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Angry Workers March, Fight Back as Wages Fall and Rights Threatened

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By Saeed Shabazz, Special to the NNPA from the Final Call –

NEW YORK (FinalCall.com) - William Peterson, 46, the son of a Hartsville, South Carolina, brick mason, has worked at the Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx for the past four years.

Now he is in a fight to keep his $24.50 an hour union job. Management wants to lay him and 23 other workers off, saying it is cheaper to outsource their work to a private contractor.

“My father was good at what he did, but he made little money to feed his family,” Peterson told The Final Call after a rally and march against his Woodlawn Cemetery bosses. “We are taking a stand —fighting for what is ours —because if we don't, workers will be returned to the days of slavery,” he said.

The conversation quickly turned to what was going on in Madison, Wisconsin, where pro-labor activists had started street protests and marches to the state house to protect the right to organize and fair treatment for young, poor, and working class Americans. “Seeing people in the struggle, standing up for the rights of all workers to organize, means a lot to us here in New York,” Peterson said.

“It's time for the labor movement here in the U.S. to grow up; the rank-in-file here in New York and in Wisconsin have been held in check by union leadership for too long,” said Chris Silvera, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 808, the local union negotiating the new contract for the Woodlawn workers.

“A movement has emerged; we are seeing it in the streets of Wisconsin—in the actions of public employees—who are standing against the destruction of their right to organize,” Silvera told The Final Call.

So, from the streets of New York City, to the state house at Raleigh, N.C., to San Francisco, California, Des Moines, Iowa, and the Capital building in Madison, Wisconsin—angry workers were on the march, fed up with wage and pay concessions and angry over efforts to curtail collective action used to improve wages and working conditions.

For a moment, Clarence Thomas, an executive board member of the San Francisco-based International Longshoreman and Warehouse Association, Local 10 and a member of U.S. Labor Against the War revisited history. He recalled that in the 1880s, when workers held rallies, marches and strikes, the end result was the eight hour day and end to child labor. A four-day strike in 1934 in San Francisco ushered in ILWU, Local 10, he added.

“What is happening today in the Midwest has been working its way since the days of ‘Reaganomics' when organized labor was attacked—now it is the crisis of capitalism—but it must have been seen as a movement to basically lower the aspirations of America's working class,” Thomas argued.

“It takes time—and the conditions have to be right—which they are; and we are ready to push the ‘Tea Partyers' into the sea,” Silvera said. He was referring to the political alliance of conservatives that some analysts say are hiding union-bashing policies behind the threat of fiscal crises and are ready to “eviscerate” the middle-class in America.

“Make no mistake, the next election is the real target of this anti-public sector union movement,” said Dr. Ray Wimbush, of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University in Baltimore.

“The real issue for White conservatives is to knock out the unions, which are driven by Black membership, in particular AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees)—you know the janitors, the housekeepers—who contribute heavily to the Democratic Party, from being able to donate to President Barack Obama's second-term run,” he said.

All of this is also part of an effort to destroy any chance of American workers mounting a defense against the conservative onslaught—as the right wing pushes media stories claiming public sector unions pensions are bankrupting states, Dr. Winbush continued.

“It is easy to see that with just seven percent of American workers now in unions, there won't be any real public outcry when scab workers are brought in,” he added.

A well-financed, well-orchestrated, and well-coordinated campaign is being waged by Republicans, the Tea Party and other right-wing ideologues, with the backing of corporate dollars to the tune of $5,000 to $50,000 from businesses such as Wal-Mart, American Express, Coors, Texaco, GlaxoSmithKline, Philip Morris, AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, the Corrections Corporation of America and the Koch Industries.

These practices have remained hidden from public view, but are now exposed for all to see, analysts said. “The genie is out of the bottle,” said Sharon Black of the Bail Out the People—Not the Banks/Baltimore Chapter, who is on the ground in Madison, Wisconsin.

People are starting to see corporations and politicians have been working together for some time now in effort to take away rights from workers, not just in the public sector, but also the private sector, she said. The Democrats have been “sending out mixed signals about their concern for the middle-class,” she said.

“I don't understand what middle-class the Democrats are talking about,” said Thomas. To be middle-class you have to be making between $100,000 a year to $250,000 a year, he said.

“The people that are being trampled on with this right-to-work aren't making $75,000 a year; so the politicians are blowing smoke about wanting to stand up for the middle-class worker.”

