The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Friday, February 13, 2009 - 7
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, February 13, 2009 - 7
Honduras union leaders discuss
Russell plant 'injustices' last night
headed to House
for vote Friday
University has come
under fire for
licensing deal with
By VANESSA NUNEZ
For the Daily
At an event last night, two union
leaders from Honduras spoke to a
group of students about the alleged
injustices they experienced work-
ing at a Russell Athletic apparel
The event, which was sponsored
by Students Organizing for Labor
and Economic Equality (SOLE),
comes on the heels of news that the
University's Advisory Committee
on Labor Standards and Human
Rights sent a letter to Kristen
Ablauf, director of licensing for the
The letter called to the Universi-
ty's attention allegations of unjust
firing of employees at a Russell
plant in Honduras.
Last month, Russell athletic
apparel fired 1,800 workers from
its clothing factory in Honduras.
Russell claimed the factory closure
was due to economic reasons, but
Honduras union leaders alleged it
was their unionizing that caused
them to lose their jobs.
The plant's union president,
Moises Elias Montoya Alvarado,
and vice president, Norma Estella
Meija Castellanos, presented their
side of the story about the factory
closing and the injustices they
suffered as a result. Both spoke
in Spanish throughout the event,
and had translators convert their
words into English.
Alvarado said that when the
union requested a raise from Rus-
sell management, they responded
by offering them a raise of 3 cents
in U.S. dollars.
"We were shocked," Alvarado
said of the miniscule size of the
He said that when the union
refused to accept the raise, Russell.
management threatened to take
offers to move the factory to El Sal-
vador and Guatemala.
Senate likelyto vote
later today or
over the weekend
WASHINGTON (AP) - Reluc-
tant to call it quits, key lawmakers
bargained into overtime yesterday
on the $790 billion economic stimu-
lus legislation before reaching final
agreement more than 24 hours
after first announcing a deal.
Lingering controversy over
school-modernization money and
a scaled-back tax break for busi-
nesses forced a delay in final votes
on the legislation.
But by nightfall, with Democrat-
ic leaders eager for final passage
by the weekend, all issues were
reported settled. House leaders
announced a vote for today, with
the Senate to follow later in the day
or over the weekend.
Republicans, lined up to vote
against the bill, piled on the scorn.
"This is not the smart approach,"
said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Ken-
tucky, the Republican leader. "The
taxpayers of today and tomorrow
will be left to clean up the mess."
President Barack Obama deliv-
ered what has become a daily call
for congressional action, this time
from the industrial heartland.With
approval of the bill, he said in Peo-
ria, Ill., companies "may be able to
start growing again. Rather than
cutting jobs, they may be able to
create them again."
He spoke at Caterpillar Inc., the
heavy machinery giant that has
announced 22,000 layoffs. The
president has said in recent days the
company has promised to rescind
some of them once the stimulus
passes, but Chief Executive Jim
Owens said there probably would be
more layoffs before that can occur.
At the Capitol and in an atmo-
sphere of uncertainty, provisions
were coming to light that had not
been included in the original bills
that passed the House or Senate - or
that differed markedly from earlier
versions, or that appeared to brush
up against claims of the bill's sup-
porters that no pet projects known
as "earmarks" were included.
One last-minute addition was a
$3.2 billion tax break for General
Motors Corp. that would allow the
ailing auto giant to use currentlosses
to claim refunds for taxes paid when
times were good. GM got a $13.4 bil-
lion federal bailout late last year -
and is expected to receive more in
2009 --and argued that without the
provision, its government-financed
turnaround plan could force the
company to pay higher taxes.
The legislation does not mention
GM specifically, but the company has
been lobbying hard for the provision
for months, with help from Michi-
gan's representatives in Congress.
"We wanted to make sure that the
restructuring wasn't counteracted,"
said Rep. SanderM. Levin, D-Mich.
Honduran union leader Moises Elias Montoya Alvarado (right center) talks at an event last night in the Michigan League.
