POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE COPYING SOLIDARITY. On January 13, workers at the San Leandro, California plant of Mediacopy Corporation ratified their first union contract, by a vote of 111 to 10. Mediacopy manufactures video copies of Hollywood films for the VCR market, and employs over 600 workers full time in San Leandro \(as many as 1,200 durpany also made news in Texas, as it was granted major tax abatements by the city of El Paso for a new facility, despite the company’s record of union-busting \(“City to Union-Busters: Welcome to El Paso!” by The California company had actively collaborated in raids on its employees by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Border Patrol, and when workers reacted by organizing, management engaged in a vicious and dishonest anti-union campaign. Workers were laid off and told to re-apply for their own jobs as temporaries, and then informed that they were no longer eligible to vote in the union election. The intimidation worked the first time around, when workers voted against the union in March of 1997. But the union \(Oakland Local 6 of the International Longshoreman’s and Warehouse Employtions Board, and the federal agency ordered a new election and directed the company to bargain in good faith. According to Local 6 organizer Alfredo Flotte \(who traveled to El Paso to testify publicity and the pressure of the NLRB bargaining order eventually convinced the company to negotiate with the union. On February 9, the , two sides reached agreement on a five-year contract, which provides wage increases and insurance coverage. “This new contract sends a message to immigrant workers throughout the Bay Area, who work in some of the worst jobs at the lowest pay,” said Flotte. “It says that despite immigration raids and company opposition, it is possible to organize and make life better. That’s a message people have been waiting to hear.” Now let’s see if that message can travel to El Paso. TOM DELAY ON LAO LAO BAY. Been to the Northern Marianas lately? Most Americans haven’t, but a handful of Congressmen have A Tom DeLay Katy Adams shown a sudden interest in educating themselves about these small, volcanic islands in the Pacific. As a U.S. commonwealth, the Marianas offer American citizenship, sunny skies, and beautiful beaches. But there’s more than tourism. Sweat-shop operators consider the Marianas a free-market paradise, with alluringly low wages, lax immigration rules, and working conditions so awful that in 1995 the Philippine government, for the first time ever, “barred its citizens from working on what is technically U.S. soil,” according to Ken Silverstein and Alexander Cockburn’s D.C. newsletter, Counterpunch. The current minimum wage averages about $3 an hour, a rate that has attracted garment factories eager to sidestep American labor and safety laws while still attaching to their products the “Made in the U.S.A.” label. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Texas Representative Tom .DeLay thinks so. He is one of six members of Congress who visited the islands during the past few months, along with more than seventy congressional aides and dozens of conservative think-tankers. \(Five of DeLay’s aides travan unabashed supporter of the Commonwealth’s government. Maybe it was the $270-a-night hotel with a private beach and golf course on Lao Lao Bay, courtesy of Northern Marianas taxpayers; maybe it was the $6,000 business and political lead ers from the islands gave him during the 1995-1996 election cycle, or the $21,000 given to other Republicans. Whatever the come-on, the House Whip was sold on the Northern Marianas. Back in Washington, DeLay sang the praises of the islands’ economic policies, and promised to block any legislation that could upset wage and immigration policies in a place he described as a “free-market success.” Proponents of a wage increase on the islands are pawns of “big labor and the radical left,” DeLay told guests at a Marianas reception put together by Willie Tan, a Hong Kong businessman fined $9 million in 1992 for failure to pay overtime to garment workers. DeLay is not alone in his fight against a minimum wage in the Marianas. Last June, Counterpunch reported, House Majority leader Dick Armey joined DeLay in promising to oppose a minimum wage on the islands. Dennis Stephens, a former Armey staffer, is a lobbyist for the Commonwealth, as is Bill Jarrell, formerly a member of DeLay’s staff. An increased minimum wage would “destroy the lives of the people here,” DeLay said at Willie Tan’s reception. “Stand firm. Resist evil. Remember that all truth and blessings emanate from our creator. God bless you and the people of the Northern Marianas.” SLAPPED SILENT. Although the headlines associated with the Oprah Winfrey “beeflibel” lawsuit in Amarillo might suggest it’s an isolated case of investor hysteria vs. television sensationalism, such lawsuits are increasingly being used by corporations to attack activists who oppose them, or who even question company policies. The corporate technique of suing people into silence and submission has become so popular, it has a legal acronym: “SLAPP suits,” or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” “Thousands of SLAPPs have been filed in the last two decades, tens of thousands of Americans have been SLAPPed, and still more have been muted or silenced by the threat,” wrote law professors George Pring and Penelope Canan in their 1996 book, SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out. Pring and Canan found that “filers of SLAPPs rarely win in court, yet often ‘win’ in the real world, achieving their political agendas…. SLAPP targets who fight back seldom lose in court,” say the authors, “yet FEBRUARY 27, 1998 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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