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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
News >  Spokane

Letters To The Editor


Workers undervalue what they have

It is amazing to me that, given the salary and benefits a typical steelworker at Kaiser receives, he or she would vote to go out on strike. Did I read correctly what the average union member earns in salary and benefits:

1. A minimum of $14 per hour with upwards to $20 per hour for those at the top of the scale?

2. Fully funded medical and dental benefits for themselves and their families?

3. A generous retirement package that provides for steady employer contributions?

4. Paid vacations at the rate of two weeks for junior members and up to 12 weeks for senior members of the union?

5. One of the most generous sick leave and disability packages in this community?

All of this adds up to the average Kaiser salary plus benefits amounting to $57,000 per employee per year. Did I read all of that right?

I don’t think most Kaiser workers understand how good they have it. They complain about having “lost” something. What about those who lost their jobs in the last 10 years, not just suffered a decrease in the rate of growth in their pay? Where else could these workers go in this community and get that kind of pay with benefits?

If Kaiser decides to hire replacement workers, I am sure it will have no problem finding hard-working, wellqualified individuals willing to go to work at the level of pay and benefits Kaiser offered its employees in its last offer. James A. McDevitt Spokane

Workers strike for sound reasons

In defense of Kaiser employees at Mead and in response to the Feb. 27 letter by Lori Michels:

We strike to preserve our jobs and to have a better quality of life for our families. To preserve a strong union which has been beaten down consistently by big business. To preserve the little bit of pride that Kaiser has left us. To show other unions that we are not afraid.

We are teaching our kids that the people who are trying to cross the picket lines are the bad men and we are the good men, even if it means hitting a truck with a picket sign.

Metals prices are at their highest in years. While Kaiser makes a big profit, we continue to lose. The Mead plant is the oldest plant in the world, yet we produce the purest aluminum in the world, and it is the employees who are to be thanked for it, not the company.

We work in violence every day. We work in unsafe conditions; it’s dirty, dusty and hot. We work with obsolete equipment.

If they start to combine jobs and cut craftsmen out of their jobs, it will add to the already unsafe conditions.

This is not a fair contract. It is just another example of big business making a big profit at the expense of employees and their families.

What we are teaching our kids is to finally take a stand against a big bully who has been beating on us for years. Bob Divine Spokane

No sympathy for well-off workers

So Kaiser’s steelworkers say they’ve given and given until it hurts. Well, haven’t most of us?

Despite tougher economic times, most middle class families have had to make sure both spouses were working and have had to watch inflation erode their purchasing power. Unlike Kaiser workers, though, many of these families haven’t seen any wage increase, nor do they have Cadillac health benefits that cover dependents, nor do they still have generous vacations - all of which Kaiser’s steelworkers still have.

It seems to me that Kaiser’s workers are well on their way to killing the goose that is laying the gold-colored aluminum egg for them. They won’t get any sympathy from me! Linnea Sykes Spokane

Rational middle course needed

The strike at Kaiser Aluminum illustrates an inherent conflict within our free enterprise system: how to divide the spoils between management and labor in a way that is satisfactory to both sides.

The aluminum industry is now coming out of a protracted downturn. During that recessionary period, labor showed a willingness to grant concessions and deferred traditional wage increases. Understandably, labor now wants to make up lost ground.

On the other hand, management knows that its industry is cyclical and, therefore, does not want to lock in wages or labor concessions that will inhibit Kaiser’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Both sides need to come up with a mechanism which properly rewards all participants, without jeopardizing the goose that lays the golden egg. Management needs the flexibility to control costs and increase productivity. But labor also deserves full and fair compensation.

Such solutions have been successfully employed in other industries. The recent bonus checks received by Chrysler employees is one example of sharing success. Other corporations have found that payment in stock is an excellent method of compensation, allowing employees to share in the risk and rewards of their business.

