Letters for March 11 

Readers sound off on cougar bait and labor union battles.

"I Was Cougar Bait," Feature, 2/11

Don't Send a Square

What a missed opportunity on what could have been ... should have been ... a very fun Valentine's week cover story!

Why would you send a reporter who (seems square) and is married?!? People want to hear what the REAL experience is like. What does happen in that scene? How easy is it to hook-up, and what happens when you do etc. etc. etc. Not some guy who is nervous, not looking forward to the event, and worried about what his wife would say. BORING.

I would like a re-do.

George Brett, San Francisco

Don't Send a Husband

What were you thinking, sending a married man to a singles event ("I Was Cougar Bait"?)

That's like assigning a vegetarian to cover a barbecue.

Gar Smith, Berkeley

Don't Stroll Up to I

In your article, "I Was Cougar Bait," you make much of your role as a journalist. As such, your writing should be many things — concise, factual, of current interest, etc. It should also be grammatically correct.

I call your attention to paragraph 14 on page 13, which begins "Few women were brave enough to travel alone...." In the middle of this paragraph, you write "...only one other woman made as direct of an approach as Melanie, strolling up to my friend and I..."

Surely, you should know better than to use a subject pronoun instead of an object pronoun following either a verb or preposition. The phrase should read "strolling up to my friend and me."

I realize this particular grammatical error, substituting subject pronouns for object pronouns whenever the object is more than one person, has become an epidemic; but it behooves professional writers to try to set a better example. Common mistakes do not justify violating the structure of the language.

Your article was interesting, amusing, and informative — and otherwise well written — which is why I thought you would be interested in my nit-picking grammar.

Beth Weinberger, Oakland

Confused by a Flirt

I'd like to make it clear, at the Cougar party, I did approach Nate, but at no time did I allure to going back to my place! (We only talked briefly) and I enjoyed flirting with him a bit ... I can understand being out of the "bachelor scene" for so long he could get confused by simple flirtation.

Cougar Melanie

"Labor Leaders, Have You Lost Your Damn Mind?" Raising the Bar, 2/18

Unions Need New Tactics

The growing divisions within the labor movement are not a case of "losing your mind." They reflect different perspectives and interests. Corporate and business unionism is unable to win gains for working people and the issues cannot be won anymore using the same old tactics.

I suggest that you learn about what the workers in the hospitals, clinics, and hotels are saying about their conditions and issues and you might learn something that you failed to note in your article.

Steve Zeltzer, San Francisco

Reframing the Fight

Mr. Youngdahl makes the common mistake of thinking that this is a fight between Sal Rosselli and Andy Stern. This is a fight between Andy Stern and the members of UHW. Within ten days of the trusteeship, the NUHW (National Union of Healthcare Workers) filed decertification petitions in 101 bargaining units for 25,000 workers. That means that the rank-and-file leaders of the union ran the petitions while the staff was on administrative leave.

SEIU better realize that the members of UHW have made a decision to leave SEIU in the thousands, and people like Mr. Youngdahl should at least learn the name of the union they are talking about before pontificating on its chances of survival.

Robert McCauley, former UHW Staff, Richmond

The Elephants in the Room

When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled. — African proverb

The elephants here are indeed Andy Stern and Sal Rosselli. The grass is the workers making up the turf that is being fought over.

The leadership of pre-trusteeship UHW-W agitated the membership to believe that representation by SEIU was the worst thing that could happen to a worker. But loss of their jobs is also not good. Of course, that is not the concern of NUHW pushers who were formerly UHW-W leaders. They can just sit back now and wring their hands over those poor, poor workers who got involved in trying to get their sisters and brothers to sign petitions to decertify or deauthorize SEIU in UHW-W-represented facilities, and who now have lost everything.

Oh wait — they didn't just sit back. No, NUHW actually posted a flyer complaining that SEIU is not defending these people.

