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Opposition to Iraq Invasion Builds
California Delivers for Families & the Earth
Mayan Justice Returns to Guatemala
South Dakota Backs Family Farmers
World Summit Takes on Corporations
Settlement Favors Saipan Workers
Unocal Can Be Sued for Atrocities, says Judge
Grocery Chain Goes Green
Report calls GMOs a “Disaster” for Farmers

Opposition to Iraq Invasion Builds
Since August, American support for an invasion of Iraq has been slipping steadily, while opposition is growing. In early August, the Washington Post found that 69 percent supported war, although that figure dropped to 46 percent if no allies participate. In late October, a Pew Research Center poll found that only 55 percent support invasion and only 27 percent support it without allies. Polls also find support for war dropping dramatically in the event of significant US casualties.
Although the US Congress voted in October to give President Bush sweeping authority to wage war on Iraq, dissent against such a war is mounting throughout the country and the world.

Massive demonstrations called by International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) on Saturday, October 26 drew hundreds of thousands. In Washington, DC, an estimated 100,000–200,000 people gathered in the largest peace protest since the Vietnam War, organizers and police told The New York Times.

A companion march drew 40,000–80,000 in San Francisco, and smaller marches around the country drew significant numbers, from 800 in Austin, to 2,500 in Augusta, Maine, and 5,000 in Seattle. Crowds also demonstrated throughout the world, including 20,000 in Berlin and 20,000 in Rome. A September 28 protest in London drew between 250,000 and 400,000 people.

At the Nobel Peace Prize world summit on October 19–20, the laureates, led by Mikhail Gorbachev, issued a statement rejecting an invasion of Iraq and condemning the Bush administration's new doctrine of preemptive war.
Appearances by Bush administration officials have been increasingly shadowed by anti-war protests. Protests are coming at colleges, such as Middlebury College in Vermont, when alum White House spokesman Ari Fleischer appeared, and Berkeley just before the war resolution vote. But they are also occurring in more unexpected locations, such as in Cincinnatti, where about 4,000 anti-war protesters greeted President Bush on October 7 when he was in town giving a speech urging an invasion of Iraq.

Organizers report that they are seeing diverse crowds at protests now, including many people who don't ordinarily come to protests. According to Peter Lems, Iraq program assistant for the American Friends Service Committee, much of the most vibrant organizing against an Iraq war is happening regionally and locally, in places like Wichita, Kansas, and St. Louis, Missouri.

Protesters who traveled to DC said they planned to hold more protests back home. ANSWER plans another protest for Martin Luther King Day, January 18.

The Internet group MoveOn has been innovative in its use of the Internet to mobilize activism. MoveOn raised funds over the Internet to support members of Congress who were being attacked by challengers for their anti-war vote. In the first two days the group asked for money for these candidates, it raised $1.25 million, and prior to the election had raised a total of $2.2 million for candidates.

Before the congressional war resolution vote, MoveOn used its online petition to organize 5,000 anti-war volunteers to meet on August 28 with senators in all 50 states. It uses the same petition to inform signers of anti-war events in their city or state.

Attention has now shifted to the United Nations. Anti-war groups are putting pressure on the UN Security Council not to endorse an invasion of Iraq. Progressive Portal and Global Exchange have set up a system that allows people to use the Internet to fax members of the Security Council with the click of a mouse.

News reports have suggested that Pentagon officials don't expect to launch an invasion of Iraq until January at the earliest, and perhaps as late as March. Anti-war groups are preparing to continue their education campaigns into the fall and winter.

The Institute for Policy Studies tracked more than 400 anti-war events around the country in October. A new coalition called United for Peace is listing events on its website, www.unitedforpeace.org.

—Jason Mark & Carolyn McConnell

Jason Mark is communications director for Global Exchange, www.global exchange.org. For more information on anti-war activities, contact International ANSWER Coalition, www.internationalanswer.org, 415/821-6545; MoveOn, www.moveon.org; Not In Our Name Coalition; www.notinourname.net, 212/969-8058; and Peace Action, www.peace-action.org 202/862-9740

California Delivers for Families & the Earth
California became the first state in the nation to guarantee its workers the right to paid family leave when Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 1661 on September 23. Beginning in 2004, the law requires employers to allow employees up to six weeks leave to care for a newborn child or sick relative.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, a Clinton initiative, ensures that caregivers who take up to 12 weeks off work can return to their jobs. The new California law goes further by entitling all participating workers to a paycheck of about half their salary—regardless of the size of the company they work for. “This bill will make it easier for Californians to help their loved ones through a health crisis, without going broke in the process,” said Davis.

