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Letters to the editor

September 10, 2004 | Page 4

OTHER LETTERS BELOW:
Two parties for big business
Don't ignore the differences
Looking for an alternative
Starbucks short on a living wage

Trying for the job lottery

Dear Socialist Worker,
In mid-August, people rushed to San Pedro, Calif., and the surrounding areas near where I live in Los Angeles to find out how they could get a job as a dockworker. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) had announced they would be hiring 3,000 new dockworkers at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as a result of negotiations with the employers' Pacific Maritime Association.

Even though new workers are hired as "casuals," meaning they are not in the union yet, have to apply daily for work and have no benefits, this is a highly coveted job. You can start out making $20.66 an hour and work up to $28.68 as a casual.

Also, once you put in your time, you can become a fully registered longshore worker in the ILWU, one of the best working-class jobs there is. Longshore workers made an average income of $89,484 in 2003. They have free health benefits, pensions and employer-sponsored 401k plans.

The ILWU has also proved to be one of the strongest unions in the U.S., which is one of the main reasons they have maintained their workers' standard of living and benefits. For most of us that applied, our hopes of "winning the lottery" were dashed when we found out that close to half a million people had applied for the 3,000 jobs!

The ILWU had estimated that about 20,000 people would apply. This huge response just goes to show the depths of unemployment in this country and how desperately people want decent-paying union jobs with benefits.
Danielle Heck, Los Angeles

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Two parties for big business

Dear Socialist Worker,
One of the best examples that shows that the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are twins on economic matters is the infamous "bankruptcy reform" bill, which passed the House handily and would have passed easily in the Senate during the Clinton administration but for a quirk.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who was for the bill otherwise--as was the majority of Democrats and all the Republicans--blocked passage because the sponsors of the bill would not exempt destructive anti-abortion groups from its provisions. Neither side would give, so the bill stalled.

In the bill, instead of being given preference, women seeking spouse and child support were placed on the same level as companies seeking to be paid for credit card debt. Just another example of our great two-party system made up of Republicans and Republicrats.
Anonymous, from the Internet

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Don't ignore the differences

Dear Socialist Worker,
Several points about your claim that there is little to no difference in agenda and policy between Kerry and Bush, and that Nader offers a clear third choice. One of your main critiques of John Kerry is that he voted for the congressional resolution that authorized the president to go to war last year.

What you fail to mention is that this vote was for the authority to use force, not a declaration, or even an endorsement, of using force. Kerry was voting to make it clear to Saddam Hussein that the United States would use force if Hussein did not allow the inspections to continue.

Kerry is correct in claiming that Bush did not, as the declaration mandated, exhaust all diplomatic avenues before exercising force. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable that Kerry would stick to his original position--granting the president the authority to use force as a tool to get Saddam Hussein to comply with inspections. There is little doubt in any reasonable person's mind that John Kerry would have indeed exhausted all diplomatic avenues, unlike George Bush, who did not.

Now onto gay marriage. While you are correct in pointing out that Senator Kerry is opposed to gay marriage, it must be noted that he was one of only 12 senators to vote against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act because he viewed it as "gay bashing on the floor of the U.S. Senate"--hardly a position in accordance with the Bush administration's rabidly antigay platform.

Second, his position on gay marriage is essentially identical to Ralph Nader's. Both Nader and Kerry--unlike George Bush who wants to use the constitution to discriminate against gays and lesbians--advocate for equal protection under the constitution of the United States for gays and lesbians.

The only difference is that Kerry is reluctant to call it marriage (perhaps for genuine religious reasons, perhaps due to political fear), while Nader is happy to call it marriage. The real struggle here isn't what it's called, it's that gays and lesbians are afforded equal protection under the law.

I'm sure that regardless of the above, you still see Ralph Nader as a superior choice to John Kerry this November (never mind that he's not a serious candidate). However, my purpose isn't to convince you to support Kerry (that is clearly an impossibility).

Rather, my purpose is to get you to own up to the fact that there is a real and tangible difference between George Bush and John Kerry, just as there is a real and tangible difference between John Kerry and Ralph Nader. The differences on the above two issues--and many others such as health care, abortion rights, taxation, environmental protection and others--are substantial and substantive.

The differences are documented by a long list of legislative votes, policy papers, speeches and endorsements. It is high time that Ralph Nader and his supporters admitted loudly and clearly that they simply have honest disagreements with the Democratic Party, just as we Democrats disagree with your agenda and tactics.

If you believe in truth and justice as you claim, then consider admitting the following--the differences between George W. Bush and John Kerry are plain for any woman, man or child with open ears and eyes to see.
Amir Flesher, New Haven, Conn.

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Looking for an alternative

Dear Socialist Worker,
In my heart of hearts, I honestly believe there is no way that Ralph Nader will ever be our president. That being said, I am considering voting for him in the presidential election, because I feel that he stands for many of the things I believe.

I am a registered Green from New Mexico, and I voted for Mr. Nader in the last presidential election. Who is to say that I might not do it again? The national Green Party has not offered me an alternative, nor has any other party.

This is the issue, really. A political party offering an alternative. However he does it, in every place where Mr. Nader gets on the ballot, it is up to the other political parties, both Democrats and Republican, to beat him if they do not want him to win.

It really is as simple as that. This process of electing a president was somehow meant to be a way for us--each of us, not "the people," but all of us persons--to choose who we think will best represent our needs in our government.

I really don't think Mr. Nader will win this or any other presidential election, but I hope some of what he has stood for makes it to the White House. If the Democrats are so afraid of him, all they have to do is make me a better offer.
John, from the Internet

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Starbucks short on a living wage

Dear Socialist Worker,
I work for Starbucks as a barista. My store is a "short" store. Starbucks labels its stores like its cup sizes--short, tall, grande and venti--according to how much money the store brings in. My store brings in about $18,000 each week, I think. A neighboring Starbucks, however, is busier than mine. It brings in $30,000 each week.

I figured out that, in one year, that single Starbucks store could employ 15 people at $25,000 a year (about $12 per hour and 40 hours per week) and still bring in more than $1 million. Instead, most Starbucks stores employ about 10 people at $7.25 per hour to start, and never offer a full 40 hours per week. In other words, Starbucks could easily offer a living wage to its employees but chooses not to.
Nick Serrano, Fairfax, Va.

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