Letters for the Week of August 21 

Readers sound off on fracking legislation, unionization, and genetic engineering.

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For the many struggling nonprofits supported by charitable contributions where the executives don't make much more than the workers, unions would be good for improving working conditions. If unionized employees tried to raise compensation, they'd find out pretty quickly if they were killing the organization and would have to back off.

For the nonprofits that contract with government agencies, unions would be good both for the employees and for the residents/taxpayers. Unionization would remove the argument against outsourcing many state and local functions that it's a race to the bottom.  Many state and local functions could be done more efficiently by well-paid unionized workers in well-run nonprofits.  Outsourcing might reduce the political patronage aspect of awarding contracts, which the civil service system has failed at doing. Couldn't make it any worse.

Leonard Raphael, Oakland

Less Dollars Going to the Needy

Where do nonprofits get their funds to operate? From gifts, grants, governments, and hopefully some from operations, such as the sale of donated goods as with Goodwill. Nonprofits are given highly favored tax status on state and federal levels. While nonprofits should be managed to competitively compensate workers, the overall expected mission of a nonprofit is to minimize its administrative expense to maximize the money flowing to that nonprofit's mission. In fact, many nonprofits compete for funding based on the efficiency of their administrative overhead, showing they deliver more of that money raised to the needy. 

If a nonprofit employee is not competitively compensated or unduly asked to work without compensation, it is their prerogative to seek work elsewhere. As the article itself points out, nonprofits are "booming," so there should be no shortage of job opportunities. The very growth of nonprofits has been aided by unions driving government cutbacks due to exorbitant government worker pay and benefits carved out by unions. 

Adding union dues to a nonprofit worker's expenses will almost certainly result in that worker voting for higher wages, even if they are now being competitively compensated. Every union takes its bite out of a worker's pay for its representation. With workers demanding more (even if nothing more than to pay their union dues, which could be $50 or more per paycheck), less funding will be there for the mission of the nonprofit unless more money can be raised. 

Therefore, the administrative expense of the nonprofit will increase and its benefactors will get less in every single case of unionization, and the homeless served by Larkin Street Youth Services will get less, unless more money than current funding is raised. This is simple math — more for nonprofit workers results is less for those served by the organization. 

These facts cannot be clouded by union babble repeated in this article. SEIU 1021 (the one chosen by Larkin Street workers) is the same union representing BART workers, the same union now demanding huge pay increases in spite of its workers being paid the highest of any in this state, all causing overwhelming public condemnation. It is clear to every private worker, and backed by facts, that government workers now get far higher wages and benefits than private industry workers doing the same jobs. Perhaps worse, by joining a public worker union, Larkin Street's employees' wages will probably now be compared to public worker scales rather than nonprofit norms in contract negotiations. 

Every dollar fed to the union is a dollar less going to the needy, and everyone reading this article must keep that fact in mind. Less for the homeless, less for the whales, less for endangered species, less for low-cost housing, less for all in need.

William H. Thompson, Walnut Creek

"A Model Forest?" Eco Watch, 8/7

Story Behind the Trees

The excellent story, "A Model Forest?" by Madeline Thomas describes an ambitious investment in California's future forests that may or may not be recouped by light-touch timber harvests and sale of carbon credits. Make or lose, the people of California will benefit from the clean water, natural habitat, and sustainable forestry jobs because the Conservation Fund is committed to that goal.

The fact is, many private family forest landowners in California are operating on the same principles. They purchased cutover land, planted and nurtured new trees, and today love and enjoy their woodlands. Many have secured the permanent status of their forest through conservation easements. Have they made money? Probably not enough to cover the costs, but they have become rich in family experiences, and at the same time are providing sustainable forest resources in ways that benefit all citizens.

There is a story behind those trees, and it is a good one.

Keith A. Argow,

Ph.D, CF, President,

National Woodland Owners Association,

Vienna, Virginia 

"Bio Hackers," Feature, 7/31

Dangers of Genetic Engineering

I found some of your comments in your article about genetic engineering to be biased in favor of that technology and insulting to those of us who oppose it. Calling the position of those of us who love nature and respect natural processes "knee-jerk" was uncalled for.  The same label could accurately be applied to anyone who supports genetic engineering, or even technology in general.


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