Vote out those who close government

In shutting down our government, House Republicans are taking legislative brinkmanship to dangerous levels and threatening the health of American democracy itself.

The Affordable Care Act, a Republican-style marketplace program, became law pursuant to Constitutional protocols: approval in all three branches of our government. Further undermining the health of our democracy, mainstream media outlets all too often allow Tea Party Republicans to evade answering important questions, allowing them, instead, to hijack "news" shows for their political gain.

Don't furlough federal workers or shut down necessary governmental services (weather, space, Earth sciences, health research and so much more). Give these Tea Party Republican terrorists the boot they deserve. Vote them out of office!

Karen Joffe

Piedmont

BART workers' fight is most people's fight

The specter of a BART strike highlights how obviously dependent we are on a reliable transit system run by experienced and competent operators, station agents, and technicians.

Unfortunately, your Sept. 20 editorial "Region Must Prepare for BART Strike," encouraged the public to see BART workers as the villains, telling us BART management bares no blame for the lack of progress in negotiations.


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In reality, most Bay Area residents, wage workers and salaried professionals, have a lot more in common with BART workers than with management, the board or the general manager.

BART workers are looking for a salary increase that would have put them slightly ahead of inflation after the contributions they are being asked to make to their pension and health programs while BART management has held pretty fast to a smaller pay increase, which will result in overall salary cuts.

Consider the fact that BART workers gave up about $100 million in concessions in their 2009 contract when management projected a $300 million deficit over four years. Then, in 2010 and 2012, BART turned around and declared surpluses as ridership went up.

It now projects a $125 million surplus for the next 10 years, and some of the directors had proposed compensating the workers for maintaining BART's on-time and safety record in the next round of negotiations.

But BART is now saying money is needed to expand the system, update the trains, keep fares down. BART's negotiator, Tom Hock, refused to use the 60-day cooling-off period to negotiate, but told the union he would see them on Day 56. That doesn't indicate a willingess to negotiate.

The public would be foolish to unite behind BART management. Allowing another big section of the Bay Area work force to suffer cuts to wages and benefits and job integrity harms everybody. Local employers will feel justified in pushing down their salary and benefit packages.

Employment gains in the U.S have always followed those made by the labor movement.

Anybody who grew up here in the 1950s and 1960s remembers how our parents, without master's degrees and big professional titles, were able to buy homes and send us to college, usually based on one household salary alone.

Perhaps we should all reflect on who continues to benefit from the Wall Street debacle while telling the rest of us to accept austerity. BART management's decision to pay a union-busting lawyer who represents a private transit operator appears to be a part of a national push to enrich an elite at the expense of what the public used to count on — reliable service and good public jobs.

Withdrawing our support for BART workers when they have a chance to stand up and fight back is hardly going to do much good for the rest of us. Their fight is our fight.

Laura Thomas

Alameda

Japan nuke disaster is a scary reminder

While folks in Washington argue about the best way to keep as many American people as healthy as possible, I am thinking about the out-of-control nuclear plant in Japan. I have eaten food that came from a Dumpster. I have rafted down the Tuolemne River. I have tried marijuana and hashish. I have walked for hours in Oakland alone in the dark. I backpacked five times in the Grand Canyon. I was concerned. I paid attention. But now I am scared to death.

One bad mistake at Fukushima and no health care in the world could prevent thousands of deaths and birth defects, some immediately and some from cancer over time. I ask that radioactivity be monitored here in the United States, and that the United Nations recognize this problem for what it is and work together.

Albert Einstein said it best: "The splitting of the atom has changed everything, except our ways of thinking. Thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

Carla Haimowitz

Oakland