‘For the union makes us strong’

In the glow of the transit strike here, this is a quote I came across:

“Whatever the problem, your efforts will be crowned with success only if your union is sound and united. It takes planning, patience, vigilance and determination to win any struggle, regardless of the arena. Above all else, the membership must wholeheartedly believe in its organization and the role it can play in building a better world. We have learned that a labor union is not a gambling table; it is not a bingo game where you hit the jackpot once in a lifetime. Membership in a union is a way of life. Dues payment is not enough. You must attend meetings, prepare yourself for leadership. You must invest part of yourself.”

That was Mike Quill, founding president TWU (NYC).

And one from ILWU leader Harry Bridges:

“Ultimately the power of any union that serves as an instrumentality of the workers rests on the courage and conviction in its ranks. That is one fundamental truth that has not altered since 1934. Nor will it alter in times to come.”

Betty Smith

Astoria NY

Betty Smith is president of International Publishers (www.intpubnyc.com).

Straphanger stands in solidarity

The first day of the transit strike I did get to work, but it involved standing an hour in the cold waiting for the hospital shuttle van. I couldn’t feel my toes an hour later, even though I wore my warm fleece-lined boots.

Despite it all, I still stood with the workers. The sticking point was making the retirement age and benefits later for new workers. I’ve heard the reason this is such an issue is because transit workers do not have long life expectancies after retirement. All the years of working in dirty, moldy underground conditions take their toll, but apparently have not been documented enough to improve worker long-term safety. There are times that riding a bus or subway for a short time seems toxic, so to be in that environment all the time seems likely that it’s not healthy, even dangerous.

Also the Metropolitan Transit Authority refused to open their books. You cannot help but feel every time there’s an increase in the fare and they refuse to open their books to public scrutiny that money is being either stupidly wasted or greedily misused.

Carolyn Plummer

New York City NY

Bush has surprise guests

President Bush had surprise visitors at his carefully staged “photo-op” at Brooks Army Medical Center here on New Year’s Day. Police blocked off the entire hospital and military base to make sure that Bush’s love affair with his carefully selected audience was uninterrupted. But 20 protesters climbed through the weeds to make sure their signs were read and their chants were heard.

“End the war in Iraq” and “Bring our sons home” were popular themes. Passers-by in automobiles responded merrily to the “Honk if you are with us” sign. Texans for Peace apparently asked folks to come. Some of the protesters were veterans and/or had children currently in the military. TV and print media included the protests in their coverage.

Vivian Weinstein

San Antonio TX

Immigrants and the law

There was a study done some time ago by the University of California San Diego about undocumented immigrants around San Diego. The study found that the undocumented were the least likely to cause problems because of a fear of being deported. They simply, as a group, do not commit crimes. The undocumented avoid trouble with the law.

The second part of the study found that the undocumented were most often victims of crime for the same reason: fear. Crimes against undocumented persons go unreported because of the same fear of deportation.

Little mention is made of U.S. immigration policies that prevent people from certain countries, namely Mexico, the Central America region and Haiti, from immigrating legally. It is our laws that are preventing legal immigration. Capitalists want illegal immigration to continue so that maximum profits can be realized. That’s why HR 4437 doesn’t have any guest-worker provisions.

Wouldn’t it be interesting for the Mexican government to close its boarder and build a wall to stop U.S. citizens from going to Mexico to get drunk in Tijuana cantinas?

Wouldn’t it be something for Mexico to close its border to Americans going across to purchase cheap medicines? You can bet the White House and Congress would scream bloody murder.

Joseph Hancock

Los Angeles CA

Help needed to start union

I want to start a union for at-home medical transcriptionists. I believe we are being grossly exploited and abused as a labor force. I have no idea how to start, but am planning to set up a web site with as much information as I can find. There does not seem to be a union already in existence that fits with what we do, but we desperately need one. Can you possibly point me in a direction to gather information or resources for this endeavor?


Via e-mail

Editor’s note: Please e-mailwith your reply; we will happily forward it to the author.

Calif. workers comp law

I have had five major back surgeries. Workers compensation is a joke and it seems from your online news articles (PWW 4/22/04, 1/13/05) that you might as well work hurt than report it.

If workers comp wishes to save money they would move faster approving the procedures. In the meantime, they are paying me and paying someone to follow me around to make sure that I am not faking those five surgeries that I had and that I am not wanting to have a life! This is just one case that workers comp has flopped on. Since I attend my monthly doctors appointments I hear all the other horror stories from other injured workers.

Where did it say that when I went to work that day I was injured that I would not have a life until workers comp decided that I can? I have not worked since December 1998. I have been waiting for another procedure that a workers comp doctor said I needed. I bet they’re hoping that from all the medication I take I won’t be around when they finally get to me.

What a way to live at 39! Isn’t this everyone’s dream to sit and wait and wait?

Thanks for asking our thoughts I might not have answered the way you asked but I needed to say this.

Diana Bourdon

Via e-mail