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Letters to the editor

April 13, 2001 | Page 8

Providence mayor is in trouble again
You wouldn't guess they're Democrats
FDA has gone from watchdog to lapdog
Campus cops caught spying on anti-sweatshop activists

Nonprofits aren't kinder and gentler

Dear Socialist Worker,
In the face of an oncoming recession, it's easy to focus on the bursting bubble in the high-tech sector. But employees at non-profit companies can also feel the sting.

Since I began working at a nonprofit company four years ago, my bosses have told my coworkers and me that our nonprofit status makes us a "kinder, gentler company." What a load of garbage.

Recently, the company president called the employees together for a meeting. Amid a polished slide presentation filled with executive double-speak and indecipherable jargon about "dysfunctional matrices," "functional stovepipes," and "process tunnels," we were told that we were "failures at innovation" and not "efficient enough."

We were told that we may have to reapply for our jobs, be reassigned to different jobs without our consent and our salaries may be frozen. As you might imagine, employee stress levels have skyrocketed during the past several weeks.

What's management's solution? They've offered us the chance to sign up for a five-minute "mini-massage" and ordered a few books on stress management for our library--including one that's a parable about cheese?!

At one point in his presentation, our president summed up Marxist economics for me better than I thought possible. "For those of you who think that a nonprofit company doesn't need to make a profit, you're wrong," he said. "A nonprofit company must make a profit like any other company, in order to compete."

Although we don't have a union, many people who have been hostile to union ideas in the past are beginning to see why unions are necessary to protect workers on the job.

Nicole Colson, Philadelphia

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Providence mayor is in trouble again

Dear Socialist Worker,
Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci was indicted April 2 on federal charges of bribery and racketeering in what has been a year-long investigation by federal officials. Cianci's chief aide and other high-ranking officials have also been indicted.

The specific crimes range from taking bribes to giving local contractors choice jobs. Cianci has been trying to avoid an indictment since the beginning of what the federal officials have labeled "Operation Plunder Dome."

In a recent television poll, 40 percent of Providence residents think Cianci should resign. But Cianci won't listen to them, the governor or anyone else who has asked him to leave office.

If only ordinary people had the rights that Cianci's money has bought him! Cianci has a violent criminal record. He was convicted of assault after kidnapping a man, hog-tying him, torturing him with cigarette burns and urinating on him--all with the help of his police goons.

Cianci--unlike the hundreds of people arrested in Providence each year--has been able to buy his way through the court system and largely avoid facing up to his crimes. It is sheer hypocrisy for Cianci to talk about being innocent until proven guilty when innocent men like Derick Hazard and Aldrin Diaz sit rotting in prison in Rhode Island, put there by Cianci's corrupt cops.

Dana Blanchard, Providence

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You wouldn't guess they're Democrats

Dear Socialist Worker,
Massachusetts is arguably one of the most liberal states in the union. Yet Massachusetts Democrats continually mimic right-wing Democrats and moderate Republicans.

For example, House Speaker Tom Finneran has gutted bills intended to regulate HMOs and ban ATM surcharges. Now he's trying to destroy a campaign finance reform bill that 67 percent of voters supported in a 1998 referendum. And all the "leftish" Democrats in the state house are keeping quiet while Finneran struts about with impunity.

And while big developers built luxury apartments in the city, Boston Mayor Tom Menino--a Democrat--stood by without even considering a public housing clause. Now housing costs are so outrageous that it's not uncommon for people to commute from out of state.

Legislative pressure doesn't work. Instead, we should look to an alternative from below, like the 1968 protests for affordable housing which eventually culminated in Tent City--one of the few bastions of affordable housing still standing near central Boston.

The Democrats have sold us out to big business too often. It's time to get our share of the wealth--our way.

Mitch Lewis, Cambridge, Mass.

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FDA has gone from watchdog to lapdog

Dear Socialist Worker,
In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that five drug companies were producing nine vaccines using ingredients from cattle from countries where mad cow disease is a risk. Eight years ago and repeatedly thereafter, the FDA issued instructions to drug companies not to use ingredients made from European cattle.

Among the companies that ignored the FDA are some of the biggest names in drug manufacturing--GlaxoSmithKline and Aventis, for example. Now they say they'll behave.

But why did it take the FDA so long to discover that their directives were being ignored? The answer can be found in how the FDA has evolved from a watchdog agency to a "partner" of the pharmaceutical and food industry in the 1990s.

The FDA used to emphasize safety even if it meant drugs were slow to get to market. Now the FDA rushes drugs to market, and its safety record is last among industrialized countries.

In the past three years, 10 drugs have been pulled for safety reasons--after 22 million people took those drugs. Worrying about E. coli contamination in our hamburgers is bad, but now we also have to worry that the medicine we take to cure our food poisoning might kill us, too.

Bill Roberts, Chicago

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Campus cops caught spying on anti-sweatshop activists

Dear Socialist Worker,
It seems that the police have taken a keen interest in the student movement against corporate greed. Keith Rosenthal's letter in Socialist Worker last month showed that the cops are willing to intimidate antiglobalization activists even as they study in their dorm rooms.

But Michigan State University (MSU) police have gone them one better. Last year, MSU police officer Jamie Gonzales posed as elementary education junior "Samantha Volare," so she could infiltrate the campus chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops.

She was only recently discovered after she was seen on campus wearing her uniform. The student government and even the head of MSU's College Republicans have condemned the police.

But the administration sees it differently. MSU Trustee David Porteous argued that spying on student groups was necessary and wouldn't "have any sort of chilling effect on students and their First Amendment rights."

Hopefully he'll be proved half right, and the anger over this police abuse will stir up more activism against corporate greed and pro-corporate university hacks like Porteous. The whole thing points to the hypocrisy of what's considered freedom of speech and assembly in our society.

The media was more than willing to make right-wing nut David Horowitz a "First Amendment" hero when students confiscated newspapers carrying his racist tirades last month. There has hardly been a murmur about what went down at MSU.

Adam Turl, Chicago

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