April 2011 Issue
March 20, 2011

Letters: How much sacrifice is enough?

Source: NYSUT United

How much sacrifice is enough?

Growing up I enjoyed playing team sports. Since I was not a super star, on occasion I had a coach approach me and utter the words "John, I need you to take one for the team." Anytime I heard that I knew I was about to be benched.

This year marks my 11th year as an eighth grade Social Studies teacher. At this time, my salary is starting to reflect what someone should be making with two masters degrees. I pick up the paper, I turn on the TV and I hear my elected officials either saying or hinting that soon my seniority might mean nothing. In other words, due to the tough economic times, my elected officials want my colleagues and me to take one for the team.

Many educators throughout New York State are assets to the communities they teach in and the communities they live in. I also try my best to do my part.

I arrive to work on most mornings at 7, one hour before my official day begins, so that I may meet with students for extra help. I coach after school as well, which means I don't get home until 6:30, just in time to have a late dinner with my family.

I have been a volunteer firefighter/EMT for more than 16 years, so my wife is very understanding if my pager goes off and I have to leave the dinner table after a long day to go and possibly run into a burning building or provide medical aid to a Mattituck resident who is in need.

My wife is proud of me for serving my community, and my country. In 2006-07, I proudly served as a hospital corpsman with a Marine Corps Combat Engineer Battalion in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq. For more than seven months, mortar fire, improvised explosive devices, sniper fire, and other insurgent attacks became part of my daily life.

The insurgents were not the scariest part. What was scary was that my government allowed private companies to come on to military bases in Iraq and provide a substandard service and profit from our troops.

I was honorably discharged and I have been home for three years, living happily ever after with an understanding wife and a great son. Now I hear my lawmakers say that I, along with my hardworking colleagues, may have to take one for the team. I just have one question for my elected officials: When is my government going to take one for me?

Right now lawmakers are considering (and the Senate has already passed) legislation to eliminate seniority in layoff decisions. That means I can be excessed at the whim of an administrator to save money. I chose a profession that is noble and honorable. The fact that the salary would be suitable to my life style and there was job security made it even more attractive.

My classmates in college chose careers in the business world and are making double what I make. Not only do some of my college classmates make more than me, historically our government has provided big business with subsidies and bailouts.

I will never make what people in the corporate world make and that is fine; that is my choice and each day I wake up I look forward to being in the classroom and leave knowing that I, along with my colleagues, have made a difference. Now, in an economic climate that is unstable, I have to worry about my job? I have to pay the price for mistakes that were made by others?

I don't know what the correct decision is. What I do know is that you don't move forward as a society by taking from people who help to shape the future.

John Heeg | Mattituck

Safe and accountable

You accurately state that the Triangle Fire tragedy (NYSUT United, March 2011) led to legislation that made workplaces safer. Unfortunately, "safer" is still not "safe."

I consider it a crime that a full century later we still have many unsafe workplaces — often because our federal, state and local governments "allow" big businesses like the Massey Energy Company's Upper Big Branch Mine to continue operating under potentially deadly, unsafe conditions.

But companies like this are not the only ones with worker "blood on their hands." Lawmakers must also share the blame. Too often laws are inadequate and often unenforced. The Massey mine, for example, was permitted to operate on April 5, 2010, despite having been cited for 1,342 safety violations over the previous five years. So 29 miners died, and CEO Don Blankenship has not even had his wrist slapped.

Clearly, Kathleen Donahue is correct when she says that "the fight for safe workplaces continues today," but it will never be successful until the top executives of companies like Massey, BP, New York City crane companies and others, are held personally accountable and criminally responsible for preventable deaths that take place on their watch.

When President Harry Truman famously said "the buck stops here," he did not mean that big bucks should pile up on CEO desks; he meant CEOs need to be held to the highest of standards — or else.

Richard Siegelman | Plainview


From the solidarity rallies in Wisconsin and across New York state, to the economy, to Jon Stewart, a discussion is going on at NYSUT United's Facebook page. Join in at www.facebook.com/NYSUTUnited. Here's a sample of what they're saying on Facebook:

• "Please NYSUT, protect our NYS teachers from the chaos in Wisconsin and Ohio. We have so many GREAT teachers in NYS. Show them our worth."
— Robert Zogby

• "I love seeing [NYSUT's flag] in Wisconsin. It is the next best thing since I can't be there myself!"
— Betsy Marshall

• "The current budget cuts are counterproductive in preserving our overall quality as a nation. Fewer teachers, police, and other professionals will make for less desirable society."
— Ed Komperda

• "United we help children, divided we help no one!"
— Patricia Anne Green-Dehn