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#FastFoodGlobal: Thousands of workers to stage a strike in 150 US cities, 32 other countries

RT -

The strike is planned for May 15, and will involve the workers of McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.

Such chains, the organizers say, typically rely on a large number of part-time workers to avoid paying overtime, health insurance and other benefits. As a result, employees say they never know exactly how many hours of work they'll be given from week to week.

On Wednesday, the first announcement of the walkout happened in New York, during a meeting between fast food industry employees and union leaders. Together, they discussed how to expand a movement that started in November 2012 with 200 fast food workers going on strike in New York.

Since that event, thousands across the globe followed their lead, insisting that companies pay them a proper living wage.

For example, in December, workers held rallies in hundreds of US cities, saying their take home pay was not enough to live on.

“It’s amazing that our fight for $15 and a union has inspired workers around the world to come together,” Ashley Cathey, a McDonald’s employee in Memphis, Tennessee, told Al Jazeera. “The highly-profitable fast food industry needs to know we won’t stop fighting until our voices are heard.”

Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), said US fast food workers had inspired employees in the industry worldwide to join them “in a fight for higher pay and better rights on the job.”

The IUF represents 12 million workers in 126 countries, and Oswald believes the organization is only starting to gain popularity.

“This is just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast food worker movement — and this highly profitable global industry better take note," he said in a statement.

Some protesters in other countries say they are taking action specifically in sympathy with US workers. Louise Marie Rantzau, a McDonald's worker in Denmark, told USA Today that she makes $21 an hour. She says she was surprised to hear that US employees have to stage strikes to make $15 an hour, and she says is "committed" to supporting their cause.

The fast food workers’ efforts seem to be bearing fruit: for instance, in March, McDonald’s agreed to pay $1 billion to workers who launched an investigation into an alleged wage theft. Similar cases are set to be taken to court in Michigan and California. All in all, 90 percent of fast food workers reported that money was taken from their salaries against the law, according to a nationwide survey.

Although the US Congress seemed unwilling to raise the minimum wage, several states and localities have raised their minimum wages over the past year or so.

On May 1, Seattle’s mayor, Ed Murray, declared that the city’s minimum wage would be increased to $15 per hour, becoming the highest in the country, responding to labor union pressure after a high-profile campaign by newly elected Socialist Alternative council member Kshama Sawant, whose call for “$15 Now” has gained an echo in cities across the US.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009.

#FastFoodGlobal: Thousands of workers to stage a strike in 150 US cities, 32 other countries

RT -

The strike is planned for May 15, and will involve the workers of McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC.

Such chains, the organizers say, typically rely on a large number of part-time workers to avoid paying overtime, health insurance and other benefits. As a result, employees say they never know exactly how many hours of work they'll be given from week to week.

On Wednesday, the first announcement of the walkout happened in New York, during a meeting between fast food industry employees and union leaders. Together, they discussed how to expand a movement that started in November 2012 with 200 fast food workers going on strike in New York.

Since that event, thousands across the globe followed their lead, insisting that companies pay them a proper living wage.

For example, in December, workers held rallies in hundreds of US cities, saying their take home pay was not enough to live on.

“It’s amazing that our fight for $15 and a union has inspired workers around the world to come together,” Ashley Cathey, a McDonald’s employee in Memphis, Tennessee, told Al Jazeera. “The highly-profitable fast food industry needs to know we won’t stop fighting until our voices are heard.”

Ron Oswald, general secretary of the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), said US fast food workers had inspired employees in the industry worldwide to join them “in a fight for higher pay and better rights on the job.”

The IUF represents 12 million workers in 126 countries, and Oswald believes the organization is only starting to gain popularity.

“This is just the beginning of an unprecedented international fast food worker movement — and this highly profitable global industry better take note," he said in a statement.

Some protesters in other countries say they are taking action specifically in sympathy with US workers. Louise Marie Rantzau, a McDonald's worker in Denmark, told USA Today that she makes $21 an hour. She says she was surprised to hear that US employees have to stage strikes to make $15 an hour, and she says is "committed" to supporting their cause.

The fast food workers’ efforts seem to be bearing fruit: for instance, in March, McDonald’s agreed to pay $1 billion to workers who launched an investigation into an alleged wage theft. Similar cases are set to be taken to court in Michigan and California. All in all, 90 percent of fast food workers reported that money was taken from their salaries against the law, according to a nationwide survey.

Although the US Congress seemed unwilling to raise the minimum wage, several states and localities have raised their minimum wages over the past year or so.

On May 1, Seattle’s mayor, Ed Murray, declared that the city’s minimum wage would be increased to $15 per hour, becoming the highest in the country, responding to labor union pressure after a high-profile campaign by newly elected Socialist Alternative council member Kshama Sawant, whose call for “$15 Now” has gained an echo in cities across the US.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in 2009.

Maternal death in childbirth up 50 percent in America

Socialism OnLine! -

URL: http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/06/mate-m06.html

Maternal death in childbirth up 50 percent in America. Mortality rate higher than China and Saudi Arabia. "The incidence of maternal death in childbirth in the US has soared by 50 percent since 1990, according to an international study published Friday in the British medical journal Lancet. The report found that, on average, 18.5 mothers died for every 100,000 live births in the US in 2013, more than double the maternal mortality rate in Saudi Arabia, at 7.0, and more than triple that in the United Kingdom, at 6.1. This one statistic expresses in concentrated form the horrific decay of social infrastructure and the conditions of life for broad masses of people in the United States, in the course of a quarter century that has seen an immense increase in wealth at the very top of the economic ladder. There is a direct connection between the near-collapse of basic elements of civilized life and the obscene fortunes piled up by the financial parasites who dominate American society. That connection is lodged in the workings of the capitalist system itself..."

