Regulated, just like any toxic substance


Wade Yarbrough ("'Freedom to breathe,' at the cost of choice," Oct. 10) is concerned that the five-year-old Freedom to Breathe Act infringes on business owners' "property rights," which in his view apparently extend to the right to force employees to work in an environment contaminated with cancer-causing cigarette smoke.

I'm lucky. I work in an office building. I have my own office, with a door and everything. Under Yarbrough's view, I could walk in one morning with a carton of cigarettes and puff away my day. Except the law (the Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act) says that I can't do that. Why? Because my coworkers shouldn't have to be subjected to toxic smoke in order to keep their jobs. I don't know about you, but I never hear people complain that they can't smoke inside at work. It's just not hard to see how it's unfair, impolite and dangerous to allow smoke-filled workplaces.

Freedom to Breathe does nothing more than to extend the same protections to servers, kitchen workers and bartenders. Bars and restaurants are their workplaces. They shouldn't have to be poisoned to go to work any more than my coworkers should.

I can't bring clients into my office and tell them to feel free to light up. Restaurant owners shouldn't be able to, either.


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From time to time, in the name of public health, we need to pass laws to protect workers and consumers.

For example, manufacturers and builders loved and used asbestos for decades, and if not for laws regulating it, they might still be using the toxic substance, putting consumers and workers in danger. Lead-based paint is another example -- it endangered health, so businesses had to adapt and change. Every reputable study ever done has shown that secondhand smoke is dangerous to everyone's health. In fact, it's even been labeled a Class 1 carcinogen -- the same as asbestos and benzene.

Would Yarbrough argue that businesses should be allowed to rework asbestos, lead or benzene into their plans? At what point would the health of fellow Minnesotans become a priority?

I'm grateful Minnesota stood up for the health of all workers and passed the Freedom to Breathe Act five years ago. I, and the majority of Minnesotans -- as state Sen. Kathy Sheran pointed out in Oct. 1 commentary that Yarbrough was reacting to -- still stand by smoke-free policies today.


Minnesota Orchestra

Board should not be opposed to arbitrator


I find it interesting that the Minnesota Orchestra's management seems unwilling to solve the lockout through negotiation ("Orchestra makes a stand," Oct. 11). Final and binding arbitration is not an option, the Orchestra Board's chairman and its chief negotiator write, because the arbitrator would not be "familiar with our business model and artistic aspirations." A professional arbitrator's due diligence would include becoming familiar with both sides of the issue. This is management-speak for "it's our way, or the highway," and it's really not negotiating in good faith.



The nonprofit sector is also under threat


In the first presidential debate, Mitt Romney articulated his intention to defund PBS. His explanation, that support for public broadcasting wastes money borrowed from China, is specious. In reality, Romney and other neoconservatives believe PBS is worse that a waste of resources; they consider it a threat to the interests they serve.

Many people do not realize, though they should, that the neocon agenda removes government influence not only from the private sector, but from the nonprofit sector as well. Many nonprofits, which address problems the public and private sectors will not, rely heavily on grants and other kinds of support from federal agencies -- the National Science Foundation, Public Broadcasting Service, U.S. Department of Education, etc. Voters ought to be aware that crippling the federal government will shift much control of the nonprofit sector into the hands of the wealthy oligarchy capable of sustaining it -- key constituents of Romney.

Nonprofit organizations play a critical role in the United States and abroad. Supporting neoconservative candidates will undermine the diversity, fairness and effectiveness of the nonprofit sector.


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Are you an independent voter? If you are, you may be very confused right now. The party in power is spending tax money like it's coming from a bottomless pit. The Federal Reserve is printing money at a terrifying rate. The TV polls claim that independents are slowly moving toward the right (conservative), and the president is losing votes but still holds a small lead.

Well, independents do have a platform that may act as a guide, both at the Minnesota and national levels. Just go online and search for "Independence Party Platform." Both stress financial responsibility, protection of our freedoms under the U.S. and Minnesota constitutions, and conservative approaches.