START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
Mar 8, 2006
Focus: Workers Rights
Action Request: Read
Location: United States
US: Wal-Mart critics put workers in spotlight over health care
by Marcus Kabel, Associated Press
February 28th, 2006

One of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s most vociferous critics launched a campaign Tuesday with 17 current and former Wal-Mart workers speaking out against health insurance coverage they claim is too expensive, leaving them uninsured or on taxpayer funded programs.

News conferences by the workers in eight states Tuesday and four more scheduled later this week and next are timed to help a union-backed drive for legislation that would require the world's largest retailer to pay a fixed percentage for health coverage of its 1.3 million U.S. workers., a group backed by the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said 10 speakers were current Wal-Mart employees and seven more had quit or been fired.

In workers' stories collected ahead of the news conferences by the group, several current employees talk about being unable to afford premiums and deductibles even after working for Wal-Mart for several years.

Dana Razaie has been a stocker at a Wal-Mart in Fridley, Minn., for about five years. She said she depends on state-funded MinnesotaCare for health coverage for herself and three children.

According to WakeUpWalMart, Razaie's wage of $11.29 an hour at Wal-Mart and a second job at a gas station leave her with take-home pay of less than $20,000 a year. Razaie says she cannot afford Wal-Mart's health insurance plan with $300 monthly premiums and deductibles reaching over $1,000.

Wal-Mart said it is already taking steps to make insurance more affordable. It offers a new plan this year that costs $23 a month and covers three doctor visits and three prescriptions before a deductible of $1,000 kicks in.

It also launched an $11 plan in a limited number of locations but will widen that to be available to half of all employees later this year, as well as shortening the eligibility period for part-timers and adding coverage of their children.

"Our jobs give people the opportunity to move from public health programs to private health coverage," company spokeswoman Sarah Clark said.

Clark said 7 percent of new employees are on Medicaid when they join Wal-Mart, a percentage that drops to 3 percent within two years, and that Wal-Mart created 125,000 jobs last year.

Wal-Mart also offered testimonials from six current employees who praised the company's coverage, including a woman who was a divorced mother of three when she joined in 1998 in Hermiston, Ore.

"Within the first year with Wal-Mart, I no longer needed food stamps and I had medical, dental, and life insurance through Wal-Mart," wrote Heather Baumgartner, now a logistics manager in Grantsville, Utah.

Razaie was due to appear at a news conference Tuesday in Minneapolis. Other workers were to speak Tuesday in Boston; Dallas; Lansing, Mich.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia; Tulsa, Okla.; and Syracuse, N.Y. The other five events over the next two weeks are to be held in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, New York and Tennessee.

The campaign comes as unions are pushing for bills in several states similar to one passed in a veto override by the Maryland legislature in January.

Maryland's "Fair Share" bill, which has been challenged in federal courts by a national retail association, requires large employers to spend at least 8 percent of payroll in a state for employee health coverage or pay the difference into state coffers for publicly funded programs for the uninsured.

Proponents say similar bills filed in at least 22 states would stop taxpayer subsidies for profitable companies that skimp on health coverage, leaving workers to sign up with state programs.

Opponents including Wal-Mart and many business groups say the bills are bad policy aimed at punishing Wal-Mart and will do nothing to solve the problem of the working uninsured and rising health care costs.

Labor unions are pushing the bills in about 30 states. Maryland is the only state to have passed it, and since then similar bills have been rejected, stalled or withdrawn in at least eight states, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures and Wal-Mart..
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Posted: Mar 8, 2006 5:26am
Jan 27, 2006
Focus: Animal Welfare
Action Request: Protest
Location: United States

Jan 24 - The RSPCA is volunteering to put down cane toads found around Darwin, saying it is inhumane to freeze the animals or club them with cricket bats.

It anticipates that it will cost about $1 per toad to use a chemical that puts them to sleep and then kills them.

It is the same drug used to put down cats and dogs.

The RSPCA's Lindsay Wilkinson says encouraging children to attack toads could have psychological as well as physical repercussions.