“Through what is happening here in Wisconsin a national movement is being structured, some 40 union representatives from both coasts are here,” Black said. “All of them are focused on stopping Gov. Scott Walker's bill that would dismantle the union rights of 1,000 public sector workers.”

In Virginia, Montana, Ohio, Iowa, and several other states, bills have been introduced to incorporate anti-collective bargaining laws into their respective state constitutions.

There is also a movement to end the dues-check off, which the right wing calls “paycheck protection” laws. This legislation passed in Alabama, Utah, Idaho—and is being pushed in Wisconsin as well as Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, and Missouri.

This “budget bill,” as the Wisconsin law is called, would deny public workers collective bargaining rights over anything except wages, according to activists.

Most of these workers, who work in state government and public jobs, are not high paid and privileged as the corporate media has portrayed, they added.

“Walker's actions are a signal to big business minded governors in all states that this is the way to go,” argued Saladin Muhammad, national chairman of the Black Workers for Justice and an executive member of the N.C. Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150.

On Feb. 22, a coalition of labor activists, the NAACP, other civil rights organizations, and religious leaders rallied in front of the N.C. General Assembly in Raleigh, calling for an end to N.C. law banning public employees from collective bargaining.

The law has been in place since 1959.

The protestors in North Carolina noted that Black workers earn higher wages and receive better workplace protections through bargaining.

According to Muhammad, the Black worker is the “800 pound gorilla” in the room.

“Across the country, about 30 percent of public sector workers are Black,” Muhammad said. “It was the civil rights and Black power movements that brought most Blacks into public sector jobs and now there is an attempt to portray the public sector as charity for Black people.”

Black and White workers are being pitted against each other, but this strategy is starting to backfire, he argued.

“In my opinion the term ‘middle-class' is a code word for White people,” said Ms. Black. “The media likes to portray White public sector workers as being better off, compared to the low-wage Blacks,” she said. “But, now White workers in places such as Wisconsin are being hit with the same red pen.”

Junious Ricardo Stanton, internet radio host and producer of the Digital Underground and The Cyberspace Sanctuary, told The Final Call class warfare in the U.S. is heating up.

“The goal of the super-rich and their flunkies in government is to accomplish in the U.S. what their totalitarian idols did in Germany and Russia, shut down or co-opt the union movement,” said Stanton. “This is part of their overarching plan to gut the middle class and usher in a neo-fascist police state in this country.”

Currently some 16 states are weighing laws to trim the power of unions, including New Jersey, Michigan, Idaho, Tennessee, Indiana, and Florida.

Brenda Stokely, the eastern regional organizer for the Million Worker March, said no one wants to talk about “the greatest rate of public sector workers has been Black African-descendent women,” who have risen up from the welfare movements into these unions—but the unions tend to want to overlook their role.

“The cosmetic face of union leadership must change in order to fight this public warfare,” Stokely said. “If a real movement is to be built, workers must realize they need a leadership that is militant.”

AIDS Network to Brothers: 'Man Up,' Attend Conference

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By James Harper, Special to the NNPA from the Daytona Times –

Black males in Volusia County are being asked to "man up’’ when it comes to learning about their HIV/AIDS status.

"More Blacks in Florida are living with HIV or have died from AIDS than any other racial or ethnic group," according to information provided by the Florida HIV/AIDS Minority Network.

"Man Up" is a Department of Health men’s initiative focusing on sexually active men who account for the majority of HIV/AIDS cases in Florida. The initiative encourages men to "Man Up" and become involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to accept responsibility for the consequences of their sexual actions.

Conference to be held at B-CU

The Volusia/Flagler Minority AIDS Network is hosting a "Man Up" Conference on Saturday, March 26 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Bethune-Cookman University’s L. Gale Lemerand School of Nursing. The event will include lunch.

The free conference will include breakout sessions about sexually transmitted diseases, misconceptions about HIV and HIV and the church. Free rapid HIV testing and flu shots will be available.

Tabitha Robinson is the Minority AIDS coordinator for this region based out of Jacksonville.

Women can attend

The Florida HIV/AIDS Minority Network was restructured in January 2007 to become more inclusive of all racial/ethnic minorities, improve communications, provide better coordination and eliminate duplication.

