National Clips

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: ‘Separate but equal’ is back

In a landmark case of the 1970s, Charlotte was the first school district to challenge de facto public school segregation through busing. In 2001, a federal court ended busing in Charlotte and now, according to a new study by the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, not just Charlotte but schools across the country are more racially segregated in 2003 than they were in 1973.

Black students now typically go to schools where fewer than 31 percent of their classmates are white. That is less contact than in 1970, a year before the Supreme Court authorized the busing as a primary way of integrating schools.

Latino students, who have rarely been a focus of desegregation efforts, now attend schools where whites account for only 29 percent of all students, compared with 45 percent three decades ago, according to the study.

On average, white students, who make up about 61 percent of the nation’s public-school population, go to schools where 80 percent of their classmates are white.

“We call our schools racially isolated, but it’s really just a euphemism for being segregated,” said Mary Frances Berry, chairwoman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. “It has to be regarded as unhealthy. At a time when the society is becoming increasingly diverse, it bodes ill to have increasingly segregated schools.”





WASHINGTON, DC: Best government money can buy

Did your cell phone rate increase the first of the year? Well, you must have missed the party at Assistant Commerce Secretary Nancy Victory’s house on Oct. 14, 2001.

Victory is the Bush adminstration’s lead policy maker on telecommunications law. She is administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and represents the administration before the Federal Communications Commission.

The catered 2001 gala at Victory’s million dollar Great Falls, Va., home was paid for by six wireless companies including Brain Fontes of Cingular, Priscilla Hill-Andoin of SBC Telecommunications and Rich Barth of Motorola, according to documents obtained by the Associated Press. Ten days later, Victory sent a letter to the FCC requesting that decade year old regulations that the three companies had complained about be abolished. Two weeks later the FCC voted eliminate regulations that guarded start up, smaller companies and protected consumer pricing. The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2003.

Before her appointment by President Bush, Victory was an attorney in a law firm that represented telecommunications corporations. Her husband continues to practice law at the firm.





AUGUSTA, Maine: Don’t like voters’ decisions? Call the Supreme Court

In May of 2000, Maine voters approved a referendum calling on the state government to act to lower drug prices in the state. The drug industry’s lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, sued to halt the implementation of a plan where the state would leverage the size of the population to buy prescription drugs in balk at wholesale prices. The program would lower the cost of prescriptions for 325,000 Maine residents who lack health insurance and another 200,000 on Medicaid and the elderly.

The state and the people won at the state lower courts level.

But the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and arguments were presented on Jan. 22.





NEW YORK: On stage: Eligible for food stamps

With skyrocketing housing costs and rising unemployment, 75,000 workers in the entertainment industry, from actors to ticket takers, have organized into a multi-union group to survive and organize on Broadway. The New York Federation of Labor announced the formation of a 13-union group, the Coalition of Broadway Unions and Guilds. Pooling their resources and solidarity, the unions are optimistic that they will be able to improve contract protections, including wages and health care and increase their memberships.





VENTURA COUNTY, Calif.

It takes courage and confidence but 2,000 home health care workers beat the odds, the INS, isolated working conditions, harassment and joined Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 998. Health care and respect on the job and in the community were among many issues that workers, by organizing, signing a union card, hope to achieve.

Another 560 workers at Los Robles Regional Medical Center in Thousand Oaks, also part of Ventura County, have just organized into SEIU.

National Clips are compiled weekly by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Scott Marshall contributed to this week’s clips. If you have a clip, send it to pww@pww.org