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A Lot Happens in Houston

Houston activists have been covering hot activities in their home town:

Hospital purges African-American ER nurses
By Paul Hill
HOUSTON, In a story reminiscent of apartheid South Africa, the Houston Chronicle and local Fox news reported that the EEOC has filed suit against Bellaire Medical Center in Houston. The suit alleges racial discrimination by the hospital for firing three African- American nurses last year.

A former Caucasian hospital manager was instructed to "hire the whitest nurses he could find" in a scheme to attract wealthy Caucasian patients from the surrounding affluent Bellaire area according to the allegations. The manager resigned because he did not want to support racial discrimination.

The lawsuit demands that the hospital stop its alleged discrimination and compensate the terminated nurses.

Bellaire Medical Center is a private medical and psychiatric hospital. Health care dollars are being diverted to the current administration's perverted agenda of supporting corrupt corporations and outrageous military atrocities. As a result, we can expect to see increasingly reactionary business schemes in the health care industry which put profits before the interests of working people.

Justice Bus Rolls Through Houston

by Paul Hill

On June 8, 2004 the Harris County AFL-CIO Sixth Annual Justice Bus visited seven employers in Houston. The purpose was to cite them for their treatment of workers and allowing employees to form unions and bargain. About 50 activists and reporters participated in spite of stormy weather, flooding, and torrential rain. The Justice Bus presented "No Justice Here" awards to errant employers and "Justice Here" awards to employers who respect workers and their unions.

The first stop was at the Harris County Civil Justice Center in downtown Houston where they visited a contractor company, Design Electric, and asked them to recognize the IBEW on the basis of "card check". It is ironic that a company awarded a contract to construct a "justice center" fails to treat workers justly! It has been alleged that Design Electric has not been paying the prevailing wage to workers and is currently under investigation by Harris County. Design Electric received a "No Justice Here" award.

Another stop was at the Markman Brothers Investments, where another "No Justice Here" award was presented. Markman Brothers Investments has been cited by ACORN for "selling" homes to unsuspecting buyers through a "contract for deed" agreement. These agreements are written so that low income buyers are unable to fulfill their contracts and eventually move out or are forced out without achieving home ownership. These buyers are often times Spanish speaking immigrants unable to read contracts written in English. The houses are then sold to new victims in a never ending cycle.

Two employers received "Justice Here" awards for their recognition of workers and their rights to form unions. These included Shell-Deer Park Chemical Plant and Shell Refinery, and Hilton Americas Hotel. These employers demonstrated the desire to work together with unions to solve problems, and respect workers' choices, according to the Justice Bus organizers.

There is a need for actions to demonstrate cross union solidarity and this was an excellent example with a number of unions and organizations participating to include IBEW, Sheet Metal Workers, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Carpenter's Union, Union of Needletrades, Industrial Textile Employees (UNITE!), Paper Allied-Industrial Chemical & Energy Workers (PACE), and Hotel Employees Restaurant Employees (HERE).

Texas Parties Convene

By Jim Lane

The Texas ballot was legally set when the state's Democrats completed their convention in Houston on June 19. This is a state with near-impossible petitioning requirements for ballot status, and the short petitioning period is over when the major parties hold their conventions. The Libertarians think the petitions they filed will be found sufficient, but Ralph Nader's supporters cling only to the hope that they will overturn Texas rules in court.

The Democrats in Houston June 17-19 and the Republicans in San Antonio two weeks earlier created greatly contrasting platforms. The Party that spawned the Bush-Cheney regime committed itself to a written program so strong that virtually all their state candidates jumped to distance themselves. It included:

Texas Democratic Party leader Charles Soechting was widely quoted when he laughingly called the Texas Republican Platform "the longest suicide note in history!" The Democratic platform called for keeping Social Security and opposing privatization, fighting all forms of discrimination, repealing parts of the Patriot Act, and increasing the minimum wage. Their convention theme was "Fighting for Democracy" in a state where democracy was slashed by a GOP-led redistricting fight and very questionable campaign financing. Near the end of the convention, Presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich led the Democrats in a spirited chant of "End this war!" Kucinich's supporters carried out an admirable floor-petitioning campaign to overcome the Resolutions Committee and get their peace resolution before the committee. It called for a United States Department of Peace, and the convention passed it by a big majority.

