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Overtime pay for farmworkers; a racial dialogue in the U.S.; how to figure a restaurant tip

Food for thought

Re “Fields of shame,” Opinion, Aug, 3

That Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied overtime pay to farmworkers after an eight-hour day flies in the face of justice for all workers — whether in an air-conditioned office, on the streets or in the fields.

All workers are human beings who have the right to just wages and good working conditions. To deny those rights to those whose labor puts food on our tables in favor of profit to agribusiness is unconscionable. The punishing results in lost wages and diminished health demonstrate the failure of decisions driven by profits rather than by the common good.

Lenore Navarro Dowling

Los Angeles

Harold Meyerson exposes his ignorance of farming today. The overtime bill vetoed by the governor would have hurt the very people it was supposed to help.

An average farmworker makes about $9 an hour. But much of farm labor is paid on a piece-rate basis, allowing workers to “make hay while the sun shines” during harvest.

Yes, the bill would have put California farmers at a competitive disadvantage. Farmers do not set prices and cannot pass cost increases along to buyers. The competition is global, as imported fresh fruits and vegetables are now 60% of the U.S. supply. And yes, farmers are fleeing the state for locations abroad.

Agricultural work is not office work; it’s seasonal, and when it’s ripe, you have to pick it — all of it — and get it to market PDQ.

Tom Nassif

Irvine

The writer is president and chief executive of the Western Growers Assn.

Race — can we talk?

Re " Obama’s racial allergy,” Opinion, Aug. 1

Doyle McManus makes a strong case for an on-going discussion of race. No question, prejudice is the elephant in the room, in the homes and meeting places of even those liberals one would assume to be beyond such inhumanity. Among conservatives longing to regain power, the poison of racism makes good fodder and is openly exploited.

McManus is right: Ignoring the issue of race will not make it go away or stop it from infecting our culture. But the initiative on this subject does not belong to a presiding president — especially one besieged by as many issues as Obama. Stimulating the discussion may be difficult, but address it we must.

To paraphrase the Quakers, let there be responsibility, and let it begin with me.

Peggy Aylsworth Levine

Santa Monica

Racial equality and ethnic diversity are important topics of conversation in America today. Yet to be determined is whether it is an oxymoron to think a civilized discussion on race and equality can truly take place. Such a conversation should also look at best practices from institutions where progress has been made over the last 50 years or so.

Demographers project we will be a “majority-minority” nation by 2042, so it is incumbent on us to have a conversation about race in anticipation of this change.

Finally, I would suggest that Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree lead such a conversation. Ogletree was President Obama’s law school advisor and appropriately has a new book focusing on race, class and the law in America.

Philip S. Hart

Los Feliz

The writer is the author of several books about race in America.

A race “czar”! That’s just what we need — another bureaucrat to tell us what to think about race and how to open a “dialogue” about it.

Come on, this is ridiculous. We’ve been discussing race, race relations, diversity, tolerance, affirmative action, who’s up, who’s down and who should go to the head of the line ad nauseam. What made Obama refreshing was that he opened the door to the irrelevancy of all that.

Contrary to McManus’ call for a race czar, there’s never been a time when such a person was less needed. Thankfully, racism is dying in this country. Why? Because it has become a colossal bore. And Obama’s election was an enormous factor in making it so.

Racism exists, but it’s a stretch to characterize a country as racist that has elected a black man as president.

Carl Moore

Lomita

The proper way to tip

Re “Is it fair to factor in tax when suggesting tips?,” Column, Aug. 3

Restaurant owners know perfectly well that the suggested gratuities are calculated on the full amount. They are counting on the fact that Americans can’t add or subtract, much less multiply, without the help of a calculator, and therefore won’t notice.

Tell them we don’t like it. We want the gratuities suggestion calculated from the pretax bill.

Wal Baur

Upland

I’ve long been aware of the post-tax suggested tip on restaurants’ bills and have ignored them, doing my own calculation of 15% or 20% of the pretax amount.

A much more cogent question for me is whether, and how, the restaurant makes sure to pass on to the server the tip I’ve indicated on my credit card bill. Often, I leave the tip in cash to make sure it stays with the server.

Harold Hartman

Los Angeles

Tipping based on the price of the food is a very sore subject with me.

Take this example: My husband and I go out for dinner; we both order lobster for $35, wine for $5 and cheesecake for $4.50. The total bill with tax for two is $89.

The next week we go to the same restaurant (and have the same server) and order the chicken for $14, iced tea for $2.50 and ice cream for $2.50. The total bill with tax for two is $38.

We should be getting the same service no matter what we order, but we are expected to tip more than double because we chose a more expensive meal. How does that make sense?

Benita Torrez

Santa Ana

Prop. 13 and the damage done

Re “Property tax rates higher in poor cities,” Aug. 3

Your article failed to point to what may be the single most important factor driving the disparity between property tax rates in cities with “rich” and “poor” populaces: the inequity wrought by Proposition 13’s reassessment of real property to full value upon its sale.

Because of the huge inflation in property values since Proposition 13 was adopted, even though the base property tax rate is uniform statewide (1%), as property values rise, the spread in the amount of revenue from property taxes received by a “rich” or a “poor” city becomes wider. But the cost of providing a basic service, such as a police car or street repair, does not differ significantly among cities.

“Poor” cities have used special assessments to obtain the revenue that “rich” cities obtain through base property taxes. This is just another unintended consequence of a poorly thought-out law implemented for selfish reasons by people who had no societal conscience.

Stephanie Scher

Los Angeles

The writer is a former city attorney for Bellflower, Palos Verdes Estates and Baldwin Park.

Careful what you ask

Re “Museum piece,” July 31

As an educator, I’ve long been an adherent to the old adage, “There are no stupid questions.” That is, until I read a remark made in Patt Morrison’s interview with Los Angeles County Museum of Art Director Michael Govan.

According to Govan, LACMA trustees have asked in regard to the museum’s educational outreach program, “Why are you working in Watts?”

Sadly, I must now reassess my position on stupid questions.

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

The writer is a faculty member at the Art Institute of California in Orange County.

Defending Meg

Re “Protests greet Whitman,” Aug. 5

I heard Meg Whitman’s “John and Ken” interview. They almost never let her finish a sentence, much less answer their questions. If they had let her finish answering the question about making her positions clear in other languages, they would have learned that she is printing her policy manual in other languages.

Working during the primary, I sat near a woman who called Korean voters and spoke to them in Korean. They were thrilled. Even while Meg was being ganged up on during the interview, I could hear a volunteer calling voters in Chinese.

I’m not a paid member of her staff, just one of the volunteers who support her across the state.

W.E. Bennett

West Hills


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