In order to receive the benefit, employees must opt for payroll deductions averaging $27 a year per worker. According to an analysis by the Labor Project for Working Families, decreased reliance on assistance programs could save the state government $25 million annually, since workers often turn to public assistance while taking unpaid leave.

Although paid family leave bills in 27 other states have so far failed to become law, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Oregon have passed bills to research the costs of enacting a paid leave law.

This landmark legislation comes on the heels of two other California laws; one sets unprecedented standards for greener energy and the other reduces global warming emissions.

On September 12, California passed a law requiring retail sellers of electricity to increase their use of renewable resources to 20 percent of sales by 2017. The California Renewables Portfolio Standard Program will nearly double the state's existing wind, geothermal, biomass, and solar energy. Both critics and supporters called it the most ambitious energy policy in the country.

In July, the California Climate Bill became the first law in the nation to limit the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from tailpipes of new cars. Starting with model year 2009, carmakers must comply with new carbon pollution standards to be set by the California Air Resources Board. According to the Sierra Club, some 40 percent of the country's global warming pollution emanates from automobiles. California represents 10 percent of the national auto market.

—Darcy O'Brien

Mayan Justice Returns to Guatemala
In Guatemala, local judges are abandoning the Spanish colonial system that was imposed 500 years ago and returning to Mayan traditions that favor mediation, reconciliation, and personal contact between the victim and transgressor.

“In the official system,” says justice of the peace Edgardo Barreda, “there is always a winner and a loser. In the unofficial indigenous system, we want everyone to go away happy. It's based more on community.”

In the Mayan system, offenders are often sent to work for the victim instead of to jail, and the council of elders is consulted along with the justices of the peace, who draw heavily on arbitration techniques. These local judges visit the homes and locations where the dispute is taking place and encourage face-to-face discussions between the parties involved.

Cases range from petty theft to spousal abuse and other forms of violence. “There are no small cases,” says Judge Juan Jose Regalado Rivas. “Stealing a chicken may seem insignificant, but in many areas it's the only chicken in the village.“
The return to traditional ways has been most pronounced in the last five to ten years, the result of both a growing solidarity between the diverse groups of Mayan descendants and a new national law that allows indigenous people the right to return to their own legal systems.

It has been helping to heal a country that was torn apart by a CIA-backed civil war that lasted 35 years, in which the military brutally murdered or “disappeared” 200,000 people, most of them indigenous.

“The people have absorbed the war into their skin,” says Barreda. “There is so much violence and hate still left over from it that when someone steals a chicken he may get killed by other people in the village without some kind of intervention.”

Guatemala´s Mayan descendants comprise 60 percent of the population. The remaining population is mixed race, with a tiny percentage of Europeans.

Increasingly, Latin Americans of European descent are beginning to realize that they can learn from the traditions of the first peoples. “I was all prepared to teach mediation techniques to the Guatemalan judges,” says Argentine mediation consultant Monica Lazaro, “Then I found out that they knew more than I did. The Mayans have been using these techniques for a long, long time.”
—Lisa Garrigues

Lisa Garrigues is a writer who lives in Argentina

South Dakota Backs Family Farmers
South Dakota voters have rejected efforts to allow corporate farming in the state. By 54 percent, voters in June rejected Amendment A, which would have allowed corporate control of farming and permitted companies to conduct genetic research. The amendment, drafted by the South Dakota Farmer's Union and the state's secretary of agriculture, among others, was well funded and largely endorsed by major media across the state.

While nationwide the number of small family farms has declined dramatically in the past few decades, South Dakota has not witnessed the same rapid shift to large-scale, corporate-controlled agriculture. This is largely thanks to a 1974 statute restricting corporate involvement in farming and recent measures that have further strengthened the ban.

The state's citizens have seen a variety of threats to the Family Farm Act since 1974, including a 1989 attorney general's ruling that exempted several large corporate operations. Citizen anger against this ruling resulted in the approval nine years later of Amendment E to the state's constitution, prohibiting corporations from owning farmland or engaging in farming.

Proponents of the defeated Amendment A have accused voters of moving backward, but a study conducted by Drs. Rick Welsh and Thomas A. Lyson reveals that counties in states with anti-corporate farming laws saw lower unemployment, fewer impoverished families, and more farms realizing cash gains than counties in states without such legislation.
Eight other midwest states have laws restricting corporate control of farms. South Dakota's measures are the strictest of their kind.
—Erin Cusick

World Summit Takes on Corporations
One of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, was the successful campaign by many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to get the summit to commit to making corporations accountable for their actions. This victory had to be hard fought, with NGOs lobbying and protesting outside the meeting rooms, and was nearly overturned in a dramatic last-minute struggle.