"We expect to be able to educate attendees and make them aware of what is going on in our community in reference to HIV/AIDS," Robinson said.

Robinson, who says women are also welcome to attend, added that those attending will be taught how to practice safe sex and can learn their HIV status.

HIV/AIDS has disproportionately impacted the African-American community because of the stigma, she stated.

She says many feel ashamed if diagnosed with the disease and "they are afraid of being associated with the disease."

In spite of the fact that HIV/AIDS has been around for decades, Robinson says there is still a lack of education.

"They (Black men) are not aware of how they can be infected and are afraid to be tested," she added.

Special presentation

Teresa White, also known as "Condom Miranda," will be one of the speakers at the event.

White, a Minority AIDS coordinator, created a character-based HIV prevention presentation called "Spicin’ up Prevention" with Condom Miranda."

White as Condom Miranda has received many awards from the community during the last eight years of performing throughout Florida and Georgia. She has received national media attention for her presentation.

She is an active volunteer in the community for the Gainesville Rosa Parks Quiet Courage Committee where she serves as the secretary for the committee; a member of the local NAACP branch in Gainesville; chairperson for the Alachua County Health Department Linguistic Access Resource committee; and an adjunct Medical Spanish instructor for University of Florida Medical School.

White is also the founder and facilitator of Positives Empowering Positives, an HIV/AIDS Support group that meets in Alachua County.


'Pan-Africanist' Gaddafi Leaves a Destablizing Legacy, Critics Say

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

The widely-held belief that Libyan leader Moammar Al Gaddafi was an ardent pan-Africanist, nurturing political movements and funding liberation groups with generous petro-dollars, obscures another side of the north African autocrat.

Some of that history was recounted by journalist Howard French in a recent copy of The Atlantic magazine. In his article, “How Qaddafi Reshaped Africa,” French cites Gaddafi's training and financing of such disgraced leaders as Charles Taylor, who invaded Liberia in 1989 and who largely introduced the first mass deployment of child soldiers.

Gaddafi made mischief in all parts of Africa using the money left over from dealings with Europeans to spread insecurity and violence in all parts of Africa, wrote Prof. Horace Campbell in “Gadhafi’s leadership – an obstacle to African Unity.”

“It must be clarified here,” Campbell said emphatically, “that, contrary to reports from many quarters, Gaddafi is not the original champion of the vision of a United States of Africa.

Neither did his brand of Pan-Africanism capture the essence of the kind of grassroots Pan-Africanism that had been envisioned for the unity of African peoples and for the uplifting of the dignity of African peoples.

“When visionaries like Kwame Nkrumah and Cheikh Anta Diop championed the idea of a federated African state in the 1960s and 1970s, they did not envision one which would be ruled by corrupt dictators and an arrogant king of kings.”

Campbell wrote: “With the fall of two core members of this club that dominated the AU - Egypt and Libya - the door is now more open for a people-oriented African unity that starts from the interest of the people.”

Who are the 'African Mercenaries' Fighting for Gaddafi?

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Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Claims of “Black Africans” fighting alongside the Libyan troops of Moammar Gaddafi have raised speculation about the identity of the Black fighting force.

According to news reports from the region, sub-Saharan African ‘mercenaries’ were gunning down pro-democracy protestors in the first few days of the anti-Gaddafi uprising. A backlash has now formed against ‘Black’ Africans.

Peter Bouckaert of the NY-based Human Rights Watch, who met with some of the Africans captured by anti-Gaddafi forces, called them "ordinary African workers who got caught up in the middle of this chaos."

But, African analyst Na'eem Jeenah, executive director of the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg, affirmed that at least some of the Africans were paid to kill. Gaddafi has a long history of conscripting fighters from Chad, Nigeria, Niger, and perhaps the Central African Republic, noted Jeenah. ‘I think it is safe to say that they number at least in the hundreds.”

Others, from neighboring Chad, were described as men "who were not mercenaries specifically recruited to defend Gaddafi but members of (a Chadian) rebel movement Gaddafi has been funding and training for many years who would lose that support if he fell."

"The use of foreign fighters is really Gaddafi's last stand," Bouckaert said.

Meanwhile, in a detention center visited by the rights advocate, the prisoners, apparently from sub-Saharan Africa, called out to the visitors in English. "It is very dangerous here, we are innocent," shouted one man who did not give his name. "We cannot express ourselves. We are here with our wives. We are not bad people."

