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Working In These Times

Saturday, Jul 9, 2011, 7:15 am

This Week in Labor: Sting Cancels Concert in Solidarity With Workers, UFCW Backs Hemp Farming Bill

BY Lindsay Beyerstein

At the end of each week, Working In These Times rounds up labor newswe've missed during the past week, with a focus on new and ongoing campaigns and protests. For all our other headlines from this week, go here.

—The United Food and Commercial Workers is backing a bill to legalize commercial hemp farming in a handful of California counties as part of an eight-year pilot project.

"UFCW enthusiastically supports SB 676 because we see it as a jobs and revenue generator at a time when they are sorely needed in California," Dan Rush, UFCW 5 Statewide Special Operations Director said. The state assembly is expected to vote on the bill in August. If the bill clears the assembly and the senate, it could reach the governor's desk by September.

—The British singer Sting cancelled a concert in Kazakhstan after Amnesty International alerted him to a crackdown on striking oil workers. Several thousand workers at UzenMunaiGas went on strike on May 26 citing wage cuts and the false imprisonment of their lawyer. The company calls the strike illegal and says it has already fired about 250 workers for breech of contract.

—In other California news, Democratic governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for farmworkers to unionize. During a much earlier term as governor, Brown signed legislation that gave farmworkers the right to vote to form a union. Farmworkers are exempted from the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law that gives most workers their collective bargaining rights. The bill that Brown vetoed would have given California farmworkers the right to organize by card check.

—Ohioans needed 231,000 signatures to put the state's anti-collective bargaining law up for referendum. Labor and community groups fanned out across all 88 of the state's counties. Last week, they filed a record-breaking 1.3 million signatures (see video above). The signatures were delivered to the state capital in a semi-truck laden with 1,502 boxes. About 75 percent of these are expected to withstand official scrutiny when the names are checked against voter registration lists, which is more than enough to put the question on the ballot.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (http://www.hillmanfoundation.org/hillmanblog), a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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