Union efforts gain benefits for workersAs one who works...


April 13, 1996

Union efforts gain benefits for workers

As one who works full-time representing the interests of working men and women in the Baltimore metropolitan area, I would like to express my appreciation for The Sun's coverage of labor issues. This new focus is certainly timely in light of the labor movement's renewed efforts to protect and improve the conditions of America's working class.

The most important duty of any unionist is organizing non-union workers. Every piece written about union issues inevitably cites the declining numbers of private sector union membership. I often speculate on the reasons for this. There are several: complacency in the labor movement, weak labor laws and Big Business' all-out effort to thwart union campaigns.

However, I have concluded that the most important factor hurting the labor movement today is its own success. Over the years, numerous labor initiatives have become law. These laws protect all workers, union and non-union alike. Unfortunately, only the union members paid the bills for the work involved in passing these laws.

Also, non-union companies have responded to labor's efforts by increasing the wages and benefits of their workers -- just enough to avoid a union campaign. Again, the resources of the union worker acts to help the non-union.

The effect of labor's success is that non-union workers feel they don't need a union. Some may that the best way for labor to regain its former power would be for the Republican Congress to achieve 100 percent success, destroying the legislated workplace protections and allowing non-union employers to do what they want . . . cut wages, eliminate benefits and job security.

Perhaps then the non-union workers would realize the benefits that they reap from organized labor's efforts.

Fortunately, there's no chance that labor will cease its efforts in fighting for the good and welfare of the working class.

If 15 percent of the work force must carry the load for the rest, so be it. Those non-union workers who read this must ask themselves one question: Whose side are you on? Join us. Carry your share.

Keith Biddle Baltimore

The writer is business agent for Teamsters Union Local 355.

Gaza responsible for its own fate

Doug Struck's March 25 article, "Palestinians in Gaza living under siege," appeared to be an appeal for special sympathy for what he described as a "desperate people." He quoted Palestinians as saying that "a blockade imposed on 800,000 residents of the Gaza Strip is unjust. A father should not be punished for what his son does. All should not be punished for the violence of a few."

However, in light of the recent surge of terrorism attacks against Jewish civilians, Israelis have become a desperate people too.

I think Israelis know now that they cannot keep making concessions and rewarding their so-called peace partners if they are still bent on saying one thing and doing another. Let those who support and encourage Hamas take the responsibility for providing food, jobs, medical care and shelter for their own people instead of Israel and the United States having to foot the bill.

Yasser Arafat, Saudi Arabian leaders and others have billions nested away in Swiss banks. Shouldn't they take some responsibility for their own people?

As long as the Arab leaders continue to fill their people's heads with hatred and continue to fill their coffers with weapons to destroy the very people who have tried to make peace with them and help them, Israel has no other choice but to protect its own right to survival and not continue to take risks for a false peace under the present circumstances.

Barbara Ann Bloom Owings Mills

Poe also attended West Point

In your March 30 article, "Bird for the ages," which concerned the name ''Ravens'' for the new Baltimore football team you discussed Edgar Allan Poe and his use of that bird's traditional association with fate as a metaphor in his poem ''The Raven.'' You mentioned that Poe attended the University of Virginia, but failed to mention that he also attended West Point.

When John Allan, Poe's foster father, learned of Poe's chronic gambling at the University of Virginia, he cut off Poe's money. Poe joined the Army. In order to complete his education and reconcile himself with his foster father, Poe entered West Point on July 1, 1830.

By this time, at the age of 21, he had published two volumes of poetry. After his foster father married for a second time in October 1830 and subsequently disowned him, Poe made up his mind to get dismissed from ''this god-forsaken place.''

Ironically the famous superintendent at West Point, Sylvanus Thayer, recognized Poe's talent and helped him publish yet another volume of poetry.

Since Poe needed money for an advance to a publisher, Thayer recommended that Poe get subscriptions from his fellow cadets by implying that the poems make fun of the staff. Poe eventually collected enough money for the advance and dedicated the book to his fellow cadets.

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