Such incentives allow management and labor to work as allies, rather than as antagonists. Randolph Nord Spokane


Police review problems addressed

The City Council created a Citizens Review Panel to help exercise oversight authority concerning the police department. When this panel proved itself structurally flawed, I was asked to chair a committee to remake this panel. The several months we spent studying this problem included a broad cross section of citizens and representatives of law enforcement.

Your Feb. 15 editorial objecting to our new Citizens Review Commission communicated some significant misunderstandings.

1. Chief Mangan has reserved power to decide which complaints receive review.

The ordinance creating the commission sets forth objective criteria for complaints that will come before this commission. Any justified complaint could lead to disciplinary action. Chief Mangan cannot block any complaint which meets this criteria.

2. Complaints regarding procedures are forwarded to an advisory board which are hand-picked by the police chief.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Board are elected by groups they represent; they aren’t handpicked by the police chief. This advisory group represents a diverse group of citizens and will give citizens an independent examination of procedural complaints.

3. This commission will not have access to all information it needs.

A major improvement in the Citizens Review Commission is that it will have access to all information given to the chief of police in handling any complaint.

Spokane has an excellent Police Department with outstanding leadership. This news commission will provide an independent forum in which complaints may be evaluated, enabling law enforcement and the City Council to make certain our laws are being enforced while citizens’ rights are being respected. Joel Crosby Spokane City Council member

Chase counselor deserves respect

As a Chase Middle School student’s parent, I was aghast at the treatment Dr. Lionel Harding-Thomas is receiving at Chase (Spokesman-Review, Feb. 24).

Counselors and teachers should not be chastised for speaking up about students’ rights. Every student has the right to be treated with respect.

My son was fortunate to have Dr. Harding-Thomas as an adviser for eight years. As a young child, my son was very angry at the world. Dr. Harding-Thomas taught him how to work through his anger successfully. Whenever my son felt unsure of himself and his decisions, he knew he could talk to Dr. Harding-Thomas for guidance.

Dr. Harding-Thomas has always been a strong advocate for all children’s rights. He has taught many children how to become the best they can be. We need more caring individuals like him in our schools.

On Feb. 24, over 100 students walked out of their classes at Chase in support of Dr. Harding-Thomas. Our children should not have to sacrifice their education to prove a point. Wouldn’t equity training for all teachers be an easier way to go? It is time to heed the message our children are sending. Miki Tillett Spokane

Charges strike me as unlikely

I was saddened and sickened by the racism allegations brought against the principal and staff of Chase Middle School.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Principal Rodger Lake for over 25 years, having first met him during his student teaching at Shaw Middle School. My children also had the opportunity of attending Libby Middle School while Mr. Lake was principal. During this time, he has displayed only the utmost respect and professionalism towards students and staff as well as parents.

While my children were attending Libby, I had the chance to work closely with the staff through the Parent/ Teacher Group and other activities. Staff members displayed unity and respect for each other and encouraged students to do the same. These teachers are now staffing Chase. I know moving to a new location would not change their belief in respect for all students as well as for each other, no matter what their race.

These allegations are based on the accusations of a few who do not know the staff’s past reputation. This reputation should be taken into consideration before any more allegations are made. Betsy Ressa Spokane

USAF people begin charity at home

In response to Tina Graham’s “Charity should begin at home” (Letters, Feb. 22): Each of our Air Force people receives an EPR, which is basically the Air Force’s version of a report card. The highest rating is a 5; anything below a 4 is considered to be bad. One of the most important things Air Force personnel can do to earn a high rating is community service or charity work.

My husband has volunteered for our church, the blood and food banks, Special Olympics and has run in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, to name a few. Several times a year, we donate food, clothing and toys to different charity organizations.

The wonderful thing is, all of the Air Force people I know give a great deal of time and money to our community. I imagine everyone in Spokane has had contact with someone in the Air Force who was doing some type of volunteer work. But because they don’t blow their own horn and brag publicly, many people don’t realize the Air Force already has implemented “charity begins at home.”

