Unions are essential to bring together labor and...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

May 14, 1998

Unions are essential to bring together labor and managers

Matt Witt's argument that labor-management cooperation programs hurt workers ("Labor-management cooperation fails," April 20) by no means represents the view of organized labor.

The Laborers International Union of North America has found that in the right circumstances, labor-management cooperation helps workers and employers. But this cooperation requires a commitment from both parties and a mutual understanding of where such cooperation is appropriate and where it is not.

We agree with Mr. Witt (the Teamsters Union's communications director) that labor-management cooperation should happen only when workers and management come together as equal partners. This is precisely why labor unions should be at the forefront of building labor-management cooperation. We are uniquely positioned to work with employers to advance common goals while protecting workers' rights.

Some examples of labor-management cooperation that benefit workers and employers:

In Boston, our New England Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust worked with contractors to produce a video to educate members about tunnel safety.

The Laborers Health and Safety Fund of North America is bringing together laborers, contractors and government officials to develop solutions to safety problems that threaten highway workers.

Union training and health and safety experts came together with industry leaders and federal officials to develop an extensive scaffold-user training program.

Mr. Witt cited examples of bad labor-management cooperative programs. In this highly competitive global economy, the key to success for labor, for business and for America is in cooperation.

Linda L. Fisher

Washington

The writer is director of public affairs for Laborers International Union of North America.

City wants to license cats, but bigger problem is rats

I read with dismay your April 28 article "Council plan would require cat licenses." According to a lobbyist for the Health Department, stray cats carry rabies and are a health risk. Although I'm dumbfounded as to why the Health Department needs a lobbyist and feels justified in using funds for such a position when Baltimore faces other health problems, I'm more concerned that the Health Department sees this as a priority.

The real health issue affecting the city, and one that it refuses to address, is its rat problem. Are we to believe that stray cats reduce the quality of life in Baltimore more than rats do? Are we to believe that stray cats and the rabies they sometimes carry pose more of a health risk than rats?

Furthermore, stray cats probably do more to reduce the rat population than the city does. In case you don't know, the city's Rat Rubout Program, with its shiny yellow truck, basically delivers free bait to those who call. But if the Health Department and the city really believe that licensing is the solution to reducing stray animals, maybe the solution to the rat problem is right under their noses.

Matthew Blair

Baltimore

'Call to community' faces race issue head-on

To all who attended or read about the April 30 town meeting to talk about race relations, you should know that the residents of the Baltimore region have available a way to continue and deepen the conversation on race.

"Call to Community" brings individuals of different races together in groups of about a dozen people who meet weekly over a period of six weeks and talk honestly about race relations and racism in the Baltimore metropolitan region.

The conversation is designed to deepen understanding and move from dialogue to action. During the first year of this five-year project, more than 35 groups have met or scheduled sessions in upcoming months. We are seeing changes that come from people having the opportunity to engage in extended conversation.

New relationships between individuals of different races have led to relationships between organizations and institutions that didn't exist. White people who saw racism only in the specter of hooded extremists or hateful name callers now understand that such blatant bigotry is only the tip of the iceberg. As white people, we help perpetuate racism simply by refusing to open our eyes to more subtle forms of white supremacy.

"Call to Community" is providing a vehicle that enables concerned residents of the Baltimore region to learn essential lessons from one another and to build alliances across race lines that make unified action possible.

Dottye Burt-Markowitz

Baltimore

Clinton's initiatives on race neither new nor political

Try as he might, neither Gary D. Ballard ("Bill Clinton doesn't deserve African-American support," letter to the editor, April 26) nor anyone else can justifiably claim that President Clinton is politically motivated in his embrace of black citizens or in his appointment of black citizens to high posts in his administration.

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