Don’t privatize!SALINAS, Calif.: Library to hold emergency ‘read-in’
The United Farm Workers of America and the AFL-CIO are working with the peace group Code Pink and community groups to keep library doors open in this city that was home to writer John Steinbeck.

The groups are holding a 24-hour emergency read-in at the Cesar Chavez Library starting April 2 at 1 p.m. and culminating on April 3 with the yearly Cesar Chavez Holiday march and cultural celebration in Salinas.

Families depend on the public library system not only for books, but for cultural events. More than $80 million of their tax dollars have gone to pay for the Iraq war and now Salinas does not have the $5 million needed to keep libraries open. The “read-in” is part of a campaign to publicize the cost of the war to communities like Salinas.

Among those bringing tents and sleeping bags will be actors Hector Elizondo and Mike Farrell, UFW leader Dolores Huerta, Salinas Mayor Anna Caballero and many writers, poets and local book lovers.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.: Bishops against death penalty
A recent poll indicated that 63 percent of Alabama residents support the death penalty. Catholic bishops here want to change that.

The bishops are taking their anti-death penalty message to the pulpits and the State House. With 195 people on death row, Alabama has the largest per capita population of condemned people in the country.

Birmingham Bishop David Foley said the church needs to answer a “culture of death in the United States that is growing and growing and growing. Killing somebody who has killed somebody adds to the violence that goes on.”

Foley is optimistic that the campaign can be successful, despite current public opinion. The South may be conservative, but it’s also fair, he said.

“I have found that when you talk to people, it’s not that people have a closed mind. They [just] haven’t heard the message.”

WASHINGTON: Wal-Mart pays millions in abuse penalty
The world’s largest corporation, Wal-Mart, tried to argue that it didn’t know that workers hired to clean its stores in 21 states lacked documents and that supervisors locked night-shift workers inside.

That defense didn’t fly, so Wal-Mart settled a lawsuit workers filed against it, although it did so without admitting any wrongdoing. The $11 million March 18 settlement is the largest ever in a case of abuse of immigrant workers.

Holding the line in Metro DetroitThe record payment “should be a wake-up call to a corporation that has systematically bent and broken the law to increase corporate coffers at the expense of the most vulnerable employees,” said United Food and Commercial Workers President Joseph Hansen. The UFCW assisted in the suit and is campaigning to organize 1.2 million Wal-Mart workers.

Lilia Garcia, executive director of Maintenance Cooperation Trust, which monitors working conditions for janitors, believes that the dollar amount is a drop in the bucket for Wal-Mart, which did $288 billion in sales in 2004.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart janitors in New Jersey are preparing for their day in court in a similar case.

TOMBSTONE, Ariz.: Stop border vigilantes
With an estimated 1,000 Minutemen, a racist vigilante group based in California, poised to invade Tombstone April 1 in preparation for a month-long “patrol” of the Mexican border in the San Pedro Valley, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) has appealed to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for federal intervention.

Citing the Minutemen’s “disregard for the Border Patrol’s request that they leave border enforcement to trained individuals,” Grijalva said “an atmosphere of fear” can erupt into violence.

“The claim that the Minutemen will only watch for immigrants is absurd,” Grijalva, who represents the area, said in a statement. “It is impossible to visually determine a person’s status. Inevitably, untrained and likely armed volunteers will confront people they profile. Results may range from harassment to deadly altercations.”

Grijalva calls on Gonzales to act to protect people crossing the border, residents and Border Patrol officials.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696 @ Julia Lutsky and Barbara Russum contributed to this week’s clips.