President Obama says we’re making progress in Afghanistan. I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but after more than nine years of war and occupation, shouldn’t we already have bombed our way to peace and freedom over there by now? I realize that freedumb isn’t free, but wouldn’t it be better to spend the $2 billion it costs us to kill Afghanis every week, here at home, on our needy citizens instead?

Fred Dixon

Why we unionize
Dec. 14, Dhaka, Bangladesh, at least 25 workers died and 100 were injured in a fire in a factory making garments for GAP, J.C.Penney’s and other Western retailers. A locked gate on the stairwell prevented escape, and many workers were seen to jump from the upper stories, their bodies engulfed in flames.

To American history buffs, this story instantly brings to mind a watershed event in New York City a century ago. One hundred, forty-eight women died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. Unable to escape because of locked doors, many workers jumped to their deaths. Public outrage over this horror gave new impetus to the fledgling garment union movement, resulting, after a long struggle, in higher wages and safer working conditions.

In a continuation of the parallel, Dhaka’s workers also fight for a living wage and humane working conditions. In a recent protest resulting in four deaths, workers demanded the minimum wage rise from about $23 dollars a month to about $75. Like their New York counterparts of another age, these workers face violence from the authorities instead of protection.

Here, outsourcing to the world’s poorest workers, like Bangladesh’s, eventually gutted our garment industry, and yet another source of employment for our people left our shores. We now have record unemployment for all jobs, for skilled, technical and even some managerial-level work. No one’s position is safe.

What will happen when benefits run out? Will we descend back to the conditions of the 19th and early 20th centuries?

Conditions forced on the workers of Dhaka because a job is too precious to refuse any hardship or indignity going with it?

May the sight of their fellows falling in flames provide the workers of Dhaka with the outrage they need to persevere till their demands are met — as it did the women of the New York garment industry a hundred years ago.

BTW, Mr. Rencher’s Power to Speak essay of three weeks ago on renewing the union movement was excellent.

Therese Defarge

Oak Park residents cheer agreement to clean up meltdown site
Unknowingly raising my three children near the site of a nuclear disaster has been without doubt the most disturbing part of my life. The signing of this agreement means that someday children nearby will grow up without the danger of radioactive and chemical contamination, and I am incredibly grateful to the DOE, NASA, the DTSC, the EPA and all other people responsible.

Cindi Gortner  

I’m gratified that our leadership in California and Washington has finally seen fit to move forward with this process. I hope these first important steps will eventually lead to a clean, safe environment for our kids to enjoy.

Eric Estrin

On behalf of the residents of Oak Park and surrounding communities, I am very pleased that an agreement has been signed to clean up the contaminated SSFL site to background levels. I express heartfelt thanks to Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap and our elected officials past and present including Fran Pavley, Julia Browley, Linda Parks and Barbara Boxer for the brave leadership that has brought us to this historic agreement.  Also, special thanks are due to the many activists, including our own Oak Park High School students who have worked toward this cause and never gave up hope.

Jay Kaptiz