So, next time you see a volunteer firefighter or volunteers at the food bank, mission, Special Olympics or any other community organization or event, remember, someone from Fairchild is undoubtedly there, helping to ease the suffering of the needy in our community. S.L. Ray Spokane


Dobler column worthwhile

Kudos to Merri Lou Dobler and her “Five and fifteen” column!

I, too, am a registered dietitian, although now retired with plenty of time to plan, shop and prepare meals. But for the working mom and dad with limited time, perhaps budget restraints and most likely some picky eaters in the family, I think her suggestions, recipes and down-to-earth commentary must certainly ease the burden of fulfilling the American Dietetic Association’s slogan of “Eat right, America!” Ginny Larson Spokane


SB5124 based on sound thinking

In several recent articles, from the front page to the editorial page, Senate Bill 5124 has given a mixed message to readers of this newspaper.

Our society needs to break the cycle of violence that is passed from parent to child. Seventy percent of men who abuse their partners also abuse their children. This chain effect can be broken by education.

SB 5124 is meant to be a starting place for new families to evaluate their roles to each other and to their future families. These nine brief lines would be added to the marriage license application for the entire state. This wording has already been added to marriage applications in West Virginia and Kansas. Other states also are having hearings on the same type of bill.

The Washington State Medical Association Alliance supports this bill. The American Medical Association and the AMAA have a campaign against family violence, which is now considered a public health issue in our country. According to a surgeon general report, domestic violence is the leading cause of death in the United States for women. Yes, this is a serious health hazard, as this newspaper has reported.

Just as education has worked with AIDS, cancer and heart disease, we need to be informed with facts to make good decisions about our choices in marriage partners. Peggy Doering, president Spokane County Medical Society Auxiliary

Youth labor reform encouraging

Emergency! Is it Martians led by Orson Welles and John Houseman? No! It’s House Bill 1030 regulating the hours of labor and working conditions for 14- and 15-yearold students and 16- and 17-year-old students.

The bill says in part that it “is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, or support of state government and its existing institutions, and shall take effect immediately.” If the bill hadn’t said so, we may never have known.

Testimony for the bill concluded that work was good for students and a House majority agreed. Be good to 16-17-year-old students; allow them to work 10 hours a day, on school days. Let them work 32 hours a week when school is in session, starting or ending their work day at any hour of the night or day.

Fourteen- and 15-year-old students didn’t fare as well. They may only work three hours a day. They cannot start work before 7 a.m., but luckily may work to 11 p.m. every night prior to a school day if an adult (an 18-year-old?) is present.

Commend majority legislators for compassionate consideration of the rights of their future electors. If working is good for students, vote for the good. What other consideration could outweigh this one? Al Mangan Spokane

Congress should rein in IRS

An article in the Jan. 20 Idaho Spokesman-Review reports IRS intentions to spend $8 billion setting up a computer database, they say to catch tax cheaters. Did Congress approve this $8 billion expenditure?

It’s time Congress passed laws to control the IRS: setting limits on the number of years an audit can go back; on percentages charged in penalties and interest (these rates are now too high); making it a criminal offense for the IRS to investigate personal histories without that person’s written permission or a court order; and setting definite and stringent prison sentences for agents committed the crimes, as well as their superiors.

If you agree, contact your representatives and senators in Congress. A.B. Kellogg Sandpoint

Candidacy has stinger for liberals

In the past, we have been force-fed lies about Republicans supposedly hating women and people of color when, in fact, liberal Democrats only want to keep those named above held in shackles. For example: the failed welfare system.

On Feb. 24, Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, a Republican, announced his candidacy for president. That poses a very interesting problem for liberal Democrats, especially their accomplices in the media. Not only does Gramm have a wife of 25 years, she is also a woman of Korean background.

I will enjoy watching the liberals slime their way around that. Dave Detrolio Moses Lake

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