Holding a solid black Russell
sweatshirt, Alvarado said the
workers were required to meet
high quotas. But Alvarado said that
even if the workers hit such high
marks, "we only make 1,300 lempi-
ras, which in U.S. dollars would be
about $60 a week."
Alvarado said that when he
arrived in the United States
earlier this month as part of a
speaking tour to raise awareness
about Russell's alleged abuses,
he was stunned to see the price
of the goods they had been mak-
"When we came to this country
we were shocked to find the prices
students paid for this apparel," he
said, adding that the price of just
one of the shirts in the United
States equals their salary for one
However, Alvarado said that
making more money was not the
point of his fight for justice.
"We are not asking for enormous
salaries," he said, "all our organiza-
tion is fighting for is dignity and a
fair wage in which we can support
As a result of their participation
in the unionization, Alvarado and
Castellanos began receiving con-
tinuous threats to their lives from
the company. Castellanos said she
was so terrified by the threats that
she told her kids that they couldn't
go to school one day.
The union leaders found they
couldn't even get cooperation
from their own government, since
many of the people who worked
in business there also worked for
the government. They decided
they needed to get international
help by going to the U.S. Congress
to denounce the negligence of the
Since Russell has contracts with
the University of Michigan as well
as other universities, Alvarado and
Castellanos recognized the enor-
mous impact students on campus
could have in improving workers'
"Work of students in this is
totally fundamental in a number
of aspects; historically students
have been able to talk about these
abuses being done by corporate
monsters," he said. "Students can
demand that the company must
follow the code of conduct set forth
by the University."
Castellanos added: "We are
not here just to represent workers
from Honduras but workers from
all over the world putting up with
these kinds of abuses."
Students in attendance last night
said they felt it was very important
to understand the injustices in
LSA freshman Claire Baker said
she thought it was great to "have
people actually come here who
have experienced this, and once
you see the faces of the workers,
you can see it is real and you can
connect more with it."
LSA sophomore Britt Wede-
noja said she "thought it was very
beneficial to get the whole picture
from the ground floor, from their
point of view, it was very mov-
Both also said they hope that
this event will encourage Univer-
sity of Michigan President Mary
Sue Coleman to take the necessary
steps to ensure equal rights and
fair labor laws in Honduras.
From Page 1
Despite the budget cuts and
financial strains facing both the
University and the state, Sullivan
said she remains optimistic about
the University's ability to maintain
its high academic standards and
accessibility to students from all
"In setting budget priorities, pro-
tecting the University's academic
mission - including recruiting
and retaining outstanding faculty
members - is at the forefront of
our decision-making. Making U-M
accessible to students also is one of
our top priorities," she said.
As the state's economic picture
has darkened and funding for high-
er education has dwindled, Sulli-
van wrote that the University has
worked to reduce expenditures.
"Although we have cut operat-
ing expenditures by more than $135
million during the past six years, we
must reduce expenses even more
to meet the financial challenges
ahead," she wrote.
In addition to these cost-cutting
measures, the University plans to
continue reducing expenses wher-
ever possible. However, one of its
major focuses has been increasing
the amount of financial aid avail-
able to students.
According to Sullivan, a com-
mittee comprised of faculty, staff
and students will work to find new
ways for the University to cut costs
in the year ahead. The committee
is scheduled to meet for the first
time in March and will seek input
and suggestions from students, fac-
ulty and staff.
Cuts to public school funding,
the state correctional system and
arts and culture programs were
also included in Granholm's budget
released yesterday. These cuts are
designed to combat the approxi-
mately $1.4 billion budget deficit
Michigan is expected to face in the
2010 fiscal year.
The cuts are expected to include
layoffs of 1,500 state employees,
the release of 4,000 non-violent
prison inmates and a $59 per pupil
reduction in spending at public
political views. A place where we
CONDOMS can actually distribute information
From Page 1 that is relevant to our customers."
S3 condones safe sex practices
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that it will lead to further conver-
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For Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009
(March 21 to April 19)
Plans that you were originally excited
about in early January are now back in
action. Things will go forward with
much more energy and efficiency.
