Why Labor Strikes Must Continue

Felix Stoll 

Opinion 

10/06/2021 

Amidst the rapidly evolving conditions of the Industrial Revolution came the growing demand for the voices of workers to be heard. With factories operating under dismal conditions, many workers began to speak up about what they expected out of their workplaces. This eventually led to the concept of the labor strike. With mass labor being detrimental to the operations of factories and mines, the workers decided that in order to get the attention of their superiors they would organize times to walk out. This form of protest quickly became demonized in many countries with labor strikes as a whole being made illegal. Later, in the late 19th and 20th centuries, many Western countries began to partially legalize strikes due to the push back the laws received from the overall worker population. Out of these struggles also came the development of unions, which served to offer representation for workers in the inner workings of the higher offices. 

This past September saw the end of Nabisco’s first labor strike in fifty-two years. In early August around one thousand and fifty Nabisco employees from Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oregon and Virginia initiated the strike after the deterioration of conditions in Portland that spread to Chicago and elsewhere. The workers were fighting for a fair contract with no concession, citing the worsening work conditions since Kraft’s takeover of the company in 2000. 

Since May there had been no contract and in August the company, generally referred to as Mondelez International, proposed changes that would include longer work weeks, less pay, less worker benefits especially for new hires and less opportunity for overtime. These proposed changes came at a time when factory personnel for the company were already being worked to the bone throughout the pandemic. 

At the conclusion of the strike the Bakery Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) signed a contract with Mondelez International that would ensure fair hours and overtime, a 2.25% pay hike this year with a 60 cent raise each year for the next three years and competitive worker benefits. Everything agreed upon in the 4-year accord is meant to protect workers while also ensuring the future growth and success of the company itself. 

The recent Nabisco strike has sparked the conversation over the importance of labor strikes and unions. People are left to consider their options and rights in the workplace. How can unions and strikes truly serve the people? 

Unions are founded to give a voice to the workers. They give representation in the higher up decisions so that those providing the labor are not forgotten or taken advantage of. When unions are ignored, and the workers treated unjustly, strikes serve as a louder voice for the workers. Strikes demonstrate to those in charge just how important the workers are and just how serious their demands are. Along with this, strikes can help gain solidarity from other workers as well as the general public in order to bring attention to a company’s faults and show those in charge that people will not stand for these injustices.  

Without the workers a company will collapse. The working class keeps the company, and the country functioning, therefore when they strike the wheels stop turning and things come to a massive halt. This gets quick attention from those in charge who are in turn left making little to no profit and are threatened with the idea of no longer completing their goals.  

More and more workers are beginning to understand their importance and choose to not be a cog in the machine of the industrial complex. They are beginning to understand that they deserve more than crumbs, and right now in a pandemic people are growing desperate, which is the prime time for action to take place. People have come to the realization that they are what runs the corporations, not the suits upstairs, and they refuse to be taken advantage of. With these realizations the rising threat of more and larger scale strikes is spreading with some already planned for upcoming dates such as October 15. 

It is important for the working class to continue to stand in solidarity with one another and to speak loudly and proudly about their expectations. No longer can we allow for unworkable conditions to be the norm, especially in the throes of a global pandemic. Together we stand and together we can be seen and make an impact. On the backs of workers, the world goes round and therefore we have the power to bring it to a halt in order to be treated justly. We all deserve rights and that doesn’t end when we set foot into employment.  

Sin Nombre Hantavirus in Michigan

Felix Stoll 

News 

October 5, 2021 

The Sin Nombre Hantavirus (SNV) in North America is the most common strain of the rare, but severe Hantavirus that infects humans. This virus causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in those affected. It was originally discovered in the Four Corners region during an outbreak on the Navajo Nation reservation (also identified as Diné) in 1993 caused by deer mice and white footed mice.  

Most commonly it is present in the deer mouse that is then spread to a human host through inhalation of airborne feces, urine, saliva, bites, or ingestion of contaminated food or water from infected rodents. The highest risk of exposure comes from entering or cleaning rodent infested structures. Most cases are identified in primarily adult patients in the spring and summer seasons. Currently, there are no person-to-person transmissions reported in the U.S. 

