News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 8, 2013

READERS’ FORUM: Sept. 8, 2013


----

---- —

Can we please figure this out with car seats?

I am a grandmother with a 2 and 1/2 year old grandson. There isn’t anything I would not do for him.

So, this letter is dedicated to Charlie, for his future. We have to figure out something with these car seats. There has to be someone out there smart enough to figure this out.

I have ideas, but I do not know how to implement them. A car seat that senses when the car heats up to 100 degrees? Or it senses a weight greater than the car seat itself along with the heat temp, then the sensor goes off? When this sensor goes off, an alarm is sent to your cell phone, your home phone, your computer, your work phone, or all of them. That would also remind you that hey, my animal is in the car, my child is in the car.

Maybe this sensor could even release the belts on the car seat, or open the car door. This car seat may cost a little more, but what is the price you put on a child? Or, it could even be a device to attach to the car seat.

I do not know what the answer is, but there has to be something that can be done about this. Someone, somewhere can figure this out.

When I heard about the death of the 2-and-a-1/2-year-old boy, I cried. I cannot get this out of my mind. This is a horrible tragedy that should not have happened. We do not want this to happen to anyone again.

I do not know this family, but I have not stopped thinking about them. Come on, you geniuses out there, run with this idea and make it work. There has to be a way to make this happen.

— Polly Bigney

Terre Haute

It is time to reform immigration laws in U.S.

When St. Mother Theodore Guerin left her home in France to come to the woodlands of Indiana, she and her companions were filled with a vision that has truly made an impact on the state of Indiana. It did not take long for these immigrant women to learn the language of their new country and to make a significant difference in the lives of so many Hoosiers.

Today the Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods continue the legacy of St. Mother Theodore as together with so many partners across the United States we are involved with immigrants and their families in a variety of ways. We have seen their struggles and heard their stories. We recognize our moral responsibility to be active on their behalf and to move to action by praying, fasting and working to reform our immigration laws in a compassionate and comprehensive way.

We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in the movement for immigration reform. As people of faith, we believe that we must engage our communities in prayerful action in solidarity with those whose lives are directly impacted by our unjust immigration policies and who will be most impacted by reforms being considered by policy makers. What we seek is immigration reform that reflects the best of our values and helps to build stronger, more welcoming communities.

Beginning Sept. 9 and ending Oct. 18, what we ask is that you join us in 40 days of fasting, prayer and advocacy to transform our hearts and our immigration system (www.fastaction.us). We agree with the U.S. Catholic Bishops that now is the time to pass just and compassionate immigration reform. We ask your support for such immigration reform that:

• Provides a path to citizenship for undocumented persons in our country.

• Preserves family unity as a cornerstone of our national immigration system.

• Provides legal paths for low-skilled immigrant workers to come and work in the United States.

• Restores due process protections to our immigration enforcement policies.

• Addresses the root causes of migration, such as persecution and economic disparity.  

We ask you to prayerfully consider the history of your own family and then to look at the struggles of the immigrants who are trying to provide for their families. As an immigrant country we can no longer wait. Now is the time to make a difference.

— Sister Denise Wilkinson, S.P.

General Superior

— Sister Lisa Stallings, S.P.

Vicar

— Sister Jenny Howard, S.P.

General Officer

— Sister Mary Beth

Klingel, S.P.,

General Officer

— Sister Dawn

Tomaszewski, S.P.

General Officer Sisters of Providence of St. Mary-of-the-Woods

Economic justice remains the goal

“The way we are living,/ timorous or bold,/ will have been our life.”

— Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize Poet, d. Aug. 30, 2013



The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included this item in its list of 10 Demands:

“8. A national minimum wage act that will give Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2 an hour fails to do this).”

Martin Luther King Jr.’s  Dream always had an economic dimension to it.  And it wasn’t a black or white thing. As President Obama proclaimed in his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the march:

“Dr. King explained that the goals of African-Americans were identical to working people of all races: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, health and welfare measures — conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children and respect in the community.”

