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Web Letter

Take the restaurant workers who line up for paychecks after twelve hours of work only to be told there's no money, or the nursing home aide who routinely works well into the night without extra pay, or the temp worker who packs food in an ice-cold warehouse without protective gear only to have the temp agency illegally deduct money from her wages every week.

Clearly, the authors never operated a business. Home health aids work one extra second without extra pay? I can rest assured you have no experience with them. I had them for years from various agencies. They won't stay one second extra.

As someone who owned a business in Hunts Point Market for many years, I can tell you that sending a worker into a walk-in refrigerator or freezer without an insulated coat is counter productive. Hands freeze, feet freeze, and they need thirty minutes to thaw out before working again. It's economics. But I am sure in a college classroom making up stories to position yourself as some sort of champion is OK. Perhaps the authors should find out who pays those wacky protesters from NYU at Union Square Park. They seem to lack the proper clothing for winter protests.

Dennis Dee

Marlboro, NJ

Sep 9 2009 - 12:03am

Web Letter

While Wall Street may have triggered the present depression, the basic cause of this economic collapse is "free trade." The only reason for "free trade" or open borders is to drive down wages, attack government regulation and destroy social safety nets in formerly developed countries.

The conditions described in this article have been practiced in Europe, since the advent of the Economic Union. I have a brother-in-law in Germany who lost his job when his company went to Poland for cheap labor. Ironically, the company went bust in Poland. But that didn't help him. Since his hometown is SPD, as was his family, he eventually got a civil service job with the city. He has recently retired.

However, his son and daughter are far from retirement, and have had experienced some difficulties finding employment. His daughter is a qualified landscape architect, fluent in English, Italian and French, and is forced to do contract work too. She has also written for magazines. His son graduated from Heidelberg University with a degree in economics and had some problems getting started! However, he is active in the Lutheran Church and found a position with them. You will soon need connections to get a full time job in the US.

Because Great Britain is part of the European Union, foreign companies can bid on building contracts in the UK and can also bring in cheap "foreign" labor to work on them. Local workers may live right next to a building project, but cannot work on it. Great Britain has massive unemployment! Unemployment or under-employment is the price of "free trade."

Pervis James Casey

Riverside, CA

Sep 6 2009 - 2:09pm

Web Letter

There is a direct connection between this "race to the bottom" and illegal immigrants, who are heavily represented in the service industries. We can't deny it. We can't get around it. We can't afford to be "PC" about it. César Chàvez collaborated with the then-INS because he knew illegal immigrant farmworkers would drive down wages and become an obstacle to unionization.

And the vehicle for busting unions (see LA Custodial Workers in the 1990s--majority black for generations, replaced by low-wage Latinos who spun around and became a movement with Jesse Jackson leading a protest waving a mop--no, really).

Illegal immigration has reduced the wages of low-skilled blacks by 7 percent. Workplace safety, sanitation and hygiene rules go by the wayside when you have a mute, illegal, highly replaceable workforce--see, e.g., the meatpackers plant raid.

No, I don't blame illegal immigrants for everything--but this is undeniable.

Tara Murphy

Washington, DC

Sep 5 2009 - 10:54pm

Web Letter

While this article is admirable and timely, how can we possibly believe, given this Congress and administration's track records to date, including their collective failure to even attempt to pass EFCA, that the "new sheriff" will conduct itself differently, in any meaningful way, from the sheriffs dating back to Carter?

Oh yeah, women were given a narrow SOL expansion to bring disparate treatment wage claims... claims that are nearly impossible to prove in most instances, just like most other employment-law protections--so diluted as to be meaningless, due to a thirty-five-year assault on them by corporate America.

I certainly wouldn't hold my breath for any meaningful reform or increase in enforcement from this administration, given its catastrophic capitulation on healthcare reform. Aspirational goals are nice, but absent significant enforcement mechanisms and strong penalties, any "reform" is largely illusory. It's not like there aren't ample legal protections on the books; they've just been gutted or unenforced for so long as to be meaningless from the perspective of the average member of the working class.

Ronald R. Heard

Portland, OR

Sep 5 2009 - 11:47am

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