Many NGOs had made the regulation of corporations their main priority for the summit. They saw the 1992 Rio Earth Summit's failure to regulate corporations as a major setback. In the decade after Rio, transnational corporations grew even stronger and are now disciplining governments for their own interests, instead of governments disciplining them in the public interest.

Agreed to after an intense struggle, Paragraph 45 of the summit's draft Plan of Implementation, directs nations to “Actively promote corporate responsibility and accountability, based on the Rio Principles, including through
the full development and effective implementation of inter-governmental agreements and measures, international initiatives and public-private partnerships, and appropriate national regulations, and support continuous improvement in corporate practices in all countries.”

This language was approved and, after hours of last-minute negotiations over women's rights and access to health care services, the plan as a whole was finally adopted at 1 a.m. on September 3. The next step forward is for the NGOs, the governments, and the UN to follow up on the paragraph and to take steps toward regulating corporations internationally so as to make them accountable.
—Martin Khor

Martin Khor is the director of the Third World Network, www.twnside.org.sg

Settlement Favors Saipan Workers
Garment workers have won a major settlement with employers in Saipan, where clothing labeled “Made in the USA” has been produced for sub-minimum wages and under loosely regulated conditions. Seven US retailers and 23 manufacturers have agreed to a settlement amounting to $11.25 million, settling claims against them of alleged worker right's violations in the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. With the 19 retailers that had settled previously, this closes a three-year legal battle and brings total settlement to over $20 million.

Some of the 30,000 garment workers on the island stand to gain up to a year's worth of back wages, and those who choose to return to their home countries will be eligible for relocation fees. The settlement also provides for future monitoring of Saipan's garment factories to ensure adequate working conditions such as safe drinking water, hot water, and payment for overtime hours worked, items cited as violations in the lawsuit.

Saipan is exempted from many US labor, customs, and immigration laws under policies set in place in 1991. On the island, the apparel industry can produce clothing that avoids regulations on imports from foreign nations and can be labeled as manufactured in the US.

Workers are often recruited from China and the Philippines, lured by signing bonuses of as much as $5,000 and promises of high wages. But when the predominantly young female workers reach the remote island, they are trapped by low wages, set at a minimum of $3.05 per hour, and large paycheck deductions to pay for food, lodging, and recruitment fees.
The garment worker's union UNITE and other anti-sweatshop groups filed the suit on behalf of the island's workers against retailers, including Tommy Hilfiger, The Gap, Target, Liz Claiborne and Calvin Klein. The settlement does not include admission of misconduct. Defendant Levi Strauss has denied the settlement's allegations and has discontinued its purchase of products from Saipan's factories.

The anti-sweatshop movement has also gained momentum with two new union-labor garment companies. In Los Angeles, the new worker-owned garment label sweatX, produced by teamX, inc, was started by Ben Cohen (of Ben & Jerry's) and Pierre Ferrari (head of Cohen's Hot Fudge Venture Fund) to offer clothing produced by workers receiving a living wage under decent working conditions.

For now, the label fills only wholesale orders for its products. Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder Democracy Tour featured sweatX festival t-shirts, and Patagonia has contracted some private-label work from the company.
In Newton, Massachusetts, anti-sweatshop activists have launched No Sweat Apparel, which will sell union-made clothing over the Internet.
—Erin Cusick

For more information, visit www.nosweatapparel.com.

(Editor's Note: TeamX, inc., makers of the sweatX label, closed its factory in April of 2004. To learn more about why the factory failed, and for updates on the future of the sweatX brand, visit www.sweatx.net.)

Unocal Can Be Sued for Atrocities, says Judge
In a landmark decision, a federal appeals court ruled on September 18 that Unocal can be sued in US court on claims that the California-based oil giant's joint pipeline project with the Burmese military regime used forced labor. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that Unocal could be held liable for aiding and abetting the Burmese military's abuses surrounding the project, which include forced labor, destruction of villages in the pipeline region, and other human rights violations.

This case will be the first to go to trial among a number of lawsuits brought by labor advocates in the US against transnational corporations for aiding or benefiting from human rights abuses overseas. Most are proceeding under the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act, which allows foreigners to sue one another in US courts. Since a successful case brought under the law in 1979, human rights lawyers have used the law to hold multinational firms accountable for human rights violations, according to The Nation.

The case has the potential to force major change in corporate conduct, Christine Rosen, an associate professor at UC Berkeley's Haas School of Business told the Los Angeles Times. If the case succeeds, “companies will not be able to go abroad and take advantage of the much looser regulatory environment or the corruption of the government to treat their workers in an inhumane way,” Rosen said.

