Views in brief

November 20, 2012

Don't buy the Hostess lies

I'M NOT sad that Hostess is going bankrupt, I'm angry. When a company triples the salary of its CEO and asks its employees to take pay and benefits cuts ranging from 8 to 30 percent, it is the right of those workers to say "no." That is what a strike is.

When that same company declares bankruptcy THE VERY DAY its workers vote to strike, it is lying to everyone. Someone will buy the brands, so Hostess execs will get their payday, and you'll still get your damn Twinkies. The difference is this time, they'll be made by people struggling to survive, instead of workers earning a living wage.

Unions give workers the power to say "no." Unions are why employer-paid health care exists. They're why the 40-hour workweek exists. Unions brought you maternity leave and overtime pay. They fight for workers who are unjustly terminated--say, because they report sexual harassment, or because they're over 50, or because they're not white--and workers who are injured on the job.

What do unions do? They fight for your basic human rights in the workplace so you don't have to live in fear.

That doesn't mean unions and union leadership are infallible (they're not), but it does mean we need to stop demonizing them every time some company claims--erroneously--that "unfair" union demands are causing their demise.

What are corporate executives doing when they make that claim? They're manipulating you into giving up your unions and thereby giving up your rights. Because it would be a lot easier for them if they didn't have to worry about a silly little thing like treating their workers like human beings.
Clara Sherley-Appel, Santa Cruz, Calif.

The limits of McGovern's antiwar stance

WE APPRECIATE Ron Jacobs comments ("Why McGovern struck a chord") on our recent article about George McGovern's 1972 campaign for president ("A bright shining illusion").

We can certainly debate whether or not McGovern would have ended the war in Vietnam more quickly than Nixon and Ford if he had been elected. In our view, there is little reason to believe that.

As we pointed out in the article, U.S. combat troops were withdrawn in August 1972 and the Paris peace agreement between Washington and Hanoi was signed the following January. The Nixon and Ford administrations continued funding the South Vietnamese government until it collapsed in April 1975, but we suspect that McGovern would have done the same.

Congress, where the Democrats had large majorities in both houses, approved the funding, and McGovern--as we noted--admitted that he voted for Ford in the 1976 election.

Ron says that we ignore "the more nuanced aspects of the election of 1972," but we think that he is missing the forest for the trees. The antiwar movement was bound to wind down as the war itself came to an end, but the question was where would the millions of people who were radicalized by the war redirect their political energies.

We agree with Ron that the Democratic Party was badly split over the war, and McGovern represented its most dovish wing. But even the Democrats' most dovish wing represented a dead-end for progressives, radicals and revolutionaries.

If more activists had continued to build movements and organizations independent of the Democratic Party, we think there would have been a bigger left in the U.S. today and that the history of the last 40 years might even have looked a little different.

We don't doubt the sincerity of McGovern's progressive supporters, but backing his campaign was the wrong choice for the left in 1972, just as support for the Democratic Party continues to weaken progressive forces today.
Sarah Lynne and Phil Gasper, Madison, Wisconsin

Abandoned during Hurricane Sandy

IN RESPONSE to "Disabled and left to fend for themselves": Hi, this is Nick Dupree. Thanks for telling my story accurately; it has been painful watching my story mangled, and people in the comments calling everyone who didn't evacuate "idiots" and worse.

New York City, like Washington, D.C., is a special city where the problems of the working poor and other marginalized groups appear on and next to the doorsteps of the top 1 percent. This is good, because the brutal inequality is evident and in your face.

An example during the blackout crisis we faced is that the (New York state-run) government office tower visible across the street from our windows had full power throughout the nearly six days we scrambled to get enough batteries to survive. They likely had generators going; since we weren't in a flood zone, their basement generators would be dry and fully functional.

But consider the cruelty of lighting empty offices with scarce generator power that people could be using, as I watched, hoping we're able to hoard enough amps to keep me alive.

Please keep exposing things like this, and publish this and future comments.
Nick Dupree, New York City

Inhumane treatment at Rikers

IN RESPONSE to "Left behind in the storm": Rikers Island Prison is so corrupt and should really be under investigation. Not only did they not evacuate the prisoners during both Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Sandy, but they treat their inmates like animals.

My boyfriend is locked up in that prison and he tells me how the commanding officers don't show any care for the inmates' lives. One time, they even refused to give food to my boyfriend, and when he got mad about it and fought back, they locked him in the box for 90 days. I would fight back if I was denied food as well.

The prisoners in there are human, NOT ANIMALS. As a matter of fact, I think animals are treated better than that. I really think that this prison should be shut down and be put under investigation!
Stephany, Vineland, N.J.

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