Letters for January 27, 2005

A grievous campaign

Re “The widow conundrum” (SN&R Editorial, January 20):

I find it rather amazing that Mrs. Matsui can choose to run for public office just days after the death of her beloved husband and soul mate, Congressman Robert Matsui.

For many people, dealing with the loss of a loved one is greeted with a variety of emotions and loss. For most of us, it takes time to work through all the feelings of such a loss. I can’t imagine losing someone I loved and then thinking that I’d be in any shape to run for a congressional seat, let alone hold that seat and do a decent job for the people of the 5th District.

Richard Frankhuizen

Kitty, tabby, cat … it’s still sabotage

Re “Here come the Wobblies!” by Cosmo Garvin (SN&R Cover, January 13):

Thank you for your attention to the organizing efforts of San Joaquin Valley truckers, and others, under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). It is important to understand that what remains of the IWW today is a spirit. Willingness to take on the hardest battles and struggle for the least-favored workers is of immense importance at a time when the specter of fascism is in the land, and the forces of the state and the corporations that control it are hell-bent on insuring that labor can be bought as cheaply as possible and on destroying labor’s only effective voice, unions.

While your musings on the history of the IWW did not purport to be scholarly and provided a significant insight into that proud organization, there were a couple of errors that need clarification.

Your reporter asserts that the Wobblies’ “concept of sabotage tended toward work slowdowns or ‘working to the rule.’” First, there was no rule. Workers, especially in the extractive industries where the IWW was strongest, had virtually no legal protection in the early 20th century. “Working to the rule” is a contemporary tactic, only possible because of the protections won by the struggles of organizers and unionists. Those protections are today in grave danger.

Second, the Wobblies did indeed believe in the efficacy of sabotage. No scab can produce with a broken machine; the knowledge that workers were willing to break those machines struck fear into the hearts, if hearts there be, of the capitalist class. The spirit of the IWW is invoked, for instance, when a shopper goes into a grocery store, fills her cart with frozen food and fresh meat and, on learning the store mistreats its workers, abandons it in a warm, out-of-the-way corner.

Third, and what prompts me to write this missive, the Wobblies didn’t have no frickin’ “Sabo Kitty” mascot. The word “sabotage” originates in “sabot,” a French word that referred to wooden shoes. A wooden shoe dropped into a piece of 19th-century machinery could bring about a slowdown in a big hurry. The little black cat and the stickers depicting it, which signaled big doin’s were about to come down in the workplace, was, and remains, the SaboTabby. That little feral cat has served generations of workers; let us continue to honor it.

Roy Dahlberg

Cosmo Garvin replies: Sabo Kitty and Sabo Cat may in fact be bastardized names for the IWW mascot, but they are pretty widely recognized. The information on sabotage came from a variety of sources, including Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s pamphlets and interviews on the subject. There’s a lot of debate in the literature about what the Wobblies actually did as far as sabotage and what was myth. I’m not surprised that folks would have different takes.

Try teaching instead of criticizing

Re “Edu-crats’ same old line” (SN&R Letters, January 13):

Jill Stewart, as the husband of one of the so-called “overpaid” teachers that you complained about in your recent column, I feel compelled to respond to your tirade over salaries in the education field.

You found a problem with the fact that a teacher could earn $60,000 a year while having only 20 students. What you failed to mention is that the teacher making that salary probably has 20 years in the field, along with spending years and thousands of personal dollars getting a master’s degree and beyond. Would you work for less, with that kind of expense and commitment? The same goes for the administrators, most of whom have Ph.D.s and earn a salary commensurate with that level of education. If it is such an easy and lucrative job, why don’t you do it?

California may rank first in teachers’ salaries, but since it’s one of the most expensive places to live in the country, I doubt there are any jobs that aren’t paid less everywhere else. I’m sure the barista in the Fargo Starbucks doesn’t start at $8 an hour.

Teachers work long and hard. My wife rarely puts in less than 10-hour days, along with giving up some weekends. Unless you are in law enforcement or public safety, I trust that whatever you do, you are overpaid in comparison to educators. If you want to help the kids, go spend some real time helping in a classroom. You will come out with some newfound respect for a difficult job.

Scott Kleinberg

Leadership the old-fashioned way

Re “Skin game” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, January 6):

Californians are challenged with an $8 billion deficit, failing schools and unaffordable health care. But instead of writing about those problems, Jill Stewart wastes SN&R newsprint whining about the diversity of the Democratic leadership in the Assembly—as if there was something wrong about that.

Ms. Stewart has no right to impugn the qualifications of Assemblymen John Laird and Leland Yee, Assemblywomen Karen Bass and Judy Chu, and others by making the outrageous assertion that they were placed in their respective positions of leadership because they represent a particular ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation.

These legislators got their positions the old-fashioned way: They earned them. They are highly effective legislators, well-suited to their positions in leadership. Ms. Stewart’s mitigation of their talents and focus on their skin color or sexual orientation is reprehensible.

Nick Velasquez

Internment’s stain on the nation, not one man

Re “Now and then” (SN&R Bites, January 6):

My aunt has a small framed quote of Earl Warren’s in her living room that reads, “Everything I did in my life that was worthwhile I caught hell for.” Knowing about his association with the shameful internments in World War II, I always think when I read that quote, “Yeah, and the one thing you did that was reprehensible garnered massive acclaim.”

Nonetheless, Earl Warren was a great man, leader of the most progressive Supreme Court the nation ever saw. He played no small part in tearing down Jim Crow and promoting equality and brotherhood of man. Despite all of this, the internments remained an indelible stain upon his image in my eyes. But then I found out that later in his life, he deeply regretted his actions during World War II and spoke eloquently about being caught up in a tide of public opinion that he realized far too late he should have resisted.

The internment of Japanese-Americans probably would have happened with or without Earl Warren’s involvement. As such, it is a stain more upon the souls of our nation and our state than it is upon his and his alone.

Keep nipping at their heels, Bites.

David Leisk


Re “Look for the union label …” by Jill Stewart (SN&R Capitol punishment, January 20):

Last week’s Capitol punishment column mistakenly stated that the Chamber of Commerce released its annual wish list for laws it supports on November 12. The actual date was January 12.