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Views in brief

April 13, 2007 | Page 4

Wal-Mart's plan for a new image
Forced to choose between work and kids
Choosing our words carefully

Wal-Mart's plan for a new image

RECENTLY, I was listening to a BBC new report that introduced a new campaign being launched by Wal-Mart's corporate heads. This "Employee Self-help Initiative" is designed to encourage Wal-Mart's 1.4 million employees to take the initiative in kick-starting new programs that will improve their lives. Programs for self-help include developing recycling routines, eating healthier foods and even working to quit smoking.

Wow, it's brilliant: Instead of doing things that will actually improve the lives of workers, blame their personal activities and habits as individuals for their alienation. The wellbeing of Wal-Mart workers is supposedly about the personal willpower of the employees.

This sham of a publicity stunt borders on Stalinist propaganda. In a time when employers are on the offensive, corporations need to take attention away from the fact that it is their unquenchable thirst for profit that is responsible for the deplorable state of the working class.

Workers need health care, living wages and unions that will fight to win such things. If Wal-Mart wants better employees, the corporate heads should put caps on their own salaries, instead of their workers' wages, and give their employees the dignity and respect they deserve.
Alessandro Tinonga, Santa Cruz, Calif.

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Forced to choose between work and kids

ON MARCH 28, this story appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer: Beverly Fears, 24 years old, left her two young children, a 5-year-old and a 20-month-old, at home alone at 2:12 a.m. and went to work. Someone, it's not clear who, called the police, who went to her job two-and-a-half hours later, and arrested her.

She was to appear in court on March 29 to answer charges of child endangering. This charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Who is really at fault here? Fears did not go out to a party with her friends; she went to her job. The news story did not go into her current financial situation or why she did not have someone to watch the children, but this situation has played out over and over again, where young single moms, with very young children have been thrown into our already over-crowded prison system as a result of so-called "welfare reform" enacted in the mid-1990s, which forced welfare mothers to go to work, without access to child care.

Whether Fears was forced to go to work because she was caught up in the welfare system or because she wanted to avoid being caught up in the welfare system, the fact remains that she did not have access to child care, and she had to go to work to provide food and shelter for her family.

Who's at fault here? Perhaps it's time to take another look at "welfare reform." Perhaps it's time to put whatever remains of our current welfare system on trial, rather than our impoverished citizens.
Vera Zlatkin, Cincinnati

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Choosing our words carefully

I'M A new member of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and don't have much experience in the struggle like others, but a recent article by Sharon Smith came as a shock to me ("The Democrats' plan to save the Bush agenda," March 23). I really enjoy reading her columns, but when she used the word "cojones," it was a surprise.

I understand that the ISO stands for fighting oppression of any kind, and I think that sexism is a huge, long struggle that we have to fight. Socialist Worker is the way we bring our politics to the streets and bring people to our organization. When we put the word "cojones" in SW, it is hard to actually say that we are fighting that struggle.

We want to fight in any way possible, and that means starting with our paper. I don't think "cojones" should be used, because a woman should not be compared to a man's genitals to say that she is as strong as a man or has guts--even if she is Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, and she stands for all the wrong things. I think that when the word "cojones" is used, you are still putting women in the shadow of capitalism.

I respect Smith's work, but I wanted to bring this up because we need to be clear on what wording we use. I think that sexism should be fought in the workplace, at home, among friends and anywhere we can.
Jose L., San Francisco

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