Topic(s): Geography:  Vote Up/Down

Anti-spying NSA bill wins first round in US Congress

RT -

Amendments to the USA Freedom Act aim to block the NSA’s ability to siphon and store the so-called metadata on domestic and international communications, instead keeping the information in the hands of telephone and internet companies.

Under the provisions of the bill, the NSA would be required to prove to the courts that an individual is somehow connected with terrorism before it could gain access to their personal information.

The bill reflects recommendations forwarded last year by a presidential Review Group that advised the NSA to stop pressuring tech companies to put “back doors” into their programs, which gives the NSA unfettered access to customers’ records.

Under the NSA’s so-called PRISM program, which former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed last year to intense international condemnation, the NSA collects and stores numbers dialled and call times but does not record the conversations.

However, even that claim of limited powers was challenged in March after it was reported that the NSA operates another program, dubbed MYSTIC, that gives it the power to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call,” according to The Washington Post.

However, records at the time said the NSA is able to retrieve the audio communications from "just one country."

Vindication for Snowden?

Human rights groups cheered the early victory, hoping it puts the brakes on the NSA’s global surveillance system that took many people by surprise.

"This is a historic turn of events in our government's approach to counterterrorism policies," Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislation Office, said in a statement.

Bipartisan support of the bill suggested there was enough public demand for the legislation.

“The bottom line is the amended [USA] Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), co-sponsor of the bill, the Washington Post reported.

Now that the issue of NSA surveillance has gained forward momentum in Congress, it will be taken up next by the House Intelligence Committee, which has been kicking around its own NSA bill, entitled “FISA Transparency and Modernization Act,” before moving on to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which last year expressed support of the existing NSA program.

The irony of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressing its support for NSA surveillance of ordinary citizens was revealed in March when Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, was infuriated when it was discovered that the CIA was conducting surveillance of her staff.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles," Feinstein said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I am not taking it lightly."

Snowden, speaking with NBC reporters from his Russian exile, said he found it ironic that Feinstein “does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them."

Feinstein, a Democrat, has been a staunch advocate of spying programs as a necessary weapon in the fight against terrorists.

As for scaling back the powers of the NSA, should Congress fail to pass a bill into law this year, the provision underlying the NSA phone records collection (Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act) will expire in June 2015.

At that point, it will then be up to Congress and the president to decide whether to renew the legislation.

Anti-spying NSA bill wins first round in US Congress

RT -

Amendments to the USA Freedom Act aim to block the NSA’s ability to siphon and store the so-called metadata on domestic and international communications, instead keeping the information in the hands of telephone and internet companies.

Under the provisions of the bill, the NSA would be required to prove to the courts that an individual is somehow connected with terrorism before it could gain access to their personal information.

The bill reflects recommendations forwarded last year by a presidential Review Group that advised the NSA to stop pressuring tech companies to put “back doors” into their programs, which gives the NSA unfettered access to customers’ records.

Under the NSA’s so-called PRISM program, which former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed last year to intense international condemnation, the NSA collects and stores numbers dialled and call times but does not record the conversations.

However, even that claim of limited powers was challenged in March after it was reported that the NSA operates another program, dubbed MYSTIC, that gives it the power to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call,” according to The Washington Post.

However, records at the time said the NSA is able to retrieve the audio communications from "just one country."

Vindication for Snowden?

Human rights groups cheered the early victory, hoping it puts the brakes on the NSA’s global surveillance system that took many people by surprise.

"This is a historic turn of events in our government's approach to counterterrorism policies," Laura Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington Legislation Office, said in a statement.

Bipartisan support of the bill suggested there was enough public demand for the legislation.

“The bottom line is the amended [USA] Freedom Act makes it crystal clear that Congress does not endorse bulk collection and ensures Americans’ civil liberties are protected,” said Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), co-sponsor of the bill, the Washington Post reported.

Now that the issue of NSA surveillance has gained forward momentum in Congress, it will be taken up next by the House Intelligence Committee, which has been kicking around its own NSA bill, entitled “FISA Transparency and Modernization Act,” before moving on to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which last year expressed support of the existing NSA program.

The irony of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressing its support for NSA surveillance of ordinary citizens was revealed in March when Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Intelligence Committee, was infuriated when it was discovered that the CIA was conducting surveillance of her staff.

"I have grave concerns that the CIA search may well have violated the separation of powers principles," Feinstein said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I am not taking it lightly."

Snowden, speaking with NBC reporters from his Russian exile, said he found it ironic that Feinstein “does not care at all that the rights of millions of ordinary citizens are violated by our spies, but suddenly it’s a scandal when a politician finds out the same thing happens to them."

Feinstein, a Democrat, has been a staunch advocate of spying programs as a necessary weapon in the fight against terrorists.

As for scaling back the powers of the NSA, should Congress fail to pass a bill into law this year, the provision underlying the NSA phone records collection (Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act) will expire in June 2015.

At that point, it will then be up to Congress and the president to decide whether to renew the legislation.

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