Saturday December 22, 2012

Reagan gets it backward on unions

In his column "Misdirected anger," (12/15), Michael Reagan, as usual, has things backwards. Unions, specifically the UAW, built Detroit, creating a solid blue collar middle class to pay taxes, buy homes, and create yet more jobs to for people to supply the needs of the auto workers and their families.

The destruction of that city, on the other hand, can be laid at the feet of people much further up the food chain than the blue collar auto workers.

Surely people remember the sterling American auto company efforts that produced the Ford Pinto, the Chevy Vega, and brand new cars that gasped and rattled after a year or two of normal use? Unions didn't cause those problems. Those incredible designs and low quality cars came from the executive suites of the manufacturers, as did the decision to keep producing "muscle cars" when an increasingly large segment of Americans wanted mileage and safety.

And who exactly shipped auto jobs to Mexico and other countries? Executives trying to sidestep their union contracts. Executives who think that labor costs are a curse and executive bonuses are a right. How did that work out in the long term? The phrase "bailout" comes to mind. The phrase "trade deficit" comes to mind. The phrase "dying inner city" comes to mind.

It takes a lot of gall to look at the devastation caused by union busting and blame the unions for it. But Michael Regan has nothing if not gall.

Michael Regan's own father, the former president, served several terms as head of the Screen Actors Guild. Would Michael Reagan apply his handy epithet of "union thug" to his own father? How about to the Polish Solidarity union which was instrumental in bringing democracy to Poland?

RACHAEL FIELDS

Bennington It's time to fix the vets home

After several years of turmoil, the near-loss of Medicare approval, rock bottom staff morale and, now, enhanced scrutiny from the state, isn't it time that someone in the chain of command stepped up and took some responsibility for the Vermont Veterans Home? This situation is simply detrimental to the well being of both the veterans who reside there and the facility itself. Surely the drumbeat of bad news is not good for attracting new residents.

The caregivers say it's staffing and overwork from mandatory overtime. The administration says the problem is scheduling and "call outs," but never explains what "call outs" means. Are they talking about last minute call outs, people formally out on disability, people on suspension, all of the foregoing, what? Are administration "call out" figures based only on caregivers, or do they include other employees like kitchen and maintenance staff? If the Trustees and the community care enough, we could find out which it is and fix it. The current oversight system clearly is not working. Let's at least start with a community advisory board to ensure that all the important information, not just selected items, gets to the people who oversee the Vets Home.

I, or anyone else involved with the Put Patients First campaign, would be happy to explain how that advisory board would work in practice.

LEE RUSS

Bennington