The amount of research that Jason Notte conducted for his extensive article on the surge in suicides in the military is worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. As a veteran, I noted with some dismay that a class-action lawsuit has already been filed against the VA. This could trigger a feeding frenzy among the legal profession to rival the litigation involving the Catholic Church. One “unintended consequence” could be a further depletion of the VA’s resources.
Wrong on unions
Crucial facts must be missing from your severely anti-union editorial. You reduce the dispute between the city of Boston and employees’ unions to the single issue of wage rates and their impact on the city budget. But in the current economic climate of recession-edging-toward-depression, vulnerable workers have a broad range of concerns. With budget shortfalls leading to layoffs, many workers rightly fear loss of their jobs, with all the hazards that entails.
More troubling is the whole tenor that fosters misconceptions about unions. It is not their responsibility to balance city or state budgets, though contract negotiations may have an impact. Like management, you seemingly cherish the hoary “greedy union members” stereotype. In reality, most union members are conscientious citizens who see the bigger picture and are not driven solely by self-interest. Unions have achieved great progress for all workers: a living wage, health insurance, retirement plans, the eight-hour day, sick and vacation time, occupational safety — even management benefits, since employers must provide similar compensation to them.
We cannot take such advances for granted. That’s why the Employee Free Choice Act is so important. There may be valid reservations about dispensing with secret-ballot elections, but too often they enable harassment and intimidation of workers and especially labor activists, leaving employees without a proper choice. Denying that freedom constitutes the major threat to workplace democracy.
Finally, comparing ordinary members to Wall Street fat cats adds insult to injury. Most readers know that seeking a few extra dollars for basic necessities is not the same as rewarding one’s own incompetence with multi-million-dollar bonuses. Absent such common sense, is the point of the editorial to undermine the Phoenix’s reputation as a progressive publication? It’s likely to have that effect.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The writer teaches history at UMass Boston, and is a member of three allied teachers’ unions, along with the UAW. If the Phoenix left readers with the impression that we consider unionized workers in the same dubious category as Wall Streeters, that is unfortunate. It was not our intention.
In last week’s “Not-So-Sure Guys” article on the Boston Skeptics, we misidentified Jackie Lavache as a founder of the Boston Atheists. She is, in fact, the founder of the Boston Atheists’ podcast.