The virus presents itself anywhere from one week to five weeks after exposure to the infected rodents. Regardless of history, anyone exposed to a Hantavirus infected rodent is at risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and their doctor should contact the local health department as soon as possible to report the case and discuss possible testing options. 

Symptoms can be difficult to notice at first and include fever, chills, body-aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and abdominal pain. It can later progress to include coughing and shortness of breath. Once it develops into hantavirus pulmonary syndrome as it most often does it boasts a remarkably high mortality rate of around 40%.  

Precautions can be taken to help reduce the chances of catching the Sin Nombre Hantavirus such as using rubber, nitrile, or latex gloves when cleaning areas with a rodent infestation, ventilating areas for at least 30 minutes before working, and being diligent in wetting areas with a disinfectant or chlorine solution before cleaning. 

On June 7 of 2021 an adult female from Washtenaw County Michigan was hospitalized with a serious case of the Sin Nombre Hantavirus. It is suspected that the patient inhaled the virus while cleaning out a residence that had been vacant for two years but had recently been reported as having an active rodent infestation. The woman was treated in the hospital and was recovering when last examined. 

Sin Nombre Hantavirus cases are rare and easily avoidable despite how detrimental to one’s health they can be. With a case popping up in Michigan it is recommended that residents remain diligent with taking precautions before cleaning areas that could have a rodent infestation. 

A bit closer to home on Alma College’s campus precautions have always been in place to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff. With our very own lab mice present on campus cleaning crews remain thorough in their procedures, especially with current COVID-19 protocols in place. Students can continue to foster a clean and safe campus environment by taking care of their trash often, disinfecting surfaces in their residential rooms, cleaning up after using kitchen areas, and cooperating with janitorial staff. 

Hospitalization Gap between Pfizer and Moderna raises concern

Aishwarya Singh                                                                                                                                                 

National    

October 5’ 2021  

With months having passed to the major wave of vaccination in the United States, the scientific community expected to see trends emerge among different groups of vaccinated individuals as well as among recipients of different kinds of vaccine. As the months have gone by, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have also tried to analyze whether the vaccines remain just as effective in preventing hospitalization months after a recipient receives their shot and the data is finally out.  

Data collected from 18 states across the United States between March and August reveal that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine prevents hospitalization in 91% of its recipients in the first four months after one receives their second shot. However, the troubling part of the statistic is that the efficacy of the vaccine reduces from 91% to 77% after 120 days have passed. This is especially alarming when put in contrast with the Moderna vaccine which has an initial hospitalization prevention rate of 93% and remains at 92% 120 days post receiving the second shot.  

A separate study conducted in late September by the The New England Journal of Medicine, which evaluated the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing symptomatic illness in about 5,000 health care workers in 25 states, revealed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88.8 percent, compared with Moderna’s 96.3 percent effectiveness.  

The most real consequence that such data has is on the debate of booster shots- when and how often must we start administering them to people that have already been vaccinated with their primary doses? If the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine drops in efficacy substantially, there are valid reasons for individuals that received the Pfizer vaccine to receive their booster shots sooner than those that received a Moderna vaccine.  

However, the scientific community claims there is not much to worry about and that these stats should not alarm people to the degree that they have. “Yes, likely a real difference, probably reflecting what’s in the two vials,” said John Moore, a virologist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “But truly, how much does this difference matter in the real world?” “It’s not appropriate for people who took Pfizer to be freaking out that they got an inferior vaccine”, he adds.  

One of the primary reasons why such fears have been labelled unfounded is because the vaccines have remarkably similar efficacy against symptomatic infection. Here, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an efficacy of 94% while Moderna has an efficacy of 93%. This is also the reason why they have been described as more or less equal since the initial few months of their administration.  

The second reason why worry seems unfounded is because initially, scientists had hoped that the vaccines would produce a 50-60% efficacy. When the vaccines far surpassed that expectation, to debate 88.8% versus 96.3% does not seems like a worthwhile cause. The vaccines have, by and large, done significantly better than anyone had expected and prevented a great number of deaths and hospitalizations. Such finer details were bound to emerge only with time and more studies will definitively show how and when booster shots for the vaccines would have to be administered. Till then, however, the government is focussing its efforts on making sure that at the very least, people receive their first doses.   

