Re “Not just to praise Cesar,” Opinion, March 31
Thank you for this nuanced article.
Indeed, all heroes are human, with real flaws -- and our history books should take note, because that is how we learn how challenging it is to bring about "change," work with others and be aware of our own flaws.
I have not read Miriam Pawel's book, but she might have added in the article that even the first part of Chavez's work as a labor organizer should be told with shades of gray. Intimidation and violence were used to make laborers who wanted to found a separate union toe the line. Does the end justify the means?
We need to ask these questions over and over.
Pawel writes that Cesar Chavez never allowed worker empowerment and that the United Farm Workers lost membership because it did not effectively provide benefits to members. She gets the story wrong.
During the 1970s, I worked with the UFW representing farmworkers. I recently visited some of them. They were proud to have maintained contractual compliance by growers for so many years. They received higher wages, benefits and protections than non-UFW workers.
Pawel notes correctly that many farmworkers don't have UFW protections, but instead of criticizing abusive growers she blames the UFW.
News flash: Most American unions have lost membership -- but not due to a lack of desire for union wages, benefits and protections. Employers, like growers, have used unlimited resources and anti-union laws to beat back union drives.
This is happening even in urban areas, where workers labor for the same company year after year. What are UFW's odds in desolate fields, where workers migrate from job to job and area to area, working for the largest industry in the richest state in the nation?
The writer is president of the National Assn. of Letter Carriers, Branch 411.
Pawel strikes a chord with her constructive criticism of the Chavez cult and the way he has been portrayed as an icon, with no human flaws or political contradictions.
Another myth that has been perpetuated concerns the co-founder of the UFW, Dolores Huerta, someone whom many people erroneously saw as just Chavez's helper or assistant.
It was Huerta who in 1965 directed the UFW's national grape boycott. Her organizing and lobbying efforts have constantly been overshadowed by those of Chavez, even as she still is, at nearly 80, active in progressive causes.
L.A.'s deficit and the DWP
Re “DWP-city feud may worsen L.A. deficit,” April 2, and “L.A. council fights DWP on rate hike,” April 1
By threatening to hold back the $73 million that the Department of Water and Power is expected to contribute to the city budget, the unelected board members of the DWP are acting beyond their authority, dictating city financial policy to the elected City Council of Los Angeles. We citizens can't have this.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is in a unique position to bring sanity to the situation. He should temporarily remove all the DWP commissioners and temporarily appoint as new commissioners the Los Angeles City Council, the men and women we elected.
As The Times has previously reported, the increase proposed by the DWP would simply bring their electric rates more in line with those already being charged by Southern California Edison to its customers.
So why all the whining?
Re “Who’s watching the DWP?,” Editorial, April 1
Your editorial offers a balanced and logical approach to improving accountability and transparency at DWP. The controller's office already has some ability to audit DWP, which was indeed used by former Controller Laura Chick to spur changes. Now is a good time for Controller Wendy Greuel to tackle DWP issues in earnest.
To ensure effective oversight, the department must provide a long-term infrastructure investment plan that details what it needs to rebuild its power system and to finally clean up its dirty power supply. This is just what the council began to ask for in its action to scale down rate adjustments last week.
A long-term plan allows for regular review of costs, challenges and contingencies. It also provides assurance that we might finally get off our dirty coal dependence.
The writer is a campaign associate at the Coalition for Clean Air.
Side effects of student loans
Re “College loans, no middleman,” Editorial, April 2
Private lenders were indeed getting a sweetheart deal from the guaranteed student loan program killed under healthcare reconciliation.
Don't kid yourself, though, that plowing the savings from ending the program into other aid efforts is going to make college any more affordable. As decades of tuition inflation starkly illustrate, the main thing that increasing aid does is enable colleges to raise prices at breakneck speeds.