Striking Alabama coal miners come together to face tough holidays. Buffalo, NY, sues gun makers after race massacre. Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities.
Striking Alabama coal miners share true meaning of Christmas- solidarity
Hundreds of coal miners in Brookwood, Alabama, have now been on strike for nearly 20 months. Despite the hardships they’ve faced, workers are committed to holding their employer, Warrior Met Coal, to a promise they made seven years ago. In 2015, Warrior Met Coal bought out the defunct Walter Energy. Warrior Met convinced employees to accept pay and benefit cuts to help the company get back on its feet. In exchange for this sacrifice, Warrior Met promised a better contract by 2020.
Coal producers are being hit hard by new climate legislation and efforts to retire coal as an energy source. However, Warrior Met produces coal for steel-making, so environmental legislation hasn’t impacted their business. Five years after workers agreed to the massive cuts, Warrior Met was making billions in profit. But Warrior Met reneged on their promise of a more generous contract. Months of negotiations with between management and the workers’ union, United Mine Workers of America, went nowhere, so the workers called a strike in April 2021. Over 1000 workers have been picketing from morning till night ever since.
During the strike, UMWA has kept their members afloat financially with monthly strike insurance checks. These checks don’t nearly match the workers’ salary. Some workers have taken other jobs, and other unions have sent cash donations in solidarity. But, Haeden Wright, the wife of a striking coalminer and auxiliary president of the UMWA locals 2245 and 2368, says the holidays are particularly hard.
“We couldn’t have ever imagined that we would now be on strike for the second Christmas, or the second time during the holidays,” said Wright. “It is hard when you have to learn to tell your kids now that we can’t afford things, you have to go without that. You don’t have satellite TV any more, you don’t go on vacation, you don’t really go anywhere to eat”.
Wright helps organize a year-round food pantry for strikers and holiday events to boost morale. However, Wright admits there are some needs that go unmet. “For a lot of us it meant that when heaters went out, when air conditioning went out, we can’t afford to replace those.” Wright helped set up a gift registry where other unions and members of the public could contribute. Thanks to an encouraging show of support, the registry requests were all fulfilled by early November.
“Your union is your family, it’s your community,” Wright said. “If you ask for help, people are going to help. You’re there for each other”.
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Buffalo, NY, sues gun manufacturers after race massacre
The city of Buffalo, NY, is suing several major gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Bushmaster, Colt and Glock. The suit alleges that the firms have created an epidemic of gun violence through their irresponsible advertising and marketing practices. In May this year, a gunman killed 10 people at a Topps Supermarket in Buffalo. All of the victims were Black and the gunman has admitted that the rampage was motivated by race.
Gun manufacturers have broad immunity from lawsuits related to gun deaths, granted to them by US lawmakers. Buffalo’s suit accuses the gun manufacturers of appealing to people with criminal intent with marketing campaigns that emphasize the high capacity of a weapon and the ease of concealing it. The suit also claims the industry has created a dangerous nuisance by deliberately supplying more guns than needed in the legitimate market and by failing to take steps to stop illegal sales.
Buffalo is believed to be the first city to sue gun manufacturers. However, it is only the most recent of a number of efforts by victims and even governments to try to hold gun makers accountable for their role in glorifying violence.
A similar suit that yielded some success was brought by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are about to mark their 10th Christmas without their children. The families sued Remington, makers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S, an AR-15 style rifle used by Adam Lanza in the massacre. The suit alleged Remington’s marketing for the rifle targeted insecure young men like Lanza, using slogans like, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued“. The families settled with Remington for $73 million, which was paid by the manufacturer’s insurance company.
Following this settlement, Mexico also attempted to sue major manufacturers in US federal courts in April this year. Mexico cited US gun manufacturers’ marketing of guns designed to appeal to the tastes of cartel members. The suit cited several makes of gun with special embellishments like gold plating and even engravings of “Narco Saints”. Ultimately, Boston federal judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston dismissed Mexico’s suit, albeit with some apparent regret. Saylor observed that federal law “unequivocally” shields gun manufacturers from civil and criminal accountability when their products are used to kill. “While the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” Saylor wrote.
In September, families of children who survived the May school shooting in Uvalde, TX, sued Daniel Defense, makers of the AR-15 style weapon used by the killer. More recently, a mother whose child died in the shooting also sued. Both suits point to Daniel Defense’s marketing towards young people. For example, just days before the shooting, Daniel Defense tweeted a photo of a toddler with an assault rifle.
In a separate action, advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Daniel Defense of targeting at-risk young men. According to the complaint, Daniel Defense’s marketing frequently uses “references and images associated
with killing and hunting people”.
Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership announced an edict banning women from universities. Since the Taliban took over the country last year, they’ve steadily chiseled away at the rights of women and girls. Immediately upon taking power, the Taliban banned women from working in certain sectors. Then girls’ access to middle- and high-school level education was severely curtailed. However, until this week, women already in university were allowed to continue, and girls in some areas could receive an informal high school education in private “tuition” centers.
Educators and students report that the day after the edict was issued, armed Taliban enforcers entered universities and tuition centers and ordered girls to go home at gunpoint. As of now, Afghan girls cannot receive any education beyond the 6th grade. Yesterday, women took to the streets to express their anger at the decision in Kabul. Police quickly disbanded the protests.
The development is especially frustrating after the Taliban allowed girls to take the college entrance exam three months ago. Thousands of young women studied for the exams in secret for months. Moreover, college students across the country were set to start taking final exams this week. Now many women fear their years of study will be wasted after being denied paths to qualifications and greater economic security. With recent bans on women entering public parks and gyms, it appears that the trend is toward confining women largely to their homes.
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