Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer; the South is Anti-Union; More on Larry Mazzola …

by on March 19, 2009

To the Editor:

While Stewart was sharp (though self-righteous and misleadingly judgmental and personal), CNBC’s Jim Cramer was a dud, making Wall Street types hardly deserving of any bailout. The great stock commentator didn’t seem to master what had happened or what was happening, as if he was just there to embrace mea culpas but without depth.

Stewart was predictably insightful and rightly angry, but it was like pommeling an empty pillow for Cramer is hardly the culprit here.

Robert Becker
Mendocino CA

To the Editor:

Yes, the Southern Republican brand is savagely anti-union — for that is where the money is, I mean union wages and benefits. But, I may say that on the side of the Unions there is an inherent weakness that must be overcome to win a second cold civil war.

Why do Unions accept a two-tier system? Why the workers with seniority can have a different treatment from the ones just joined in? I want to be understood: Seniority is the backbone of unions. I am speaking of the recent deals with Auto industry and the UAW to segregate between the workforce in salaries, pension, and healthcare? Isn’t that capitulation? Or think of the sweet deal between Unions and the supermarkets in Southern California few years ago.

I also believe that Unions by not teaching the workforce the meaning of being unionized and imposing some sort of mandatory meetings, there is no hope that we can compete with the Chamber of commerce or the managements who impose weekly (almost) meetings and leafleting on workers. The story of labor is not easy to understand, nor simple to untangle. So Union leaders should work as hard as the southern Republican Senators to enlighten the workforce.

Naffis Griffis
San Francisco

Dear Randy Shaw:

I’m a bit baffled by your March 16 article. Are you simply Chris Daly’s lapdog, or do you have something against Larry Mazzola, Jr. (Have you ever even met Larry Mazzola Jr.?)

Are you representative of San Francisco labor? Are you a delegate to the SF Labor Council or SF Building Trades Council? Are you in a leadership role in your union? Are you a union member, and if so, which one? What qualifies you to tell these organizations who they should support to represent labor on a SF board or commission?

You say in your column that labors’ support could “mean that the labor community believes Mazzola will bring a unique and critical perspective to issues facing the Golden Gate Bridge District, and will be a great advocate for riders and unionized workers employed therein.” Clearly, you don’t believe that. Why? Who are you to presume that labor’s clear statement of support is anything other than a clear statement of support from the people Mazzola would be representing?

If you want to argue that labor shouldn’t have a voice on San Francisco’s boards or commissions, that’s one argument. But you don’t argue that. You seem to think it’s up to you to choose who labor should select to represent them in city government.

I also have issues about your description of the situation surrounding the Civic Center Hotel. First, Local 38 does not own the property. It is owned by the Local 38 Trust Funds, a separate legal entity, operated b y a “joint industry” board, made up of union representatives and signatory contractor representatives. This is an ERISA Trust, with Trustees bound by very specific legal requirements about investments.

The Trust never decided to sell or demolish the Civic Center Hotel on its own. But in 2005, the City of SF notified the Trust that the building needed to be retrofitted for earthquake safety, at a cost of $2.1 million. The city form cited two options, demolish the building or retrofit. The Trust chose to demolish the building, only because the city required one or the other.

In the end, the Trust contracted with an outside engineer who determined that the city’s assessment was wrong, and that as a steel-frame building, the retrofitting was unnecessary. The hotel stands and the residents remain. Not because of demonstrations or City actions, but because the Local 38 Trust Fund fought the city’s mistaken retrofitting requirements and won.

The Local 38 Trust never had any desire to demolish the building or evict the tenants. They were as much a victim of the City’s mistaken retrofitting requirement as the tenants.

Just as important, throughout this struggle representatives of the Local 38 Trust Funds repeatedly tried to reach some mutually agreeable solution, including attempting to set up meetings with “tenant champion” Chris Daly. Mr. Daly chose, instead, to picket the Local 38 union hall. Is Mr. Daly’s choice indicative of his interest in solving the problem, or of grabbing headlines by holding demonstrations?

You are right about one thing. Labor does have “a wealth of talented people who would do a stellar job on the Golden Gate Bridge Board.” One of those people is Larry Mazzola Jr. The labor community has the right to choose who they want to represent them, and they chose Larry Mazzola Jr.

Rob Weinstein
Santa Rosa

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