No one benefits from a race to the bottom

As a longtime employee of the University of Minnesota, I found the Aug. 17 editorial (“U health benefits will still be enviable”) too much to take. The Star Tribune has eagerly joined the corporate bandwagon in a race to the economic bottom for workers, dripping with disdain and misrepresentation. Thanks a lot!

It’s one thing to opine that U employees should perhaps pay a bit more for their health insurance. But the supposition that it’s unhealthy for us to have it (supposedly) so much better than the private sector, along with the implication that lower-paid employees must have benefit cuts to make up for administrative bloat, is inaccurate, and an insult.

We don’t have it better. Most ­private-sector positions offer higher salaries. You’ve surely heard that many union workers settle for lower salaries in exchange for good benefits.

I also believe that the private sector offers much more opportunity for advancement and career movement, along with less-insulated and fairer managers.


• • •

It’s not surprising that most of the “Cadillac plans” for health care are held by unionized workers. People fought and died for these benefits. The Obamacare tax on these plans is an attempt to drive a wedge between unionized and nonunionized workers.

Yes, the U’s insurance plan is better than what many people have. This is especially true in Greater Minnesota, where access to quality care and affordable full-coverage insurance is limited. But U employees paying more will not result in others paying less. It only results in a race to the bottom.

Increasing office copays punishes those who have chronic conditions and need regular care. Care will be delayed, resulting in more costly hospitalizations later. This is already happening for millions of working people. (See the July 16 Star Tribune story “Men tend to put off health care when it costs more, U study says.”)

The university has money for sports stadiums and executive salaries. Its president makes $610,000 a year — more than the president of the United States. Instead of taking more from students in tuition and fees, and more from workers who struggle to make ends meet, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) says it’s time for the university’s administration to put staff and students first. Our fight is a fight for all working people.

SANDRA SHERMAN, St. Anthony Village

• • •



It doesn’t help to evoke hysteria with headlines

The top-of-the-front-page Aug. 20 headline announcing that two sex offenders “may go free” was such a distortion that it deserves a response. Anyone being considered for release from the Minnesota Sex Offenders Program has received years of treatment and will continue to receive a high level of scrutiny in the community, most likely to include some combination of supervised living, employment, and electronic supervision such as wearing an ankle bracelet. The headline made it sound as if these men are like helium balloons being let go at the State Fair. The article explains that the program is under federal review, and that it is likely we will be forced to release hundreds of these men under much less controlled circumstances if we fail to act responsibly now.

The Rev. SANDRA STUART GRAY, Stillwater

• • •



What St. Louis Park did and did not do

I keep hearing the refrain that “promises were made” in discussions about rerouting freight rail from the Kenilworth corridor to St. Louis Park.

Two of the most commonly asserted myths regarding the freight rail reroute are that St. Louis Park promised to take the freight trains and that colocation would destroy the Kenilworth trails. In fact, St. Louis Park City Council Resolution 01-120 accepted the recommendation of the St. Louis Park Railroad Task Force, which agreed to the reroute only if “there is no reasonable way to accommodate both freight rail and mass transit within the Kenilworth corridor.” Six options have been identified for accommodating both freight rail and mass transit in the corridor, and both of the tunnel options selected for serious consideration would provide bicycle trails along the current route when construction is completed. St. Louis Park did not agree to take the freight rail, and the Kenilworth bike trails would be temporarily disrupted, not destroyed forever.

Instead of talking about what has been promised in the past, why don’t we talk about how to move forward in a way that is safe and equitable for all?


• • •



Looks like Al-Qaida is achieving its mission

At Heathrow Airport on Sunday, the British national security police detained the partner of a journalist who had written stories based on leaks by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

George Orwell’s “1984” is almost 30 years late coming, but the intrusion of our government into the lives of American citizens is now rampant. We need to take back our right to privacy and force the government to stop the opaque intrusions into our lives. It is a sickness of all recent administrations, whether under George W. Bush or Barack Obama. If Al-Qaida forces us to relinquish our cherished American liberty in the so-called interest of national security, it has accomplished its purpose of destroying freedom in America. I am expecting to be put on a no-fly list if this is published.