Ill-Advised StrikeEditor: UAW Local 239 decided to...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Ill-Advised Strike

Editor: UAW Local 239 decided to strike the General Motors Baltimore Assembly Plant at 10 a.m. Monday. Mark your calendars, because GM management stood up for its principle of higher productivity. International competition has caused the erosion of GM market share and promoted the decay of the UAW. Without union concessions in productivity, the future of the U.S. auto industry is questionable.

I have had the privilege of working with many hard-working and intelligent members of Local 239 the last couple of years. Most members of this local are dedicated to their jobs and can be counted on in times of crisis.

Although in decline, the American work ethic still exists in my plant. Local union management, however, is being terribly short-sighted by allowing this strike to occur.

Recently, General Motors Corp. has been taking an economic beating. The company has reported losses in three straight quarters, has indefinitely idled three assembly plants and has laid off thousands of workers. During the next three years, the salaried work force will be reduced by 15 percent. During and after this reduction, engineers will take on new responsibilities, as will supervisors and their managers. Why doesn't the UAW carry its share of the burden?

My plant builds a product that is slated for redesign in the 1995-1996 time frame. The location for assembly has yet to be decided. This strike is a terrible blow to our chances. If the local union really cared about saving jobs of its brothers and sisters, it would think about where they will be working four and five years from now.

The time has come for the UAW to tighten its belt, roll up its sleeves and help put General Motors back on its feet. There are no guarantees for GM's future until it does.

Erik Lytikainen.

Baltimore.

Feeling Taxed

Editors: I read with utter disbelief your editorial regarding the boat tax repeal in the June 11 Sun. The editorial stated, "the budget agreement is proving to be more efficient than expected in holding down federal spending."

As someone who follows the federal budget process closely, I'm unsure what fairy-tale statistics the editors are using. At last count the federal budget deficit was estimated at $318 billion and the debt of the nation is highest in the country's history at more than $3 trillion. The 12-percent increase locked in with the budget deal of last year promises to increase the deficit to more than $1 trillion in the next five years.

If the lawmakers in Washington would only increase their spending to simply 4 percent in fiscal year 1992 until 1995, the nation would be running a $36-billion surplus in 1995.

Robert Lehman.

Baltimore.

Homeless in Baltimore

Editor: Your May 31 story,"Holocaust Memorial trashed by homeless, causing visitors pain," noted that visitors are moved to anger because the memorial has become a refuge for the homeless.

Those who daily experience homelessness and its ravages are similarly moved to anger by social and economic policies which condemn thousands of Baltimoreans to live the meanest existence amid the wealth of our nation.

Within the shadows of the glittering Inner Harbor and the new stadium one must observe the not-always quiet desperation of involuntarily displaced families, the unemployed, the physically disabled and the mentally ill -- urban nomads with no place to call home.

Among the many lessons of the Holocaust we have learned that silence is complicity and that we each bear responsibility for all of us.

The memorial serves to remind us of these lessons, just as the plight of the homeless teaches us that we have not yet created the conditions in which each of us can live with dignity, that the priorities of property and propriety are yet barriers to social justice.

While the causes of homelessness are complex -- including failed housing and development policies, the radical redistribution of wealth to the already-wealthy, a health care system motivated by profit and not by need -- solutions to homelessness are within our capacity.

In large measure they require a reconsideration of our priorities.

At the larger public policy level we debate funding for the military versus funding for affordable housing.

Locally we recapitulate this debate, proposing fences as a means of defending ourselves from the homeless.

Would it not be more sensible to implement effective solutions -- outreach, accessible health and mental health care, adequate housing with supportive services?

Jeff Singer.

Baltimore.

Faulty Logic

Editor: One can't avoid pointing out the faulty logic in a recent editorial. Your writer contrasted flag-burning and cross-burning, very laboriously pointing out that they are different, and therefore different rules of free speech should apply.

But the whole point is that they are not different. They are both examples of "fighting words". The accepted Supreme Court interpretation of the First Amendment could equate inflammatory expressions, such as these, with shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre.