The International Labor Rights Fund, which brought the suit against Unocal, is also suing ExxonMobil for its involvement in Indonesian military atrocities, including murder and torture, against villagers in connection with a joint Indonesian government-Mobil natural gas project. However, this summer the US government asked a judge to dismiss the case against ExxonMobil on the grounds that it could hamper the war on terrorism by alienating the Indonesian government.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled that a case could go forward against Shell for human rights abuses by the Nigerian military against opponents of a Shell pipeline.

Last year, lawyers for a group of Ecuadoreans suing Texaco for environmental violations filed a complaint with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, arguing that Chevron's application to merge with Texaco failed to disclose its potential liability in the case. Similar suits under the 1789 law have also been filed against Coca-Cola, Del Monte, DynCorp, and the Drummond Company.
—Carolyn McConnell

Grocery Chain Goes Green
With 2,300 stores and annual revenues of $38 billion, Albertson's is one of the largest retail food and drug chains in the US. It has now become one of the nation's largest recyclers.

Self-interest drove the shift. According to John Bernardo, Albertson's resource conservation manager, “The typical grocery store has a profit margin of less than 5 percent. To increase revenues, we have two choices: increase food sales or reduce operating costs.

“We'd been recycling cardboard since the 1960s, but the sustainability idea came later,” Bernardo told Greenbiz.com. “In the 1990s, we began looking at waste reduction: What can we recycle? That led to the next logical question: Why do we have to generate waste in the first place?”

Albertson's has retrofitted 90,000 light fixtures, instituted a recyclable plastic tote system for shuttling items between distribution centers and stores, and tried scores of smaller experiments, many of them suggested by employees.

One of the more imaginative efforts involves a plant in Boise, Idaho, where Albertson's makes several different kinds of ice cream every day. In the past, some ice cream was lost during flavor changes because it was a mix of two flavors. Today, compatible flavors are produced back-to-back, packaged under the name “Odds & Ends,” and sold or donated locally. One in-store deli has taken the soybean oil used to fry chicken, filtered the breading out of it, and recycled it to fuel a hot water heater. The store saves both on waste disposal and energy consumption.

The company also worked to develop new boxes made of recycled corrugated cardboard to replace the totally unrecyclable, paraffin-coated produce boxes. The containers can also be used for in-store display, reducing handling and labor costs, decreasing the number of truck trips necessary to transport produce, reducing product damage, and increasing recycling revenues.
—Jill Bamburg

Report calls GMOs a “Disaster” for Farmers
Confirming concerns about genetically modified food crops, a British report calls GM food “a practical and economic disaster” for North America.

In preparation for the British government's upcoming decision on whether to allow GM crops to be commercially grown in the United Kingdom, the Soil Association issued Seeds of Doubt, which says of GM crops, “In complete contrast to the impression given by the biotechnology industry, it is clear that they have not realized most of the claimed benefits. Widespread GM contamination has severely disrupted GM-free production including organic farming, destroyed trade, and undermined the competitiveness of North American agriculture overall.” Three-quarters of the world's GM food is grown in the US and Canada.

According to the report, non-GM farmers are finding it difficult or impossible to grow GM-free crops. Food processing and distribution have had costly and disruptive contamination incidents. As a result of contamination, a number of farmers have even been accused of infringing company patent rights. Monsanto sued for $400,000 a non-GM farmer in Canada whose crop was contaminated by GMOs.

The problems have led many US farm organizations to urge farmers to plant non-GM crops this year. A number of US and Canadian agriculture groups and more than 200 other groups are lobbying for a ban or moratorium on the introduction of the next major proposed GM food crop, GM wheat.

The most recent development in genetic engineering of food is the cloning of animals for milk and meat. Milk from cloned cows and meat from the offspring of cloned cows and pigs could show up on grocery shelves as early as next year under the plans of livestock breeders who are already raising clones on American farmsteads. A recent National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report on these developments did not find conclusive evidence of harm to environment or consumers, but called for additional studies.

One concern for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is that breeders going to the expense of cloning may also attempt genetic modification of the animals, perhaps to make them leaner or improve milk production. Such genetic manipulation poses far more potential problems than mere cloning does, and the agency would likely require extensive proof that the gene-altered animals are safe to eat.

A few cloned cows scattered around the country are already producing milk. Farmers and companies have held off selling it only because of informal requests from the FDA. Absent compelling evidence of a problem, it's not clear the FDA or any other government agency would have the legal power to keep cloned animals out of the food supply.

The Humane Society has asked the Food and Drug Administration to block sales of products from cloned farm animals, their byproducts, and offspring due to concerns that large-scale cloning will lead to widespread animal suffering related to higher mortality rates during pregnancy and immediately after birth.
—Rik Langendoen

For more information on GM foods, see www.gefoodalert.org and www.thecampaign.org


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