"If you didn't want to think about the humane aspects, if you hit a cane toad and it explodes in your face the toxin is powerful enough to cause permanent eye damage," he said.

"People don't think about that sort of thing. Who's going to explain why little Johnny can't see any more?"

He says the disadvantages of trying to club toads have been shown in Queensland.

"There's cane toads up there wandering around with split livers and fractured skulls," he said.

"So the worst scenario is a cane toad hops next door injured and the neighbour's family pet comes along and eats it and dies."
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Posted: Jan 27, 2006 8:11pm
Dec 25, 2005
Type: Tribute (for the living)
To Honor: Other
Location: , United States
Most Precious Blood put it all out there in music

By Dave Lavender
The Herald-Dispatch

The band, which toured earlier this fall with Hatebreed, brings its razor sharp guitar-and-drum-blasted message to the huddled hardcore masses on a headlining tour that rolls into HYAMP, 2001R 7th Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with tour mates This is Hell (from Long Island), The Distance (Connecticut), Modern Life is War (Iowa) and With Honor (Connecticut).

In a day when some punk rock bands will sugar-water life down to get their CDs on the top shelf at Wal-Mart, the NYC-based hardcore punk band Most Precious Blood's lyrics and music gut open life -- real, raw, heavy and hard.

On its latest Trustkill Records CD "Merciless," the five-piece band puts this modern-day mess of a material life under the knife, cutting stripes on everything commercialism in the punk scene and religion fueling war to animal rights and veganism.

Tickets are $10.

Seen and heard on MTV2's Headbanger's Ball as well as on the pages of Alternative Press and Revolver Magazine, Most Precious Blood has stirred up a lot of noise with its last two albums and their covers, including the 2003 "Our Lady of Annihilation" CD, which depicts a Madonna with a bomb strapped to her chest in the band's protest of people anywhere killing in the name of religion.

That CD was partly inspired by 9/11, as the New York-based band was trying to digest the madness surrounding them (including guitarist Rachel's stint as a med school student assisting the NYC coroner at the World Trade Center).

On "Merciless," the band again blasts a shocker with a graphic, a staged photo of a young man laying dead with mail and dishes piled up. This time, shouting out about the inhumanity of the times: a man dying and nobody caring or stopping their consuming to care.

But it's not shock for shock's sake. There's meat, so to speak, in the words behind the images.

"If you're making things safe and predictable, you're a crappy artist and not being true to the craft," said vocalist and lyricist Rob Fusco, who joined the band of Justin Brannan and Rachel (both on guitars) and Matt Miller (bassist) in 2003. "Think about what we are playing. It's real aggressive and no-holds-barred. Why want to make something safe and gentle when the music is not that, and the music is a reflection of the world that surrounds us, and it is not a pretty face? Why put something pretty on the cover?"

Formed in the summer of 2000 and on Trustkill Records since 2001, Most Precious Blood draws on the intensity and rage of such New York-based hardcore bands as Agnostic Front (which played HYAMP this past year).

The band, which will tour Europe with Turmoil in 2006, is heavily involved with animal rights as outspoken advocates of a vegetarian diet as well as a cruelty-free lifestyle.

On the new CD, the band splays open its vegan beliefs on "Diet for a New America," as well as on comedic snippets between the songs, including a prank call to KFC in which one of the members confuses a worker by ordering "vegan chicken."

"I think a lot of bands now have the form to say things, but don't have anything to say," Fusco said by phone in the van, rolling somewhere outside of Houston. "We're just fortunate in that we have gotten to this level so far, which affords us some unique opportunity to express ourselves as we see fit. That is one of the quintessential ideas of punk rock and hardcore. We are trying to stay honest about that."

One thing Fusco is honest about is showing some sincere props for the band's drummer Colin Kercz, who played on "Merciless" and who has just notched a year with the band -- a small miracle since the band has racked up nearly a dozen drummers.

"He is in it for the long haul," Fusco said. "Our last drummer showed up for the tour with a bag of facepaint, two pornos and a ham sandwich. No toothbrush, no nothing, just wearing pajama bottoms."

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Posted: Dec 25, 2005 7:54am


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