Will 'card check' work?
Your proposal for a secret ballot for employees would be fine in an ideal world. In the real world, however, the forces of intimidation available to employers are too strong to make fairness possible. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 removed the "countervailing power" required to offset the control of corporations over workers. That law flattened unions in this country and flattened manufacturing.
There is no more urgent need than to put money in the pockets of workers by strengthening unions. The "card check" law is a first step in that direction.
Having been on the employer side of an organizing drive, I know all too well how heavily favored unions are. Your article fails to point out that many union officials are in it for the employee dues. Recent articles detailing the corrupt dealings of local SEIU leadership reflect common practice.
If you really wanted to have a fair situation, employees going to work for a business should have the right to work without having to join a union. Let businesses be open shops. This would encourage both management and unions to do their best to compete for the loyalty of the employees.
Your editorial, while thoughtful, contained a fundamental flaw. The Employee Free Choice Act guarantees employees' rights to decide whether and how to organize a union, either through majority sign-up or a National Labor Relations Board election. While both methods already exist, current law allows CEOs to veto the employees' choice.
Removing the CEO veto would give workers real choices. An employee could sign a card for majority sign-up. When a majority had signed, these cards could trigger certification, avoiding today's divisive, corporate-dominated election process. Alternatively, the employee could sign a card conditioned on having an election. Or the employee could choose not to sign any card.
Your page rightly advocates restoring balance in the law for workers. This legislation does that by ensuring free choice for employees.
Rep. George Miller
The writer is the lead House sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Experts on trial
Your editorial was right on target. Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson's assessment of "pay-to-say" -- that attorneys only seek out expert witnesses who will support their cases -- is borne out in our courts on a daily basis.
My personal experience as an expert witness began in the 1960s. Attorneys who retained me did not always prevail, but I never testified for any attorney where evidence and facts did not favor his client. Attorneys lacking these ingredients had to be satisfied with my input as a consultant on how to question adversarial experts. My testimony would only hurt their cases.
The Australian method of "hot tubbing" seems the ideal way for a judge and/or jury to evaluate the merits of the case -- allowing the facts and evidence to outweigh the articulation and charm of either sides' expert.
Robert E. Lowe
San Juan Capistrano
The Times does its readers a disservice with its diatribe against expert witnesses for the defense. I have practiced criminal defense for 35 years. In my experience, in a typical case, almost all expert witnesses are called by the prosecution. We get buried by the county coroner, dissected by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department criminalist and battered by the "domestic violence expert."
Usually, we cannot afford to retain experts to rebut these people. We are reduced to arguing that because they are all employed by and paid by the county, their testimony naturally favors the prosecution. After guilty verdicts, jurors have told us that they were offended by our attacks on county workers.
Once every few years, a well-heeled defendant will have the resources to get his own experts to refute the prosecution twaddle. But instead of applauding a case in which the defense finally has a level playing field, The Times takes the opportunity to blast a system that allows paid experts.
What does a Supreme Court justice have to do before The Times will give permission to use the word "homophobe" -- comparing homosexuals to murderers and ruling that they should be labeled criminal isn't enough?
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) should be praised for having the courage and wisdom to correctly point out Antonin Scalia's homophobia. And, you know what, I don't need The Times' permission. Scalia is a homophobe.
Your editorial, like Frank, fails to distinguish between animus toward homosexuals and animus toward homosexual conduct.
You quote Scalia twice talking about disapproval of certain kinds of conduct, but present no evidence that Scalia has any feelings at all toward certain people. There is no necessary link between how one feels about a person and how one feels about a person's conduct.
A wife may hate the fact that her husband never remembers to put down the toilet seat, but one cannot conclude that she therefore hates him. A father may tell his son that it is unacceptable to smack his little sister, but that does not mean the father does not love the son. In fact, it is more often a sign of love, respect or at least concern when someone has the courage to tell you when you're behaving badly.
Michael P. Clarke
I see the brouhaha over Frank's remark as a sign of progress. In the past, few were bothered by being called a homophobe. Now, the term is considered an insult on a par with bigot or racist. This is good news.
Semesters make sense
I was on the Cal State L.A. faculty from 1958 to 1992, and taught under both quarter and semester calendars. For six years, I served as a dean responsible for undergraduate curriculum management.
With a 10-week quarter system, there is a lag in mastery, and students run out of time to catch up. It borders on sadism to subject students to a midterm in five weeks. Term papers, if assignable at all, are superficial.
There is a further problem with a quarter-system curriculum. Community colleges, with rare exceptions, are on semesters. Course content doesn't align in many fields -- especially those in which subject matter is developed serially, such as math, engineering and most sciences.
Despite the superficial attractiveness of quick, in-and-out quarter-length courses, students are better served by the pace and continuity offered by semesters.
Frieda A. Stahl
Take care with surrogacy firms
As co-owner of a surrogacy agency, I am saddened by reports of fraudulent behavior. Not everyone is out to take advantage of vulnerable parties. I entered this profession to give back to others, so they could be helped by someone who'd experienced the pain of infertility and who had trusted someone else to carry her child. The process is emotional and complex, and both intended parents and surrogates benefit from the guidance of an understanding, experienced party.
Surrogates and intended parents need to research carefully when selecting an agency. It is easy to jump in with your heart -- but thinking with your head can save time, money and heartache.