(April 20 to May 20)
Ideas you presented to bosses, parents
and teachers early last month can now be
resurrected and given some considera-
tiu n nce again. Consider this a second
kick at the con.
(May 21 to June 20)
Delayed travel plans and matters
related to education and training that
went by the wayside might get a
reprieve. See what you can do to save
these original intentions.
(Jun 21 to July 22)
Discussions that took place in early
January about inheritances, shared prop-
erty and insurance matters are back on
the table. This time you might see how to
make it all happen.
(July 23 to Aug. 22)
Plans and discussions that took place
in early January are now on the table
again. Do what you want to do; work
with the people you trust.
(Aug. 23 to Sept. 22)
Your progress in something you
storted in early January will pick up ow.
(Iris applies to healthliaeacrs or any-
thing related to your job.
(Sept. 23 to Oct. 22)
Vacation plans that might have been
tabled temporarily or something to do
with sports and dealing with children are
now back in action. This is encouraging
(Oct. 23 to Nov. 21)
Ideas for repairs, along with certain
family discussions, were in your mind in
early January. However, since then
they've been somewhat sidetracked.
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strong consideration for you.
(Nov. 22 to Dec. 21)
A lot of business ideas and discussions
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(Dec. 22 to Jan. 19)
Early last month you had some terrific
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it's time to return to them and see what
just might work.
(Jan. 20 to Feb. 181
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where it started out early last month. (It's
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Increasingly, secret activities are tak-
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From Page 1
right, not a privilege."
"Quality of health care should
not be determined by (income),
but what our society is able to
provide our doctors or medical
establishments." Benson said.
"Unfortunately, many people are
not able to get (quality health
care), and the Congressman
thinks that could be changed
and improved on with a national
health care plan."
Dingell will be accompanied by
Chris Jennings, health care adviser
to former President Bill Clinton.
"(Jennings) will be explaining
the history of this matter and also
addressing the technical matters,"
Dingell said the event is "geared
to anyone who wants to come and
listen to see one of the things I do
and to keep everyone informed
From Page 1
the election. The proposed party
must contain at least half the num-
ber of candidates (rounded up) for
all positions open in the election..
No party may run more candidates
than there are seats available."
Zaikis's original announcement
came after weeks of internal dis-
cussions with the executive board
- made up of the president, vice
president, treasurer, counsel, exter-
nal relations officer, academic rela-
tions officer and secretary - but not
the entirety of the LSA-SG body.
After Tuesday's meeting, Zaikis
said the executive board's inten-
tion was to promote a system in
which issues are the focus of the
election, not parties. The idea was
that candidates who run with a
party are identified more with
being part of that party.than with
the issues they are campaigning
with the major issues in Washing-
He hopes to answer as many
questions as he can during the
event, which will start at 1 p.m.
on Monday in the School of Public
Nathaniel Eli Coats Styer, chair
of the University's chapter of Col-
lege Democrats, said Dingell's talk
is coming at an important time.
With the economy struggling, par-
ticularly in Michigan, Styer said a
national health care program is a
Styer said the event would be
a special opportunity for stu-
dents given Dingell's record as
the longest-serving United States
Representative, having served
more than 19,420 days. Dingell
just broke the previous record
"We are excited every time Din-
gell comes to campus," Styer said.
"He is very enthusiastic and a close
friend of ours."
on behalf of, she said.
In an interview this week, Reis-
inger said that's exactly the oppo-
site of what being in a party does.
"Parties are how we get diversity.
This is how we get diverse constit-
uents on government, by allowing
parties, because parties will go out
and do all the outreach that people
don't have time to do," Reisinger
said. "Government attracts the
same type of people, and so if you're
not purposefully outreaching dif-
ferent groups of people, by elimi-
nating parties, you're eliminating
Steven Benson, the counsel for
LSA-SG, said that on Tuesdaynight,
LSA-SG leaders encouraged people
to run on independent tickets, as
opposed to telling them that parties
are outlawed. He said that knowing
this, the executive board is acting
"We're open for parties to run,"
Benson said. "We're allowing it to
happen. The bylaws call for it."