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Suffering MTA, Grocery Strikes

October 17, 2003

So Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees are "examples of what was supposed to be the bedrock of society -- working people playing by all the rules and enjoying the benefits," according to UCLA labor expert Kent Wong, quoted in Steve Lopez's Oct. 15 column. The mechanics' benefits include a comprehensive medical plan, retirement with full pension after 23 years of service and paid health insurance to age 65. Who pays for these benefits?

I play by the rules, attend to the needs of my customers and pay for my own health insurance. I expect to work hard for over 40 years and to live in retirement on my IRA funds and other savings. The total disregard of these MTA employees for their customers -- hundreds of thousands of the poorer and most-vulnerable residents of this county -- disgusts me. They should enjoy the same benefits as the rest of us.

Andrew Shaddock

Manhattan Beach

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I seem to be unable to grasp my role as a consumer in the ongoing supermarket strike. The members of the crew at my neighborhood market want me to support their cause, even though I recently sustained a similar expensive hit in my health insurance. Reductions or cancellations in health insurance have hit most Americans this year.

The employees urge me to drive to an unfamiliar market, spending additional time and money to help them out. And what will be my payoff should they prevail? My reward will be higher grocery prices, shortened operating hours, longer lines and fewer employees, as the markets pass along the cost to me. Am I missing something?

Terry Schauer

Sherman Oaks

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As a union member and grocery store checker for 32 years, it has been my pleasure to work side by side with retired engineers, ex-auto workers, active Mensa members, credentialed teachers, MBAs, college graduates, college students, ex-police officers, housepainters, hairdressers, struggling artists, single parents, legal immigrants, the formally self-employed, tennis instructors, real estate agents, youth pastors, preschool teachers and many more.

The common thread that binds us is the health-care and retirement benefits this thankless job provides. We are here because of our intelligent, conscious choice to provide for our families and our futures. Please respect our decision to fight for our lives. Think before you choose to cross our picket lines.

Debbie Totman

Trabuco Canyon

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An impressive number of strikers are out there picketing the supermarkets. My question is where are all these people when there are 10 customers in every line and half the cash registers aren't staffed?

Timothy K. Scanlan

Duarte

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After reading about the $705 a month that MTA workers are demanding be spent on their health care (Oct. 15), I went to take a look at my most recent UCLA paycheck. The UC system, which traditionally has very generous benefits for its workers, contributes only $275 a month for my health, dental and vision. I pay $64, along with co-payments for office visits and drugs. There is something seriously amiss with this MTA picture. From where I sit it looks like a combination of ineffective group-rate price negotiation for the MTA's workers as well as extremely unrealistic notions on the part of these striking workers. The workers should recognize the sweet deal they currently have and get back to work, and those who manage their health insurance ought to do some serious price-shopping.

Emily Waldron

Loughran

Los Angeles

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Though members of the mechanics union may not inspire a great deal of sympathy, who can blame them? They are simply taking advantage of an MTA totally destitute of credibility. The MTA is a poorly run authority managed by an arrogant, bloated, hypocritical board of directors that, despite its crocodile tears of concern, displays an utter disdain for the riding public.

Ever notice how few board members show up at the public hearings seeking rider input? The MTA has earned its miserable reputation through a veritable laundry list of public outrages: consent decrees, prolonged lawsuits, court orders, strikes, miserable service on an overcrowded bus system, projected fare increases in concert with a transportation-related tax request. We should set into motion a recall of every MTA board member who is an elected official.

Ronald Fontenot

Los Angeles

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An Oct. 13 story in Business galled me, saying, "Wall Street has been pressuring grocers to trim labor costs." Analysts say that Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons need to fend off Wal-Mart, Costco and Trader Joe's by "standing firm" against the United Food and Commercial Workers and winning fights against the unlevel playing fields of the nonunion competition.

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