This letter is in response to Toni Staab's Dec. 31 letter critical of the "union mentality." I believe she made the best case for organized labor. If there was no organized labor in America, there would be a much smaller middle class. So not only would she be making a minimal wage and struggling with health care, but millions of others would be as well.
Does she honestly think that if unions were eliminated her company would give her more money? It probably would try to cut her pay even further because wages in general would go down.
All who think of themselves as "middle class" and not associated with organized labor or unions should realize that if there were no organized labor, they would more than likely not be middle class but struggling to pay bills even more. Organized labor has provided all Americans (not just union workers) with an honest way to provide for their families and live a comfortable middle-class life.
Good luck to you, Ms. Staab. Keeping plugging away and I hope your situation improves.
A decent mentality
Regarding the Dec. 31 letter titled "That Union Mentality":
The "union mentality" is simple: a decent living wage and benefits, a safe workplace and a fair grievance process in exchange for an honest day's work. I would encourage letter writer Toni Staab to consider organizing a union at her own place of employment so that she and her co-workers may also enjoy the same benefits. Ms. Staab can find a wealth of information on the subject at www.usw.org or www.afl-cio.org.
Unions and the workers they represent have worked long and hard to shape America's workforce into what it is today. You can thank them for things like child labor laws and the 40-hour work week. There is still a long way to go, and struggle has been and is still sometimes necessary to make it a reality. The Port Authority labor negotiations stirred more emotions than most labor disputes only because they affected more members of the general public than most.
Workers can make real and significant improvements in their workplaces if they have the desire and willingness to do so. Unions can help those workers achieve their goals, but only if they ask.
I write to raise my voice as one more in Pittsburgh who condemns the brutality of Israel's current military action in Gaza. Endless retribution will not bring peace.
Lax smoking ban
Recently, a smoking ban was passed in Pennsylvania. I am a non-smoker, so this posed no problem to me. I was elated to hear that legislation was attempting to cut back on areas where people could smoke.
I was happy with the decision until I realized it was not being strictly enforced. I assume it is difficult to monitor where and when people are smoking at all times. That is impossible! I do not expect an abrupt change -- I know it will probably take time. But some instances are inexcusable.
I am a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and I am frustrated with the lack of enforcement of the smoking ban. We are supposed to be a smoke-free campus, yet I walk out of my dorm and still see people smoking. They do not try to hide it, either. The smokers on campus look at the ban as simply a joke. No one takes it seriously. I still see cigarette butts all over the sitting areas outside; it is absolutely disgusting!
Students at the university are not the only ones disregarding the ban on smoking. I have recently read about certain businesses that have been fined for not enforcing the ban. I realize that people are trying to make sure places are smoke-free, but it has yet to make a huge impact. People find ways around it. I can only hope for tighter regulations and fewer exemptions from the ban on smoking.
Obama's right plan
Once again, the Federal Open Market Committee has reduced the federal funds interest rate ("Fed Rate Nears Zero," Dec. 17 Post-Gazette). This time the Federal Reserve has set its target rate at a range from zero to 0.25 percent. The policy of continually lowering this rate will not achieve the goal of stimulating economic growth in an economy that is in a recession caused in large part by a lack of consumer and producer confidence.
Interest rates need to rise before long-term economic growth can take place. The expansionary fiscal policy proposed by President-elect Barack Obama can restore full employment to the U.S. economy. Expansionary government spending will increase the demand for commodities and goods and services. Consequently, the demand in labor markets will increase, and interest rates will likely increase.
With economic growth under way, expansionary monetary policy can then be used to lower interest rates to keep the economy on its growth path. This well-known approach was first advocated by John M. Keynes in his book titled, "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money," which was published in 1936.
LYNN A. SMITH, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Economics
In response to the Rev. Gregory Swiderski's Dec, 21 letter to the editor ("Say What?"), I'd like to offer the following:
As a Roman Catholic priest, Father Greg should be more concerned about the millions of children done away with in the "legal" American Holocaust brought on by Roe v. Wade than with the temporary accommodations of our president-elect.
Mr. Obama is currently renting five-star accommodations in Washington for a few days as he awaits a vacancy in the usual White House guest quarters at Blair House. The millions of children who are murdered as a result of Roe v. Wade have no choice: They started life in a nice comfortable place only to be "evicted" because they were not wanted.
Father, tell me -- please -- that you're more interested in saving lives than in the short-term living accommodations of our next president. Tell me -- please -- that you're concerned about the Supreme Court appointments over the next four years.
EUGENE P. FOLEY
The gift of sex
Concerning Ellen Goodman's Jan. 2 column "Abstinence-Only Education Is a Joke," I suggest that we need to reframe the discussion and begin with the real meaning of sex. The beautiful gift of sex is given to us by our Creator. It is to be used by husband and wife to form a loving, intimate relationship and for the procreation of the human race.
Sexual activity outside of marriage is destructive to society and the individuals involved in it. One example: the incidence of venereal disease -- a result of promiscuous and uncommitted sexual activity, which takes a toll on the afflicted individuals and on society as a whole.
Our children have been victimized by the promotion of sexual activity foisted on them by TV culture and Planned Parenthood's programs in the schools; an expectation is created before the maturity is available to handle the responsibility. We expect our children to refrain from the use of drugs and alcohol. And that is possible, with discipline. That same discipline is needed to control one's sexuality.
Our children need good sex education programs to teach them respect for their own sexuality and that of every other person. They need to be taught the real meaning of sex. And if that is done, abstinence is possible.
MARGARET M. CLEARY
The drink tax ruling serves Onorato right
Congratulations to Judge Judith F. Olson for having the wisdom to rule against the use of excess tax revenues for other than their intended purpose ("Judge: Drink Tax Revenue Must Go to Mass Transit," Jan. 3).
The Onorato administration installed the drink/car rental tax as a bailout for the mismanagement of the Port Authority with no clue what would be the revenue generation. Now, with an excess in hand, some believe that without the ability to spend this excess any way the administration deems appropriate, there will -- once again -- be the need to raise property taxes to cover the loss of a revenue it did not even know existed.
Like hogs at the feeding trough, the administration has an insatiable need to consume every last morsel of income and continues to demonstrate its complete lack of fiscal leadership. When are the voters of this county finally going to wake up and vote for some real leadership?