Mr. McCauley, the former USW staffer who thinks that the speed with which UHW members got signatures on NUHW petitions spells success for NUHW, steps smartly over the part where Jay Youngdahl points out that the leaders of NUHW "will have to work with no money for salaries or expenses unless they can find a rich angel to fund them." The "expenses" in question include the legal costs of helping a worker who has been fired for circulating a petition in opposition to the union recognized by the employer. SEIU is under no legal obligation to spend the money of its other members in order to defend people that employers have chosen to punish for engaging in anti-SEIU activity. Sure, people have a right under the law to engage in collective action to change or oust unions. But realistically, rights have no meaning unless there are resources available to take a case to court, or to even win the opportunity for an NLRB hearing. And as Mr. Youngdahl so astutely comments, NUHW has no resources.

I have been following this sorry saga for several years now, and nowhere did I see where the NUHW leadership ever warned the members of the UHW-W that they would be engaging in anti-SEIU activities at their own peril. I see much snarkiness on the Perez Stern gossip blogsite about how badly the anti-SEIU membership of UHW-W is treated by the current post-trusteeship leaders, including how the former staff of UHW-W that assisted in the aforementioned anti-SEIU agitation of the membership has not been welcomed back to work for UHW-W with open arms. What I don't see is any useful information, like the fact that elected union leaders (or their delegated authorities) have an absolute right to fire staff that has opposed any policy of the union — unless the policy is illegal, but even then, you gotta prove that in court. Also, any claim that SEIU is violating its duty of fair representation hinges on what constitutes "fair" representation. In other words, for those workers fired while passing around anti-SEIU petitions or refusing to bargain while represented by SEIU staffers, good luck with a) proving that that was the reason you were fired, or b) arguing that SEIU has a duty to represent persons working against SEIU.

Again, without resources, it is always the grass that gets trampled when the elephants fight. All of the pretty talk of thousands and thousands of workers who signed NUHW petitions won't save a single blade.

Sherry Minson, Willits, CA

"Food-Free Zone?" News, 1/21

Not Very Buddhist of Them

The Thai Temple's recent campaign to "save" the Temple was completely irrelevant to the actual issues, yet it successfully won the Temple everything it sought in a city permit for its restaurant and other expansions. No one was trying to shut down the Temple or end its Sunday restaurant. There was nothing to "save," but the extensive campaign stirred up hundreds of people, even lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus, who believed they needed to help "save" the Temple and protect it from "racism" and "religious intolerance."

The neighbors simply sought the usual environmental mitigations that are routinely devised for impacts of large-scale operations — noise, odors, crowds, parking, and height limits. These are equal opportunity issues in any urban area. None of the Temple supporters share a backyard fence with its outdoor restaurant every Sunday. None of them live on a street where traffic and overflow parking from the Berkeley Bowl is directed by city design. The neighbors who are impacted could hardly be more racially or ethnically diverse.

The Temple never actually conversed with neighbors to identify agreeable mitigations. Its participation in a city-ordered mediation consisted of saying "no" to every topic or creative solution proposed. Its campaign to "save" the Temple, however, convinced the majority members of the Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB), who took on a role to — based on their own words — "protect religious freedom" instead of reviewing the details of zoning issues. "C'mon, people," board member Deborah Matthews told the neighbors from her seat in the hearing room. "We're talking about Buddhism." In fact, we were not talking about Buddhism. The ZAB's failure to recognize this was enough to make adjacent Berkeley homeowners throw up their hands in dismay. Are facts relevant anymore?

Now that the Temple has a use permit and thus has been "saved," the only remaining question is whether the Temple Board of Directors will finally engage sincerely in constructive conversations with its neighbors.

Carolyn Shoulders, Berkeley

"Skank Till You Drop," Music, 2/11

Better Than Lars

I'd go see the Uptones any day, even without the $500 skankin' prize. There is no band better performing today in the Bay Area — and that means you Metallica.

Jana Kaufman, Berkeley


In our February 18 Seven Days column "Bart Cop Craziness," and in the February 13 blog post on which it was based, we erroniously wrote that Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks led a mob of angry people as they took over a meeting of the BART board of directors. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, upon whose account our description relied, Brooks attended the meeting and argued with BART director Joel Keller, during which several members of the audience briefly charged Keller. But there is no evidence to suggest that Brooks was responsible for the crowd's actions.

In our February 25 Museum and Galleries pick, the work shown is "A Trapped Star Escapes," not "Self-Portrait for Hotsapien.com Video Interview."


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