St. Louis Couple First to Succeed in National Kidney Transplant Program

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By Sandra Jordan, Special to the NNPA from The St. Louis American –

It’s been about three months since a St. Louis couple made medical history at Barnes-Jewish Hospital when they swapped a kidney to receive a kidney from a donor and recipient pair in New Hampshire.

The two lives saved were made possible through a new nationwide live kidney swap database, the United Network for Organ Sharing.

Rebecca Burkes donated a kidney that was swapped for another kidney that was transplanted to her fiancé, Kenneth Crowder. “Let’s start a trend,” she said – “kidney swaps in the African-American community, seeing that it affects us so much.”

Burkes said it was well worth it to save the life of her fiancé and that of a woman in New Hampshire who now has her kidney.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure messed up Kenneth Crowder’s kidneys.

Despite taking several medications for high blood pressure prescribed by a former health provider, his kidneys failed. Crowder could urinate, but his kidneys were not doing their essential function of filtering toxins and fluid wastes from his blood. Crowder was experiencing swelling, puffiness in his body, aches and headaches.

“I did not know that my kidneys were being affected,” Crowder said. “I had been sick and ended up going in the hospital, and the doctor said I had kidney problems – ‘next year your kidneys will probably be gone.’ And, just a few months had gone by and my kidneys were gone.”

For more than a year, Crowder had been on dialysis three times a week because of high blood pressure. A machine called a dialyzer is attached to the body through a catheter or by needles. This carries blood from the body into the dialyzer to filter excess fluids, minerals, and wastes from the blood, and then return cleans blood back into the bloodstream. The process is called hemodialysis.

Without a transplant, patients with permanent kidney failure remain on dialysis for the remainder of their lives.

Ironically, Burkes’ fiancée, is a dialysis nurse. She wanted to give Crowder one of her healthy kidneys, but they were not a match.

“A year ago last November we started the process for him in trying to get it, and they told us it would be anywhere from five to 10 years to get a cadaver kidney,” Burkes said.

“We tried to figure out how to get him a kidney faster.”

They started the transplant evaluation process at the transplant center at Barnes. That took about a year. They found out about the new pilot databank in November, and they put their names in the databank.

“They would find you a kidney somewhere in the 50 states, and you would have to give your kidney and then they would give Ken a kidney,” Burkes explained the process.

In New England, there were two Kathys (one with a C, one with a K) in a similar situation.

Kathy Niedzwiecki thought she would be on the transplant list for at least a couple of years. Her sister-in-law, Cathy Richard, wanted to give Kathy one of her own kidneys, but was incompatible. But, she was a great match for Ken Crowder in St. Louis.

This is where the experts at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire stepped in, thanks to the nationwide donor swap pilot.

On Dec. 6, 2010, transplant coordinators from both hospitals flew with the donated organs to Pittsburgh, where they made the swap. They then returned to their respective cities, where the successful transplants were performed.

‘We will follow you for life’

Dr. Jason Wellen, surgical director of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital kidney and kidney/pancreas transplant program, said care for Crowder continues long past the surgery.

“Once you get a transplant at Barnes, we will follow you for life,” Wellen said. “So we will be on top of his blood pressure medicine with him, and we will constantly make adjustments to his blood pressure medicines from now until forever so that he will basically not lose his kidney due to high blood pressure.”

Although Crowder said he is feeling better than he has felt in years and can now enjoy a “regular diet,” regular means eating in a health-conscious manner to avoid hypertension and protect the health of that kidney.

“And yes – diet is a big part of it,” Wellen said. “He needs to watch what he eats, just like any regular patient.”

Moderation is essential for the kidney transplant patient.

“Just like when you donate a kidney, we always recommend people do the same things in moderation,” Wellen said. “So you can have alcohol – just do it in moderation. They can have Tylenol and Advil – just do it in moderation.”

Wellen said there are plenty of people who get along just fine with one kidney.

“Donors live the exact same lifestyle that they lived before they donated, and it’s been shown that they have no higher risk for renal failure and they have no higher risk of long-term death,” he said.

“My one recommendation is not to play contact sports. Other than that, your lifestyle should not change.”

For more information, go to www.barnesjewish.org/kidney-transplant or www.unos.org.

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BVN National News Wire