The cross is a sacred symbol. In a secular society, the flag can be thought of as the same. Your editorial words are simply symbols: unreal things standing for other things. In this case, they are ideas. How, then, can you be so insensitive to the need for the protection of symbols as to accept flag-burning and protest cross-burning? And so inconsistent!

!Franklin W. Littleton.

Baltimore.

AIDS Flippancy

Editor: I am glad The Sun printed the letter from the tragic AIDS victim Kimberly Bergalis. Miss Bergalis is believed to have contracted AIDS from treatment by her dentist. Her letter should indeed be known throughout the whole United States.

As I read her short but graphic description of what she has suffered from the dread disease, I literally went into a state of shock.

AIDS has become well-known and publicized, but mostly without real details of the insidious progress of the disease. Apart from sadness from the inevitable death of the victim, I -- and no doubt most other people -- had no real idea of what the symptoms developed into before death came to the unfortunate sufferer.

Miss Bergalis concluded her letter with, "If laws are not formed to provide protection, then my suffering and death was in vain."

So let her suffering and death indeed not be in vain. To my mind, the greatest tribute we could pay to Miss Bergalis is to have her short letter printed, framed, and permanently displayed in every high school, and other relevant organizations throughout the United States.

No doubt many people would be shocked and disapproving at such a public and stark disclosure of the details, but ignorance is not bliss and it is folly not to be wise.

We all know AIDS exists and we all know people inevitably die from it. But our general view is somewhat remote from the actuality because few people know what that actuality really is.

All too often high-schoolers and adults are inclined to become blase, perhaps even ribaldly flippant, about their risk of contracting AIDS. "Safe sex" is often very far from "safe." It is something of a chore, even if people knew what to do. Familiarity breeds contempt, so sex can readily lapse into very unsafe sex, and the possibility of contracting AIDS airily dismissed by the usual assumption of, "Oh that could never happen to me."

As it is too late when it does happen, if Miss Bergalis's terrifying description of her symptoms were made readily available for people to read at any time, I think this would definitely have a sobering, and hopefully curative, effect on the flippancy, ignorance and indifference regarding the contracting and spreading of AIDS.

If only this could be so, then Miss Bergalis would indeed not have suffered and died in vain.

Patty Wallis.

Columbia.

Len Bias

Editor: The recent article regarding the death of Len Bias on the front page of The Sun brought the story home again.

The bitter sadness for a young man quickly escalating toward a life of achievement. His death sudden and quick. The build-up of substance abuse which probably was in his body the night of his "celebration."

Len Bias' abuse affected not only him, but many others. Family, friends, school and even his future employer (those who wished to hire him for the super basketball player that he was) were all affected.

Many lives were demolished by Len's death. Life was emptier for many. The public was greatly affected by this young man's unnecessary death. It was not an easy way to die.

Those who abuse alcohol and drugs push themselves to a level from which there cannot be a fulfilling life. Those who abuse alcohol and drugs cause a whirlpool effect on any relationships that they touch. These relationships are all part of the abuser's world. All are touched -- family, friends, school mates and teachers and, of course, those one works with.

Len was strong. Unfortunately he did not know or respect the strength of alcohol and drugs. They were stronger than Len Bias or any one person. The substance abuse did what no one could or would do. It beat Len unmercifully to death.

If he could or would have said "no" to alcohol and drugs, what a difference it would have made for so many others.

Alcohol and drugs can give a person a temporary high feeling. Drugs and alcohol always become a real downer to the individual. The impact of this destruction extends itself way beyond the financial cost of feeding addictions.

Many are touched. Many are hurt.

Can there be a gain from Len Bias' death? Yes, but it is not easy to say "no" to alcohol and drugs. In the long run of life, the first "no" could change your life. It could keep you alive.

Teresa Marcus.

Baltimore.

Small Is Beautiful

Editor: As a Realtor and an 11-year resident of Annapolis, I am in agreement with many other Annapolitans who want to have a low drawbridge, either new or repaired.

We like Annapolis and its historic district and its small size. We don't need or want to encourage more car and truck traffic into Annapolis by building a high, large bridge. The other Severn River bridge on Route 50 is sufficient for commercial and tourist travel.

Please listen to Annapolitans rather than the State Highway Administration.

Marguerite Luckett.

Baltimore.

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