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Worker Solidarity Makes a Difference

By Gregory Flannery · November 7th, 2007 · Porkopolis
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  Professor Bert Lockwood of the University of Cincinnati is honored for his work on behalf of human rights.
Jymi Bolden

Professor Bert Lockwood of the University of Cincinnati is honored for his work on behalf of human rights.



Another big vote is scheduled for the day after Election Day. This one involves about 11,000 Kroger workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

The union is expected to approve a new contract, agreed to late Nov. 1 after the workers had authorized a strike and held a large rally on Fountain Square. After spending more than two months in negotiations, Kroger was unwilling to make any concessions on contract items such as health insurance and wage increases until the strike vote was taken, according to Brigid Kelly, a spokeswoman for UFCW Local 1099.

"We've been looking for the same things the entire time," Kelly says. "These are the same provisions that workers have in other Kroger stores throughout the region. There are no concessions on our part in this contract, no cuts."

Shortly after the rally, Kroger agreed in late-night negotiations to the union's demands on maintaining health care coverage, providing funding to keep its pension fund solvent for three years and keeping a standardized wage scale at grocery stores in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Because the three states have different minimum wage laws, Kroger initially sought to establish differing wage scales between the stores, Kelly says.

"Kroger had wanted to deviate from the past patterns in the contract," Kelly says. "Profits are up, sales are up and they're coming off from a record year. There was no reason to take the stance that they did. We're proud that our members stood up."

A Kroger spokesman didn't return a call seeking comment.

If approved, the three-year contract will affect workers at 79 grocery stores.

Franciscans Network has presented its Human Rights Award to Bert B. Lockwood, professor of law and director of the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights at the University of Cincinnati. The award honors Lockwood's work on behalf of human rights for more than 25 years.

Besides directing the Institute for Human Rights, one of the first programs for international law in the nation, he is editor-in-chief of the prestigious journal Human Rights Quarterly. A widely published author, Lockwood has served on delegations of the International Commission of Jurists and on numerous national boards, including Amnesty International.

Franciscans Network is a Cincinnati-based organization that supports Franciscans and other men and women who work to promote and protect human rights throughout the world. The group is engaged in support of persons working with the land reform movement in Brazil and is conducting a Muslim-Christian dialogue group in Cincinnati.

Killing Secrets and a Mall Without Sales
The state of Ohio will soon have to reveal how it goes about the business of killing people, thanks to a non-ruling last week by the Ohio Supreme Court. Loraine County Common Pleas Judge James M. Burge, hearing a murder trial, decided to hold a hearing on whether the state's method of execution is cruel and unusual punishment. He ordered the Ohio Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and its director, Terry Collins, to turn over all kinds of information regarding the protocol for lethal injection.

When the state officials balked -- Ohio has always closely guarded the details of its killing methodology -- the prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to quash the subpoena, saying the judge had exceeded his authority. The Supreme Court refused.

Among the items in the subpoena are "an exhaustive and detailed list" of all equipment and supplies used in the lethal injection process; procedures when intravenous access can't be obtained through an arm or leg; and training, experience and background of all employees involved in executions.

The ruling is cause for hope, according to Jeff Gamso, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. But he's not confident the struggle is over.

"I'm not expecting them to come into court with a couple of crates of information on Dec. 12," Gamso says. "But sooner or later they're going to have to do this. They're going to have to tell us how they're killing people."

West End activists have lost the second round of a legal fight to keep a large social services complex from being built in their neighborhood by a group of suburban churches. A state appellate court has upheld a ruling from last year that the proposed City Link Center is an allowable use in an area that is zoned as a manufacturing district. The project is planned for a five-acre parcel at 810 Bank St. that currently contains two vacant buildings.

City Link is a $12 million project that would create a nearly 100,000-square-foot "social services mall" where people could receive health care, job training, drug counseling and more at a single location.



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