Today the children of the 1963 dream no longer sit in the back of the bus. But the children of the dream and their children, those who step onto the economic bus that is the American economy in 2013, have every right to ask, “Where is our place on this bus?” The answer to this question is clear: Far too many are crowded in the back of our nation’s economic bus.

Martin Luther King Jr. was fully aware of growing income inequality in our society and the evils following in its wake.

“The contemporary tendency in our society,” Dr. King wrote in 1967, “is to base our distribution on scarcity, which has vanished, and to compress our abundance into the overfed mouths of the middle and upper classes until they gag with superfluity. If democracy is to have breadth of meaning, it is necessary to adjust this inequity. It is not only moral, but it is also intelligent. We are wasting and degrading human life by clinging to archaic thinking.”

Calling for a $2 an hour minimum wage to help create a decent standard of living for workers in the back of the economic bus was criticized as extreme in 1963. King was regularly castigated as being “precipitous,” “unrealistic,” “radical” for wanting “freedom now!” and for demanding fairness, opportunity  and economic justice.

But King, the dreamer we celebrate and venerate today, never accepted a time restriction on the achieving of basic human rights. As he asked and answered in his Selma to Montgomery speech, “How Long, Not Long.” It was in this speech Dr. King spoke of the arc of the moral universe as being long, but bending toward justice. And for King, bending the arc toward justice was the work of the here and now, not the soon or the someday.

As mentioned, President Obama recognized Dr. King’s and the 1963 march’s call for a decent wage for all working people. The president and his advisors and the members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are regularly throwing numbers at the economic problems in this great and rich nation. Here are some numbers all of us should keep in mind. The march organizers called for a wage floor of $2 an hour. Think about this: $2 in 1963 is more than $14.80 in 2013 — that is more than double the current federal minimum wage. And the minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009.

How long, Not long — time to get to work bending the moral arc toward economic justice.

— Gary Daily

Terre Haute

Standing up for the worker

In the spirit of education, I would like to submit some information that the average American worker may not know exists.

Among the many laws drafted for the protection of workers is The Wagner Act. The Wagner Act, The National Labor Relations Act (1935), was and is the single most important piece of labor legislation enacted in the United States in the 20th century. The purpose of this bill was to eliminate employers’ interference with the autonomous organization of workers into unions.

Sponsored by Sen. Robert F. Wagner, a Democrat from New York, the Wagner Act established the federal government as the regulator and ultimate arbiter of labor relations. It set up a permanent three-member (now a five-member) National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with the power to protect the rights of workers to organize into unions and penalize employers who violate this enforceable law.

An International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) representative named Mike Lucas uncapped the power of this law, and challenged the board whose duty it was/is to protect every worker in this country. In doing so he opened the door for many potential Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges against unlawful employers and allowed union representatives to defend unrepresented (non-union) employees who would not have any chance of standing up to bullying tactics of unfair employers on their own.

I would like to share some personal experiences I have had with the NLRB. During my normal rounds one day as a representative for IBEW Local 725, I checked on a Wabash Valley construction site that was determined to be a prevailing wage job site. I entered the building and saw three workers inside and struck up a conversation with them. I introduced myself and after a chat I asked them if they were making prevailing wages and benefits, as the local and state governing bodies had set.

They looked at each other and replied that their employer had promised them he would do so but was currently paying them their normal wage, which was far below the prevailing wage and benefit determination. I explained to them the fact that they deserved to make, by law, much more than their employer was currently paying them on this job. I asked them, and they agreed, to fill out some paperwork stating how much they were making, including benefits, which they were not receiving.

Representing these workers, I filed the appropriate ULP charges against the employer with the NLRB. Several days later I got a call from one of the workers who told me that the three had been fired because of their cooperation with the union. I met with the three men and explained that their employer had violated the law and that I would file additional ULP charges with the NLRB, which I did.

