Letters for the Week of November 14 

Readers sound off on robberies in Oakland, e-cigs, and media coverage of the BART strike.

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We don't want this, now do we people? Let's start thinking before we start throwing everything on the same wagon. E-cigs are not cigarettes, nor are they devices for quitting cigarettes, they are simply an alternative. End of story!

Jason Stribling, Oakland

Puritans of the Past

It is not just a ban on electronic cigarettes, which is bad enough, but a ban on all tobacco products including smokeless tobacco. Smokeless tobacco has about 1 percent of the risk of cigarettes (contrary to common myth) and has no effect on non-users. The ban on all tobacco has nothing to do with protecting public health. It's a moral crusade reminiscent of the alcohol prohibition of the past. The puritans of the past have come back to haunt us.

Alan Selk, Madison, Wisconsin

"Let Them Eat Cake," Raising the Bar, 10/30

Media Preyed on Envy

Amen! This editorial hits so many nails dead on the head! The whole notion that the BART employees were somehow asking for unreasonable favors in merely wanting their salaries to keep up with inflation (and barely) is offensive. All the folks who thought the BART unions were unreasonable simply decided to succumb to jealousy and forgot to advocate for their own basic rights. Jay Youngdahl is absolutely right. The media coverage of the BART strike preyed on people's envy, purposely distorted the facts, and betrayed a loss of consciousness of labor struggles. Thanks for sharing! Oh, and by the way, all the folks who were upset over the disruption of public transit clearly don't understand the purpose and function of a strike — and I say that as someone who was very much affected by the disruption of public transit. I work a low-wage job that requires me to get to it on time early in the morning, including on weekends, and I don't drive. It was difficult and challenging, and I still supported the unions through all of it.

Ore Carmi, Berkeley

Bias Towards Have-Mores

This article is spot on. It was obvious and disappointing at the time that the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle editorials and letters were strongly biased in favor of the "have-mores." Tax dollars paid by the middle benefit the top, and then the top denies living wages for the middle.

B. Thomas Smith, Oakland

Corrosive Language

Thanks for this. The corrosive language used to talk about worker struggle has been developed with the help of a lot of time and money in corporate think tanks. More articles like this are needed to restructure the dialogue in the United States about labor rights.

Caitlin Donohue, San Francisco

Blatant Attacks on Unions

Finally, an article hits the truth of the BART strike on the button! The BART strike is a poster child for what is happening to unions and the middle class throughout this country. The attack on unions, which are one of the last bulwarks for the survival of the middle class, is no longer subtle, but rather blatant and outright, fueled by corporate mass media. We see Republican-controlled states using the legislative tool ALEC to launch attacks on collective bargaining. There are many other examples. As Willie Brown pointed out in his column in the San Francisco Chronicle on October 21, BART management could have averted a strike if it had agreed to go to arbitration. As Jay Youngdahl points out, the newspapers and mainstream media have expanded the attack on the unions/middle class. We see people we work with who should know better rail against unions. It seems they, too, have drunk the Kool-Aid. Thank you, Mr. Youngdahl, for this important wakeup call.

Linda and Elliot Halpern, Berkeley

Beating the Mainstream Media

By the way, how come the mainstream press hardly noticed the obscene money being handed out to that BART "negotiator"? What was it, $300,000? That's not newsworthy for some reason. Or the BART manager's ridiculous salary? She's worth that much because she has so much talent? Or the last manager who walked out with a $1 million golden parachute? Not a thing? Right, it's all the workers' fault; they are the greedy ones, asking for things like lunch breaks and health insurance. What do they think this is, Stalin's Russia? This is one of the best articles I have read anywhere about the strike and the underlying issues — the real issues, not the ones that the mainstream media reported about. How do we get the word out, though? How can we beat the mainstream media where so many zombie Americans are stuck?

Al Margulies, Portland, Oregon

Violation of Law

It amazes me, as a union member and a member of contract negotiation teams, that BART management hasn't been named in an unfair labor practice suit. It's a violation of labor law to introduce new, previously unknown contractual issues that were not explicitly made a part of bargaining from the beginning of the process. To throw in significant changes to workplace conditions as management did, at the very end of negotiation, and then make the negotiated contract completely dependent on those new workplace conditions, is a violation of law as well as a violation of trust and fairness.


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