Controversial Refugee Center Proposal Passes

Aishwarya Singh                                                                                                                                              

Local

October 5’ 2021  

When the Michigan Masonic Home closed the former Warwick Living Center in March, it was occupied by senior citizens in need of various levels of care. But when the facility reopens, likely later this year, it will become the temporary home to unaccompanied male refugees ages 12-17, who will be arriving from the southern U.S. border.  

To say the newfound use has created a bit of controversy in the community over the past four months would be an understatement. Multiple rounds of conversation and negotiation ensued between two sides of differing views- one side raising concern over the possibility of increased violence that might arise from housing refugees within the town and the other advocating children to be provided a safe living space as they and their guardians navigate the contours of the American immigration system.  

“If I lived in the community, I would be asking the same questions,” said Bethany Christian Services Branch Director Krista Stevens about concerns of violence and crime increase. “But these children are fleeing violence. They had to leave family to be surrounded by the safety we can provide.” 

However, city commissioners put an end to all the back-and-forth discussion last week when they voted 4-2 to approve a conditional rezoning request from the Masonic Home, owners of the building, and Grand-Rapids-based Bethany Christian Services, the agency that will operate the refugee center, that allowed the proposal to proceed. 

Despite the approval, however, there are multiple moving pieces that need to be figured out before the facility can be up and running. While minimal amounts of renovation are needed for the facility to be ready, there is extra paperwork and legal obligations that need to be ironed out before the rezoning can be complete. The children will also be thoroughly tested for COVID-19 before they move into the facility.  

The new residents will have to file and produce appropriate paperwork before they will move into the facility. The facility itself is working on installing cameras and security systems while trying to find people to staff the institution so that it can be filled to capacity, with all 36 beds being used by children. The facility is also working to equip their staff with counselors and therapists to provide the children with necessary mental health services during their time there.   

This facility is going to be a “transitional assessment facility” where the children will be housed for no more than 45 days. Within these 45 days, the appropriate authorities will work to unite them with a family member within the United States or an appointed sponsor. If 45 days pass and neither a family member nor a sponsor is found or the child turns 18, they will be transferred to a more permanent foster care unit.  

According to Bethany Christian Services, the support they’ve received from Alma townsfolk via emails, letters and phone calls has been overwhelming. The heavy negotiations on the matter were a testament to spirit of a democracy and the verdict was a testament to the compassion of the town community.  

R. Kelly Found Guilty, Facing Life in Prison

Ella Bright 

News 

October 6, 2021 

One of the biggest names in R&B music, Robert Sylvester Kelly (known to most of the world as R. Kelly) was convicted for sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, racketeering and sex trafficking involving five victims on Monday, Sep. 25.  

A jury of seven men and five women found the singer guilty. He faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison.  

This isn’t the first time Kelly has been in court. However, through decades of allegations against young black women, it is only recently that real action has been taken.  

In 2008, he sat before a trial about child pornography charges and was acquitted. In February 2019, Kelly was indicted by the Illinois state attorney for aggravated criminal sexual abuse against four victims (three of whom were minors). In August 2019, he was charged in Minnesota with engaging in prostitution with a minor. 

Gloria Allred, a lawyer for some of Kelly’s accusers and victims, said to reporters outside the courthouse on Sep. 25 that of all the predators she’s gone after — a list that includes people like Harvey Weinstein and Jeffrey Epstein — “Mr. Kelly is the worst.”  

Though the verdict officially came that Monday, allegations of Kelly’s assaults can be dated back to the early 1990s—three whole decades before his conviction. In 1994, when he was 27 years old, Kelly illegally married the late R&B singer Aaliyah when she was only 15, falsely listing that she was 18 on the wedding certificate. 

Kelly wrote and produced Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album, called “Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.” 

And, despite an arrest in 2002 and an accusation of recording himself sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl, Kelly’s songs and concert tickets kept selling. 

“As a society, all races and ethnicities included, we excuse behavior as long as we are getting something from it,” said Alexis John (‘24). “R. Kelly hands us hits and we hand him our children.”  

