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KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, January 10, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

Terror On the Rails
The Sunday NBC Evening News finally got around to some coverage of a rail disaster last Thursday in South Carolina. A train wreck on a siding next to a textile factory in Graniteville caused the release of a chlorine cloud that killed nine, sent 58 to the hospital, and forced the evacuation of 5,000 homes.

Not mentioned in this report was the fact that a government agency warned ten months ago that at least 60,000 pressurized tank cars, such as those that erupted in Graniteville, didn’t even meet rail industry standards–and they had serious safety questions about those cars that do comply with present requirements. Nor did NBC mention a derailment in Texas last summer that killed three after a ruptured car released chlorine. There was certainly no suggestion that skinflint incompetence of rail bosses might have had anything to do with this disaster.

Instead, we were treated to an interview with a "terrorism expert" who warned that chemical tank cars could become "weapons of mass destruction" in the hands of terrorists. It’s unlikely we will see the rail carriers investing money in safer rolling stock, or putting enough rail workers on the ground to do the job properly. Clearly they have already rejected that cost/benefit option. Instead look for more taxpayer money being spent to study security from terrorism on the rails.

Gaining Gender Equality
You may have heard sound bite nuggets about the good news that women’s wages are catching up with the opposite sex. Currently women earn 81 percent of what their male counterparts make. As recently as five years ago the ratio was only 76 percent.

The Economic Policy Institute explains how the bosses have advanced gender parity:

"the closing of the gap was due exclusively to male workers losing ground relative to women. This relates in part to the fact that male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing, were hit especially hard by the recession and jobless recovery, which lead to job losses and diminished wage growth. At the same time, some female-dominated industries, such as health care, continued to expand.

"This result should not be taken to imply that all women were insulated from the impact of the weak post-2000 job market. In fact, compared to past downturns, more women were displaced by the recession and jobless recovery..."

Scab Sisters Show No Mercy
"We, the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, call ourselves to walk in solidarity with persons who are poor and suffering..." But the St Louis "non-profit" health care company component of this global religious order is instead walking scabs through a picket line.

The nurses at St John’s Mercy, who certainly consider themselves too poor and suffering too much at the hands of their employer, have been on strike since December 15. The secular union’s demands also include better treatment for patients who enrich the coffers of Sisters of Mercy Health System.

The good Sisters were nothing if not prepared for the strike. They not only arranged transfers of nurses from the eighteen other hospitals in their corporate subsidiary; they also contracted with US Nurse Corp, a company solely focused on providing professional strike-breakers.

A federal mediator–sometimes known as meditators–called the two sides together to talk last Friday. As expected, no progress was made. Not too subtly the company attorney observed,

"‘I would suspect the mediator will be reluctant to (schedule) any in the near future because of the lack of movement on the major stumbling blocks,’ said Michael Lowenbaum, an attorney for St. John's. Lowenbaum said he suspects more striking nurses will cross the picket line this week, once they hear the negotiating meeting was a bust."

The UFCW is urging supporters to sign pledge of support cards. You can download one by clicking here.

Bloody Week In Iraq
I’ve posted a new article, Resistance, Murder, Solidarity—Trying to Sort Out Iraq, on Labor Advocate Online.

New Conference Sponsors
We’re pleased to report that KC Labor Against the War, and the KC Labor Party, have agreed to join KC Labor in co-sponsoring The Future of American Labor conference, to be held in Kansas City April 22-23. We hope to have place and speakers confirmed by next week.

That’s all for this week.