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July 2003   

Interview: As They Say In The Bible ...
One the movement�s great characters, Public Service Association general secretary Maurie O�Sullivan, is calling it a day. He looks back on his career with Workers Online.

Industrial: Just Doing It
Sportswear giant, Nike, is the first company to sign off on an agreement that purports to protect Australian clothing workers, wherever they labour, writes Jim Marr.

Unions: Breaking Into the Boys Club
For a 23-year-old woman who has never worked in the trade, recruiting young construction apprentices into the union has its challenges, reports Carly Knowles.

Activists: Making the Hard Yards
Mal Cochrane came to the smoke as part of an Aboriginal avalanche that redefined the face of Rugby League. Today, he serves his community through the trade union movement.

Bad Boss: In the Pooh
What do you give a boss who makes his workers labour in raw sewage? A nomination for the Tonys.

Unions: National Focus
In the national wrap Noel Hester finds a Victorian Misso delo who is redistributing lucre from Eddie McGuire into workers� theatre, South Australian unions taking that Let�s Get Real stuff seriously, an American unionist fronts up at a distinguished �meeting of the brains� in Adelaide and a look at the line up for ACTU Congress.

Economics: Pop Will Eat Itself
Dick Bryan wonders if we can be insured against pop economists promising financial nirvana as well as financial market instability.

Technology: Dean for President
Paul Smith looks at how the internet is helping one Democrat candidate to the front of the primary pack

International: Rangoon Rumble
Union Aid Abroad's Marj O'Callaghan looks at Australia's weak response to developments in Burma.

Education: Blackboard Jungle
Lifelong learning shouldn�t mean cutting jobs, but that's exactly what the Carr Government is proposing, argues Tony Brown

Review: From Weakness to Strength
Labor Council crime-fighter Chris Christodoulou catches up with his boyhood hero, the Incredible Hulk

Poetry: Downsized
Resident bard David Peetz pens the song the Industrial Relations Commission needed to hear


The Soapbox
Cleaning Up
Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.

The Locker Room
The Name In The Game
In an age of the sportsperson as celebrity it seems that names are overtaking the games, writes Phil Doyle.

The Beach
Southern Thailand�s terrorist activities: facts or fiction asks HT Lee


A Recipe for Conflict
Without making any excuses, Tony Abbott�s hand wringing at this week�s airing of a secret video of picket line violence was a bit like watching Don King condemn boxing.


 Aussie Workers Cradle-Snatched

 Morris McMahon Workers Say Thanks

 Violence: Emerson Fingers Abbott

 Cowboys Face Contracts Ban

 TUTA Rises From the Ashes

 Teased Teachers Fight Back

 Labor Fails TAFE Test

 Coke Called on to Stop the Rot

 Bridgestone Drops Doughnut on Workers

 AIRC Locked in Dark Ages

 Maternity Breakthrough in Hotels

 Labour Rights: Even Bush is Better!

 Long Winter for Seasonal Workers

 Activist Notebook

 A Tribute to Brian Miller
 Orange Peel
 After the Accident
 Cuba - the Debate Continues
 Old Ted
 Greetings from Japan
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The Soapbox

Cleaning Up

Rabbi Laurie Coskey from San Diego adds her voice to the global campaign for just for cleaners in Westfield malls.


San Diego, California, is a beautiful city and the seven shopping malls owned and maintained by Westfield America Inc add to the beauty. Each mall is sparkling clean and well manicured.

Yet, for more than two years, cleaners who serve Westfield Malls in San Diego have sought just wages, benefits and working conditions. The faith community, led by clergy affiliated with the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, has stood right beside these workers to lift up their plight and seek a fair wage for an honest day's work. The Interfaith Committee works closely with Service Employees International Union local 1877 in San Diego and the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union representing cleaners who seek the same justice at Westfield properties in Australia.

Our work, advocating for just treatment of these workers, represents the first time that we have worked with partners across the globe and has given new meaning and consequences to globalisation. Perhaps together we can make a real difference in the lives of workers.

We are members of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. The ICWJ lifts up the issues of the low-wage worker in San Diego. Our mission is to mobilise and educate the San Diego religious communities and people of faith to support issues and campaigns that will sustain lives with dignity for workers and their families by such means as improving wages, benefits and working conditions.

We represent many faith traditions including at least a dozen different Protestant traditions, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Bahai and many others. Throughout the United States there are more than 60 Interfaith Committees for Worker Justice.

The story of Maria, an immigrant from Mexico, who worked for more than three years cleaning at Horton Plaza in San Diego, illustrates our concerns. Maria is a single mother raising two sons. She worked for minimum wages with no vacation days, sick days or health insurance. She took the risk of speaking out in favour of organising employees into a union to improve their abhorrent working and living conditions.

Westfield's chosen contractor told Maria and several of her co-workers to turn in their Westfield shirts. They were never formally fired, nor given the courtesy of a letter of dismissal, nor a reason for throwing them out like the garbage. They have not worked a day at the Westfield mall since.

Maria's counterparts Down Under tell similar stories of unsafe conditions, lack of respect, poor wages and waiting weeks and months for meagre pay cheques.

This isn't a picture of a just world. The prophetic mandates of all traditions demand that we concern ourselves with the poor. It is within our reach to help these cleaners take a step out of poverty simply by giving them their due just wages and benefits.

Somebody has to be a cleaner. Very few of the immigrants who come to us under desperate circumstances and add so much to our societies will have the good fortune to strike it big.

We applaud their ingenuity and the sense of gratitude that often makes them generous. However, the vast majority of immigrants are seeking a life of hard work and modest rewards where they can raise families who will better themselves through a good education and small material comforts. Certainly these individuals deserve just wages for their efforts.

For two years we have sponsored more than 30 prayer vigils and delegations to management at the various Westfield properties in San Diego. For two years we have asked, beseeched, cajoled and demanded that Westfield America, Inc hire responsible contractors that pay their employees just wages and benefits and treat them with respect and dignity.

We have read that Westfield is led by charitable management. Again, we ask, invest in those who serve you with their sweat. Hire responsible contractors and give these workers a chance to take a step out of poverty.

Rabbi Coskey is the head of the San Diego chapter of the Interfaith Committee of Worker Justice, which includes representatives from almost 20 different religions.


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