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The Week In Review,
Sunday, December 7, 2003      

KC Transit Tax Scam Revealed
This web site was among those in the community reluctantly supporting an additional d cent sales tax in Kansas City, Missouri supposedly solely dedicated to keeping ATA buses running. The alternative was massive cuts in transit services as early as January. (See Kansas City Transit Gets Last Minute Reprieve, Faces New Trial )

At the time we were puzzled by the breadth of support for the transit tax: Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; Economic Development Corporation; Hotel-Motel Association; KC Convention and Visitors Bureau; Kansas City Business Journal. These groups not previously known for supporting public transit not only endorsed the tax—they also pumped tens of thousands of dollars into the tax campaign.

Now Alle ist klar, as my grandmother would have put it. It seems not all of the 22 million dollars expected from the new tax will be going to the ATA after all. Nearly $2 million from the tax approved by city voters in November will go to pay for such things as sidewalks, sewers or parking garages for developers. This is due to Missouri’s wonderful Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program which assures politically connected developers a piece of the action of all sales, earnings, utility and property taxes.

We will have more to say on this topic soon.

Tough Week For Our Environment
Some have questioned why there are so many articles about environmental issues posted on our Daily Labor News Digest. That’s because we think they are very much working class issues. How many workers do you know that don’t depend on clean air and clean water to sustain their existence? How can it be denied that it will be the kids, and especially grandkids, of today’s workers who will be confronted with environmental disasters of unprecedented scale?

On our Labor and the Environment resource page we say,

"We cannot rely upon the captains of industry to be the guardians of our environment. They are driven by the profit motive—and little else. Industry usually bitterly resists any environmental restrictions. They often cynically complain that environmental measures eliminate jobs—just as they falsely predicted that safety measures like OSHA would put them out of business."

Just this past week we posted these stories:

P U.S. Proposes Easing Rules on Emissions of Mercury Mercury, a known neurotoxin, accumulates in the environment and builds up in the tissue of fish and the species, including humans, that eat them. It is considered particularly hazardous for pregnant women because of the developmental effects on fetuses. Coal-burning electric power companies generate about 40 percent of the total human-caused mercury emissions in the country. The Bush EPA is downgrading mercury to a less serious category. Polluters would be able to buy pollution credits from cleaner operations—and continue their poisoning. Environmental groups criticize the market-based proposal, saying it would allow hot spots of mercury contamination to build up. Very bad news.

P42 A-Plants Found to Lack Enough Cash for Cleanup In addition to the lack of a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste in a long run—that can last thousands of years—there is now a big short term problem with the most elementary clean up of phased out nuclear power plants. The owners of nearly half the nuclear power reactors in the United States are not reserving enough money to decommission them on retirement, according to Congressional auditors, who also say the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not tracking the money carefully. Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who requested the report, said in a statement, "While happily pocketing their profits today, many plant owners are shirking their duty to save for tomorrow." Taxpayers could be left with billions in costs, Markey said.

PNew Forest-Thinning Policy Drops Safeguard for Wildlife The Bush administration seized upon the grief for victims of western forest fires to institute a forest "thinning" program—that is bringing in timber companies, at a cost of 760 million dollars, to chop down trees. One pesky obstacle to this timber grab was the Endangered Species Act. A new Bush policy sidesteps the law by authorizing biologists for the Forest Service or other land-management agencies to make the call that no endangered species will be adversely affected—exempting them from consulting with the agencies whose main mandate is protecting rare plants and animals. "The conflict of interest is that the agency whose top job is to do the logging will make this decision, rather than the agency whose top job is to protect threatened or endangered species," said Marty Hayden, legislative director for Earthjustice, an environmental law firm. With this policy and the rest of its "healthy forests" initiative, Hayden added, "the administration has used the emotional issue of wildfire to get the kind of weakening of environmental law and limiting of public involvement that they have wanted."

The bosses’ government has tremendous resources to operate on many fronts simultaneously. Unfortunately the labor movement, with very limited material resources, has to prioritize responses to ruling class initiatives. With a war going on, and issues such as Medicare, overtime, globalization, etc., etc. demanding immediate attention environmental issues often get ignored. That’s why it is crucial for the labor movement to build a working alliance with the "tree huggers" of the environmental movement who do keep on top of these vital concerns.

Need A Web Site?
If you, or a nonprofit movement group you are a part of, is thinking about getting a web site check with us first at KC Labor Online Services.

Boycott Borders—Buy From Powell’s
Workers at Borders flagship store in Ann Arbor, members of the UFCW, have been conducting a very lively and imaginative strike since November 8. In Minneapolis workers at Borders Uptown store are battling for a first contract and pursuing organizing campaigns at seven other Twin cities Borders locations.

Visit the Borders worker’s web site and also the Borders Readers United support group. You can sign this petition:

We, the undersigned, support workers at Borders in their struggle for a fair union contract. We call upon Borders management to immediately negotiate in good faith with the workers and we pledge to not shop at any Borders or Walden Books, or to shop at Amazon.com for the duration of any strike.

They also could use a donation to the strike fund.

Of course, at least for now, you can buy books from unionized Powell’s books through our links here on KC Labor.

More next week.

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