Senator John Edwards was the most popular speaker at the Democratic Convention, while Congressman Tom DeLay was the darling of the Republicans. Democrats have high hopes that legal proceedings against DeLay's electoral methods may level the field in Texas before November.

Ethics Charges Cast a Dark Cloud Over Tom DeLay's Re-Election Campaign
Will the Hammer go to the Slammer?

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - A complaint against Houston Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - Sugarland) was filed on June 15, 2004 with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by Congressman Chris Bell (D - Houston). The complaint centers on allegations that Representative DeLay violated the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the federal bribery statute as well as the Texas campaign finance laws.

According to the website for Richard Morrison, DeLay's current opponent: "The complaint charges that: (1) Representative Delay may have illegally solicited and accepted political contributions in return for official action. (2) Representative DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) may have laundered illegal corporate contributions for the purpose of influencing Texas legislative races and failed to properly disclose its financial activity. (3) Representative DeLay may have improperly used his office to urge federal agencies to assist in a partisan objective wholly unrelated to his official duties."

The third charge is based on Representative DeLay's improper use of his office to contact and exhort federal agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") and the Department of Justice, to search for and interdict state legislators absent from the Texas state legislative session in summer, 2003. These legislators were the so-called "Killer D's" that tried to prevent the outrageous, racist, and classist Republican redistricting plan in Texas that DeLay spearheaded from being enacted by attempting unsuccessfully to block a quorum.

An editorial in the Houston Chronicle on 6/26/04 highlights another component of the ethics charges against DeLay. The editorial points out that Bacardi USA was a substantial contributor to DeLay's TRMPAC. DeLay has been infamous for his connection to Bacardi. Currently, there is trademark legislation (H.B. 4225 or S.B. 2373) before Congress which would give Bacardi rights to the world famous Havana Club rum label in the United States at the expense of CubaExport, a subsidiary of the Cuban government, and its French partner Pernod Ricard. This is a serious charge with international implications which should be thoroughly investigated. Further, the criminal legislation to attempt to steal the Havana Club trademark from the Cuban people should be stopped immediately and become a footnote to the history of the imperialist intentions of the current U.S. administration.

Houston Police Department Arrests Local Civil Rights Activist

Action reminiscent of Keystone Cops

By Paul Hill

HOUSTON - According to the Houston Chronicle 6/29/04 State District Judge Brock Thomas ruled police had probable cause to arrest Quanell X, who is a local civil rights activist. The charges stem from Quanell X's attempt on June 11 to bring an individual who is accused of shooting a Houston Police Officer four times into police custody. Quanell X has arranged the surrender of fugitives on several previous occasions. He apparently informed police he was bringing in the suspect.

In a surprising move, HPD officers surrounded his vehicle as he was transporting the suspect to the police station. Quanell X contacted a police official by cell phone who assured him he would provide him with "some assistance" in getting to the police station. HPD officers prevailed and stopped the activist and arrested him for evading arrest. They also took the suspect into custody. Evading arrest is a felony charge punishable by up to two years in a state jail.

As the U.S. criminal justice system unravels with the leadership of the current administration, it is not surprising that blatantly racist actions will crop up even against collaborators with the system. Apparently, in this case the HPD officers found an opportunity to punish a civil rights activist and this took priority over his efforts to serve justice. The Chronicle article also attempted to smear Quanell X by pointing out that he pleaded guilty in 1989 to a charge he sold crack cocaine. He is currently 33.

Houston Activists Hammer Halliburton often since the big-oil company moved its headquarters there. Paul Hill took this photo at one of the many demonstrations:


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