbai held placards with anti-terror, anti-Pakistan and anti-Indian political slogans and called for action against the terrorists. They also held candles to mourn the dead. Similar rallies have been held across the country, where tens of thousands of people spontaneously poured into the streets and held candlelight vigils and peace marches. Political observers say this is the largest public outcry against terrorism in India's history. Meanwhile, US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, arrived in New Delhi today and is holding parleys with Indian leaders. She has counseled Pakistan to take direct and tough action against terrorism originating in their country. Back in Mumbai, police officials announced today they found and diffused two bombs at a major train station in the city. From Bettiah in India, I am PC Dubey.

Conditions at Texas Mental Institutions Blasted by Justice Department

Editorial Cartoonist, Star Tribune: Steve Sack

The US Justice Department has slammed the State of Texas for conditions at facilities for the mentally disabled. From Texas, Ansel Herz reports:

Texas facilities for the mentally disabled consistently fail to protect the constitutional rights of their residents, according to a new report from the U-S Justice Department. In a 62-page letter to Governor Rick Perry, investigators charge that Texas' system of mental institutions, the largest in the country, offers inadequate options for integrating their clients into communities.

The letter also charges that the system has problems with health care, a "disturbingly high" rate of injuries to patients, and an ineffective monitoring system for abuses. The so-called 'state schools' suffer from staff turnover rates as high as 70%. In one incident last February, a 17-year-old female patient reported being raped by a staff member.

The incident was never properly reported or investigated. Advocates for the mentally disabled have long claimed that the institutions are chronically under funded. The state of Texas could face a lawsuit from the Justice Department if it does not take immediate action. This is the third time in as many years the facilities have been subject to federal investigation. For FSRN, I'm Ansel Herz in Austin.


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