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Court doesn't condone violent union tactics

A collective sigh of relief could be heard across Western New York when Judge William Skretny issued his decision reinstating the indictment against members of Local 17, Operating Engineers. Many of us are all too familiar with the violent tactics of some members of that union aimed at non-union contractors and the intentional damage to construction sites where they worked.

A recent News article concerning the federal government's case against members of Local 17, Operating Engineers displayed the skewed bias of the attorneys for the accused and the labor attorney representing that union. One defense lawyer proclaimed that the federal prosecutors are intent on "destroying the unions" and "circumventing the National Labor Relations Act." Others worried about the "chilling effect" on future picket lines. Apparently, they believe that the ends justify the means and that violence is a legitimate tactic to use against non-union contractors. In my view, violence is never legitimate.

Many of us in the legal and construction community were dismayed at the dismissal of the indictment. The victims of those tactics were no doubt disappointed in the legal system. As an attorney representing both union and non-union contractors in the construction industry, the allegations in the indictment rang only too true. Skretny's decision confirmed that demands that include violence, threats, extortion and the like are illegal when those demands seek union recognition from a non-union employer.

The comments from the criminal defense attorneys suggest that they condone violence in the labor arena based upon their reading of the National Labor Relations Act. I do not believe that any labor attorney will condone such actions. Nor did the Supreme Court do so in the cited Enmons decision. The court simply held that if the union engages in violent acts with a legitimate labor objective such as a strike, then those acts are not subject to liability under certain federal statutes. That is a far cry from condoning violence. Nor does it exonerate those who commit such acts and violate other federal and state criminal laws.

Patricia Gillen, Esq.

West Seneca

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Article on Prohibition made flimsy argument

The weakness of government arguments against legalizing marijuana were never more apparent than in Kevin A.Sabet's Oct. 9 Viewpoints story, "Cost of legalizing drugs would outweigh the benefits."

Sabet, a former federal drug control policy adviser, offered incredibly flimsy arguments to discredit obvious comparisons between our nation's catastrophic prohibition of alcohol early last century -- as portrayed in Ken Burns' excellent new public television documentary -- and current U.S. laws that prohibit marijuana and other drugs. He rejects this comparison because alcohol, unlike today's illegal drugs, was never totally prohibited during Prohibition and had a long history of widespread accepted use.

These curious observations do not negate the overwhelming similarity of U.S. drug laws and Prohibition. Both involve violations of freedom of choice, criminal violence rooted in huge profits to be made trafficking illegal substances, government violence to harmless non-violent users, contempt for the law by ordinary citizens who know drug laws don't make sense, hypocrisy of government and law enforcement officials who support laws they know don't work, high costs in human life and dollars, and a complete failure to curtail availability.

Sabet mentions marijuana only once despite the fact that the primary legalization debate has always been about marijuana, not drugs in general, which Sabet disingenuously lumps together. He probably avoided discussing the criminalization of marijuana because he knows the government's case against this drug is unconvincing.

A 2008 federal study found that more than 40 percent of Americans have tried marijuana. Most Americans know that it is less addictive and harmful than alcohol, yet millions of tax dollars are wasted policing, prosecuting and fining or imprisoning users. More than 850,000 Americans are arrested each year for marijuana law violations. Why?

Walter Simpson

Amherst

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Why lay off workers finding money for state?

Once again, Western New York takes a hit, while Albany remains at the status quo. I am a nurse/auditor in the Buffalo office of the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General. In two audits that I performed, I found millions of dollars in overpayments owed to the state. And now, I am one of the 35 employees in my agency, out of hundreds, that New York State has chosen to lay off.

I have worked as a registered nurse for the state for the past three years. After 20 years spent witnessing Medicaid fraud, I thought I could contribute to its demise. Yet, out of more than 50 nurses across the state, only two nursing positions are being eliminated: the two in the Buffalo branch. I am one of those two. Every nurse in Albany is retaining his or her job.

The PEF union members have voted to not accept the governor's offer. Many of them are close to retirement and would rather see their retirement plans go unchanged than save the jobs of newer workers. Therefore, 3,500 people will lose their jobs. I am all for reducing waste in government. But why eliminate someone who finds and recovers Medicaid overpayments? And why only in Buffalo?

I pray for those who made this decision and for all of us in Western New York who are the forgotten New Yorkers.

Cary Zigrossi

Batavia

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Some money-saving tips cost more in long run

Many thanks to Samantha Maziarz Christmann for her "Money Smart" advice for cutting your children's hair yourself. As a professional hair stylist, I love people who cut their own hair, because it offers me plenty of money fixing those "do it yourself" money-saving haircuts. Sometimes it takes them many trips to fix these chop jobs. We professional hairstylists undergo 2,000 hours of instruction to earn our enhancement licenses, but if people feel the need to try it, go ahead.

Charlene McCadden Rozewicz

Cheektowaga

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Media should ignore Williams' comments

Why do the media make a major deal when a so-called celebrity makes an inane and derogatory comment about our president? Hank Williams Jr. has been living off his father's name all his life and hasn't had a hit in years. He shouldn't garner even a blip on the radar screen, yet this story has been major news for weeks. Surely more pressing needs, such as the economy and poverty, should take precedence over this nonsense.

Marty Farrell

West Seneca