Feedback from our readers

Usefulness outlived

Once again I read Edwin Decker's article about the grocery strike [“Sordid Tales,” Oct. 22] and was stunned by the similarity in our experience and thought. As a 16-year-old rookie box boy at the Market Basket in Covina, Calif. in 1965, I too was forced to join the retail clerks union and pay dues for what amounted to a large chunk of my $25-a-week paycheck. I knew nothing about unions then-I was very intent on learning everything about cars and girls, and the $25 per week was my entry fee into those schools of advanced learning.

Shortly after starting my box-boy job, I crossed a picket line at an upstart White Front store that the union was attempting to bring into the fold. I didn't know I was not supposed to cross the line. There was no strike at my store. No one told me not to cross. Someone recognized me (Covina was small then) and the union called me in for a little chat.

Imagine at 16 going before a board of union suits and trying to explain why you had committed this heinous act (“I needed some fishing hooks”). I was terrified. The board, in their infinite wisdom, decided that a fine of $200 was appropriate. I told them that would be two months pay for me, so they agreed to let me pay it at $10 a week until paid. I also still had to pay my union dues. It was then that I realized the union was not my friend. Due to lack of funding, my cars-and-girls education was put on hold for a very long time. I worked at the Market Basket darn near for free. The market did not do this to me-the union did.

As an 18-year-old freshman at Mount San Antonio junior college, I was required to write a semester long-term paper. I titled mine “The Causes of Strikes.” Still working at the market and still a member of the union, I did some real good research and even interviewed the president of the union local. I must admit my views were still somewhat tainted (I had just finished paying off my fine), but I tried to be fair.

It, by all accounts, was a great paper with all of the research, supporting evidence, history, facts and opinions required for this project. It was my best work in an otherwise undistinguished four-year college experience. My conclusion was simply that many unions had outgrown their usefulness and in many cases did more harm than good to the workers and the economy in general, an opinion that I continue to hold to this day. My professor was a union man and therefore found my research and preparation top of the line, but my conclusion bothered him. He felt my research supported another opinion-his. My grade, received after the class was over, of course, was a C. So much for aberrant opinions.

I have not crossed the current picket lines. Not in support, but simply because I have not needed to go to the store. I will cross and if one picketer bothers me, he or she will hear this story in full and loud detail. These striking market workers will never recover what they have lost, no matter the outcome. For them to object to making a $20 a month contribution to their health insurance is ludicrous-my fine in 1965 was more than that! Keep up the good writing.

Keith Weatherby, Encinitas

One exception

I'll first start by saying that I am a huge fan of CityBeat. I often feel like an outsider in this city, knowing that I am surrounded by a vast array of militaristic minds and bible-thumping conservatives. I am reminded daily of their unfortunate penetration within this beautiful city when I jump in my car and take to the roads. It seems as though the majority of vehicles on the road don a sticker of the American flag. “God Bless America.” “United We Stand.” “These Colors Don't Run.” “Free Iraq.” And if it's not a hopeless display of patriotic ignorance, it's replaced with something even more tragic: “What Would Jesus Do?” “Got Jesus?”

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against bumper stickers or the right to free expression and free beliefs-quite the contrary, in fact. My question is, why don't you ever see a sticker or t-shirt that says “What Would I do?” Are there really that many individuals who are so lost and confused to the extent where they simply cannot trust their own decisions and intuitions? How tragic!

Something is inherently wrong with the reality that government-manufactured ideas are becoming the plague that has brainwashed free and logical thought from so many Americans' minds. It is being spread through media sources like the Union-Tribune and Fox News, as well as the vast majority of mass-media outlets in this society. I'm glad you guys don't sugarcoat reality and actually tell it like the cold, hard truth that it is.

In a time when so many just roll with the punches and do not question the decisions made on our behalf, there needs to be more skepticism and less following blindly behind “leaders” who have given us no reason to trust them. My views may a bit too “Bill Hicks” for the average Joe Blow, but if more people would step back from the media frenzy and yank out the anal probes that have been so carefully embedded in their asses by the Bush Administration, we might have a chance to become a strong, peaceful and respected nation that will be able to achieve feats of greater relevance.

I almost forgot why I wanted to write a letter to the editor in first place. My intent was to comment on my disappointment in regards to your Nov. 5 issue covering the wildfires. My head was still spinning as a result of the local news coverage of the fires. I'm in no way attempting to downscale the magnitude of devastation that occurred. However, I feel your level of journalism was compromised by taking the easy route and recapping the events that were reported by local news anchors. These “journalists” will no doubt place their efforts among their highest achievements within their “gold medal” portfolios of professionalism. If you guys needed a vacation, you should have just taken a week off. I know you could have put together that issue in your sleep.

Even so, CityBeat is, without a doubt, the highest level of journalism in San Diego. Please keep reporting the real side of important issues. I look forward to reading your paper every Wednesday and will definitely continue to do so. Thanks for being San Diego's breath of fresh air!

Alicia Freeman, Clairemont