The three men were re-hired, with back pay at the prevailing wage, as condition of the violation of the law. Unfortunately, the men were segregated from the rest of the shop’s employees upon their return, which is another violation of the Wagner Act. I filed the appropriate ULP charges yet again. I was just doing my job, but there was more to it than me doing my job. These men were risking their livelihood. They hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, they were doing everything that was right; they were just going to work to make a living for themselves and their families.

The ULP charges I presented were eventually upheld and the unlawful employer was fined. The three employees who were fired, re-hired, then segregated for doing what they thought was right are now all union members; one carpenter and two electricians. They are now making more money with good benefits to provide for their families and don’t have to worry about being alone and unrepresented in the workplace under their former employer’s exploiting practices.

This case is a perfect example of why the NLRB was originally established; to enforce labor laws. This would not have been, nor will be, the case if appointees who end up on the National Labor Relations Board are unsympathetic toward middle-class workers they are charged to represent.

— James D. Runyan

Member IBEW Local 725


Terre Haute

Focus on helping working folks

Nancy Guyott’s Labor Day letter was a good rallying cry, but I thought it came up short in some other areas.

While national politics are part of the solution, should we be focused on what we can do in the next election in Indiana to start laying the groundwork for the change she speaks of? In Indiana, there will be House and Senate seats up for election. Can we stop or slow the influx of low-paying jobs coming into Indiana by changing leadership here? Can right-to-work be revoked? If so, is this where that is started? Could part of the solution be to stop giving companies property tax breaks that take away from the education of our kids? If these companies pay a sub-standard wage that does nothing for the local economy, then why give up anything for a negative return?

I just cannot get behind raising the minimum wage as being part of the solution. Won’t the employee lose the raise once the price increases that usually follow this kick in and won’t it put people making more even farther in the hole? Granted, the current job situation makes these family-supporting jobs, but they are supposed to be entry-level jobs for younger people. If everyone is working then will we need the extra weight of Obamacare on our system here in Indiana?

Other questions I have are what does the immigration bill have to do with the employment conditions in Indiana? This sounded more like party politics to increase the voter base of the Democrats. Voting was not mentioned in your letter. Won’t the number of non-union voters have the biggest impact on the next election? Should it be stressed that if you are tired of paying for the millionaires club tax breaks or not, and making a living or existing check-to-check, then vote the leaders out who are OK with the current employment situation here in our state.

Also, it should not be forgotten that some citizens are at the lower end of the pay scale by their choice, not some political policy. It’s no secret that lack of a high school diploma or GED will get you nothing but a low-paying job that offers nothing. So it is up to those citizens to take that step in fixing their employment status.

We should be focusing efforts to help the citizens that go to work every day, not the ones who would rather sit at home and let someone else work and support them. It should be remembered that a lot of these everyday workers have heard how important they are at election time only to be forgotten after. Right now they don’t have much of a reason to believe or trust anyone who says they are fighting for their situation.

— Mike Travelstead

Terre Haute

Girls can’t wait to be ‘Daisies’

Once again the fall season is upon us and girls are beginning to head back to school.

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana invites all girls who entered kindergarten this fall to become Girl Scout Daisies. Girl Scout Daisies meet in a nurturing, inclusive environment. They learn many new skills while having fun and making new friends. They go on trips, learn about nature and science, and explore the arts in their communities.

Girl Scout Daisies can also earn learning petals and receive participation patches.

Hannah, a new Girl Scout Daisy, was heard saying, “I love being a Daisy. It’s hard not to when you have so much fun. I’ve made so many new friends.”

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana is always looking for adults who want to help Girl Scout Daisies on their path through Girl Scouting. Adults who volunteer find it is very rewarding to see a girl achieve her full potential and use her leadership skills. Girls cannot achieve their full potential without dedicated adult volunteers to steer them along the path.

For more information about Girl Scouts, visit girlscoutsindiana.org or call 855-GSCIN-4U.

— Stacey Rozmin

Membership Development Manager

Girl Scouts of Central Indiana