In July 2017, a protest campaign against the singer called “Mute R. Kelly” was created by Atlanta Arts Administrator, Oronike Odeley, who soon after partnered with Kenyette Barnes. The movement called for boycotts of the singer and his performances as well as for music streaming platforms to stop playing Kelly’s music. 

“We will continue to disrupt, continue to demonstrate, continue to call him out, continue to raise awareness until hopefully one day soon, we can step in the name of justice at his trial,” said Odeley on the “Mute R. Kelly” website, paraphrasing Kelly’s own lyrics. 

 The singer’s years of abuse became a signifier of the “#MeToo” movement, and the popular docuseries finally gave a voice to those victims that had been previously ignored. Some speculate this is because Kelly’s victims consisted of young black women. 

“The abuse of children of color is something that is not uncommon in my community but is heavily overlooked,” said John. “During the #MeToo movement I saw an immense number of white women on the news and barely any women of color. As a young woman of color, myself, this left an impression on me. We see it in the lack of coverage for the Native children missing, for the black girls whose bodies we find nothing beyond an Instagram story.” 

It wasn’t until the docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” debuted on Netflix in January 2019 and acclimated 1.9 million total viewers that the allegations finally started to come to real attention. 

“Natasha Hooper gives a great spoken word poem titled “The Pied Piper” about R. Kelly,” said John. “She ends it with this: ‘tell me, is the music really that special when one man’s voice can sing over them all? When we can hold a note but can’t hold a man accountable? When the Pied Piper is realer than any folk tale we know, and we surrender their bodies to pay the price?’”  

Kelly’s sentencing is scheduled for May 4, 2021. 

Alma Football Starts off Strong

Claire Hipps

Features

9/22/2021

Alma’s football program is currently 3-0 after beating Anderson University (51-2) at home for their Hall of Fame Game. They previously won over Manchester University (47-23) in Indiana and Bluffton University (24-6) at home. With promising offensive and defensive programs, they are projecting strength as they prepare to play Martin Luther College in Minnesota and Olivet College at home for Alma’s homecoming weekend.

In the first 2 minutes of the game against Anderson, Trent Devereaux (’24) threw a 12-yard touchdown to Nathan Goralski. Devereaux is a sophomore quarterback with 279 total yards. He has completed 19 passes and thrown 6 touchdowns.

When asked about how him and his teammates felt about the start of the season, Devereaux explained that they feel confident.

“We are feeling very confident…after coming off of a very odd [season] in the Spring of last year,” said Devereaux.

Against Anderson, Alma executed five sacks and forced two fumbles. The Scot defense is powerful and opportunistic; they have pulled out 9 sacks and forced 4 fumbles this season. They have also intercepted 13 different passes over 209 yards, 5 of which occurred against Anderson, and completed 3 defensive touchdowns.

“[One of our strengths] is that we are a young, athletic team,” said Devereaux. “Speed and athleticism [are traits we can] always use to our advantage.”

Their offense has scored 122 points across 3 games, averaging 40.7 points per game. They have rushed and passed a total of 778 yards, completing 7 touchdowns through passes.

Despite a rough start to their game against Manchester, Alma managed to overcome and pull out the win. At one point in the Manchester game, Alma scored 28 points in a matter of 3 minutes and 35 seconds.

“We are feeling much better [than last season] after getting a year of experience under our belts,” said Devereaux. “Some challenges [arise because] we are young, but we can overcome that by being mentally tough.”

In their game against Bluffton University, the defense worked as a well-oiled machine and only allowed one touchdown. They also demonstrated the depth of their team when Keegan Benkhardt, a senior running back, made his first career start and scored on an 11-yard run.

Alma’s special teams units have also performed very well. Devon Frenchko was recognized as a MIAA special teams athlete of the week and as a RET athlete on the D3football.com Team of the Week. He averaged 70 yards on 3 returns against Manchester. Frenchko was Alma’s first ever RET D3football.com player of the week, according to the Athletic Department. . Special teams have made all attempted field golds and averages 37.2 yards per punt.

One of their goals as a team is to win the 2021 MIAA championship according to Devereaux. Alma’s conference schedule will begin with homecoming on the second of October, at home against Olivet.

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