Letters for May 21 

Readers sound off on Berkeley Police, the status of contemporary labor unions, and Alameda Power & Telecom

"Alameda's Cable Conundrum," News, 4/23

Pull the Plug on Alameda Telecom

I read your recent analysis of Alameda's municipal cable television and Internet business with quite an interest.

Being a former commissioner of the Alameda Public Utilities Board and serving three consecutive years as president and a former city councilmember and vice mayor, I find myself obligated to express my views and serious concern over the city's telecommunication adventure.

First of all the watchful eye, depth of curiosity, and persistence of both the city auditor and city treasurer should be commended. They have truly served the purpose and responsibility of their elective offices.

Secondly, while the original wisdom and motive to enter into a highly competitive and risky telecommunication business might be debated, at this juncture Alameda must take action to resolve the situation. Further continuation of a failed adventure must be ended. We need to move Alameda Power and Telecom away from further uncertainty of the future and focus our full attention to do what we did the best over many years of providing safe, reliable, and economical power for the rate payers. I sincerely encourage the public utilities board and our city council, select the option of dropping the telecommunication business.

Thirdly, many had hoped that a move to telecommunication business would be profitable in the long run, but times change and so does the market. While in fact our community might have benefited from the value of competition, and suppressed rates have saved millions of dollars as a result, it simply does not make business sense to continue waging battles with market giants. Alameda Power and Telecom (former Bureau of Electricity) was chartered a publicly owned electric utility and should concentrate on keeping the lights on and let the telecom mega-companies fight it out when it comes to cable service. We tried it and regrettably failed, and so let us move on.

Hadi Monsef, former councilmember, Alameda

"Give 'em the Boot," Letters, 5/7

The Sooner the Better

I agree wholeheartedly with Alameda writer David Howard about the incompetence of Mayor Beverly Johnson and councilmember Marie Gilmore. I worked actively against the creation of Alameda Power & Telecom's cable TV and Internet, because I'd seen their business plan. The real villains in that fiasco, (they won by only 350 votes, and now AP&T has lost $90 million), were PUC members Lance Russum and Salvatore Baldesarre.

As president of the Alameda Chamber of Commerce, (1995-96), I also worked closely with former mayor Ralph Appezatto, whose protégé was Johnson, but about whom he confided to me on several occasions, "I'm not sure she's up to it." Since she and Gilmore have been in office, the city faces serious deficits, and has invested over $20 million in redevelopment funds in a parking garage that sits nearly empty, and a theater complex at a time when theater attendance is way off.

These two public servants need, as Howard puts it, "the boot!" And the sooner the better.

Dennis Green, Alameda

"The Change at BPD," Letters, 4/23

Grateful for the Job They Do

Perhaps Ms. Pritchett could be on a BPD committee that sends cards or flowers to people who are offended by their police actions. People who are considered armed suspects should be treated as such. Twice in the last year, I have been a victim of violent crime, one of which involved a fixed-blade knife-wielding suspect. I am sorry that the officers did not try to expand their options by trying to talk to the nice man with a gun on a bus full of people. I guess the kids on the bus will be forever traumatized by this incident needlessly involving police and guns. Oh, wait a second, popular media has already done that. Maybe the police who could have caught the real suspect were tied up in a demonstration or protest and could have apprehended the suspect. A person who is armed and running is desperate and the situation is already beyond control. I applaud BPD in their efforts in a sensitive and volatile situation. The punks who tried to rob me didn't seem to care about political correctness or policy or the police. I suggest anyone who second-guesses BPD's actions on that day to be grateful that they got the job done or they experience being a victim at least once in their life.

Jim Smart, Oakland

"Unfortunate Squabbling Makes This Sad Day for Unions," Your Words Here, 4/30

The Truth About Labor

The article "Unfortunate squabbling makes this sad day for unions" ignores the most important aspects responsible for the "sad day." A great number of the unions' misleaders are people who never actually worked in the trade they represent but university graduates who got a job at the unions' hall as "professional labor organizers," lawyers, etc. and have used the unions' apparatus to climb to their control, given their inside position. For example, Jimmy Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, is a lawyer, just like Jay Youngdahl, who also claims authority to write about the working class. I'm just a blue-collar worker of forty years.

Mergers have decimated most of the best-paid jobs, as well as outsourcing and the shipping of jobs abroad tolerated by these sell-outs, who long ago abandoned militancy and the strike as the fighting tool of the working class.

The jobs that cannot be shipped out have been taken, mostly, by Mexican scabs who work for a third of the previous wages. The treacherous union misleaders fight to incorporate these scabs in the unions at the expense of U.S. workers, since they're a conditioned mass easier to manipulate. For this purpose some unions have even opened agencies in Mexico to recruit scabs as a favor to corporations, providing cheap labor, and in return they get to represent the scabs, guaranteeing workplace peace. The main objective of these misleaders is to collect the dues.

Union hiring halls have been eliminated and replaced by Centros de Jornaleros where the bosses can hire scab labor; these Centros are supported with taxpayers' money while ever more U.S. workers end up on the streets of U.S. cities.

As a cruel irony these scabs march on May Day not for the right of US workers but to legalize their usurpation of the workplace.

Leo West, San Leandro

Awaiting the Death of Unions

I rather liked Jay Youngdahl's elegiac account of the smash-up currently going on between the California Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and between the Sternite and Rosellite factions of the SEIU. Especially this part:

"In any case, the tenor and timing of these battles are impairing the ability of the labor movement to rationally consider how workers can unite in the face of unfavorable labor laws, a culture of ideological 'me-firstism,' and the bizarre economic philosophy in which Americans are constantly told that, as investors and consumers, we should all cheer the pain from the 'downsizing' of a company's work force."

This is so wrong in so many ways it's almost funny. The so-called labor movement has never been about uniting workers — it is about two things: money and power; who gets it and who doesn't. The only interest in workers that unions have is the dues they pay every month out of their checks. Dues so the union brass can live in high style.

As a past member of the California State Employees Association (CSEA), I watched how it morphed from an employee association that looked after its membership to an affiliate of the SEIU. CSEA became SEIU Local 1000. Once we lost our identity everything changed. The focus went from representing members in adverse actions and grievances, to "organizing" which basically enriching the coffers of the Democratic Party.

If union rolls are declining, maybe it's because too many union members have watched their so-called representatives squandering their dues by lining politicians' pockets and picking fights with rival unions. They served their purpose in their time, but that time is long past. The sooner unions go away, the better for the American worker.

Patrick Carroll, San Francisco


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