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Unions are performing vital, meaningful work

I write in response to the Another Voice written by Rick Berman, published on Feb. 27, and his support of the Employee Rights Act. It is disturbing, but not unexpected, that a labor lawyer has such a tainted view of the meaningful work that unions do on behalf of the employees they represent, the families of those employees and the community in which we live. It is not surprising that he does not have that same tainted view of the companies that employed him, nor the CEOs who make million-dollar salaries.

I have been involved in the union movement for more than 30 years at local, state and national levels. I have helped save the jobs of countless employees who were wrongfully accused by their employer. I have proven nurses innocent who were to be reported to the State Board of Nursing and could have lost their licenses. I, along with colleagues, have negotiated excellent contracts that set up rules for both labor and management that were fair and equitable. We prevented layoffs by creative thinking and working with managers.

I was instrumental in obtaining some of the first patient-lifting equipment in hospitals in the Buffalo area that saved workers from unnecessary injuries and patients from being harmed. I am far from the only union representative who has accomplished these incredibly important things, not only for our members, but so many others that these issues affect. I must also say that for the vast majority of my career and all the work I did, I was paid nothing. Nothing! We do this work because we believe in the rights of employees, and those rights are fought for and secured by their union!

Ann Converso, R.N.

CWA Healthcare Coordinating

Council, Political and Legislative Coordinator

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It's sad to see workers denigrating teachers

Over the past year, politicians and the media have obsessed over public sector unions and the benefits their members receive under their collective bargaining agreements. Because it is politically unpopular to claim that police officers and firefighters do not deserve their benefits, public school teachers have borne the brunt of this criticism. Because teachers ostensibly do not risk their lives on a daily basis, it is easier for people to allege that teachers do not deserve the wages and benefits they receive.

The media and politicians attempt to exploit public school teachers by portraying them as inefficient and overpaid government employees. I can appreciate the motivations of each of these parties. As for the media, such claims make for intriguing headlines, which sell newspapers and attract viewers. As for the politicians, their statements are shaped by the fact that essentially they are party on the other side of the bargaining table (to say nothing of the influence of election year politics and conservative ideologies).

What is surprising, and disheartening, is to witness private sector workers join in denigrating teachers. Instead of pressuring their own employers for higher wages and benefits, too many private sector employees say things like, "I don't get wages or benefits like that -- so teachers don't deserve them either!" This kind of thinking pits workers against each other, and the result is a self-imposed race to the bottom.

My heart goes out to private sector workers who labor long and hard for low wages and nonexistent benefits. But their wages and benefits will not increase if teachers' are decreased. In these troubled economic times, all workers would do well to heed this forgotten wisdom: "An injury to one is an injury to all."

Joseph L. Guza

Corfu

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New library districts would be very costly

This is in reply to the recent News article, "Picturing a new chapter for libraries." Erie County can still support them, and no additional personnel would be needed. I am against setting up new library districts for the following reasons. First of all, we currently have about seven levels of elections: federal, state, county, city, town, village and school board elections and representatives. We do not need another level of elections. It is very costly, in setting up voting booths, machines and inspectors, and possibly another election day.

There would then be a problem about who would appoint the personnel to run in the district (very political), terms of office, salary and campaigning. Very costly. Then you would have to set up offices, personnel and budgets. (More independent additional taxes). The State and County legislatures would then have to vote on the procedure.

Additional taxes would have to be levied, raised and paid. If that were the case, some people would then want separate districts for sidewalk districts, sewer districts, fire districts, police districts, garbage districts and others that are currently levied on our current county tax bill.

This is a very bad idea and too costly. I was the Erie County real property tax director for 20-plus years, am now retired and am familiar with this problem.

Dominic S. Telesco

Amherst

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Children's should have been moved years ago

Once again, the relocation of Women & Children's Hospital to High Street is being discussed. I was a member of the now-defunct Health System Agency. The minimally modified plan now being presented by Children's Hospital was deemed at that time to be not the right move, even though it would benefit the patients. Kaleida Health's board, Dr. Steven Lana and former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt fought it because neighbors and certain merchants of Elmwood Avenue were against the move for fear of loss of business.

Approximately 20 years ago, the former CEO of Kaleida Health, John Friedlander, proposed the idea of moving the hospital. He was ostracized and chastised for trying to implement such a move, even though it was the right move for the patients.

Now the same individuals who once deemed this a bad idea are out there championing the move of Children's Hospital to Main and High streets. These same procrastinators have wasted millions to renovate a badly worn hospital on Bryant Street. With the money they spent, a new state-of-the-art Women & Children's Hospital could have been built, including a walkway connecting to Buffalo General with money left over.

Once again, the managers have put money and their own personal thoughts before the real need, which would be the best possible situations and outcomes for the patients. If and when the move becomes a reality, I think the community should name it the John Friedlander Women & Children's Hospital.

Sam Todaro

Orchard Park