October 4-10, 2006

home | north bay bohemian index | news | north bay | letters to the editor

Letters to the Editor

Coalition responds

We must take exception to the misinformed article about the Petaluma living wage campaign in the Byrne Report this past week ("Living Wage Scam," Sept. 27). This article clearly shows a lack of understanding of the new labor movement, and is not connected to the real ground-level struggle to raise the wage floor for working people in the North Bay.

The real story here is the role of the major nonprofit service providers in persuading the council to grant an exemption to the Living Wage ordinance, but the article focuses mostly on the one group, the Living Wage Coalition, that has been most visible and effective in Sonoma County as an advocate for living wages, affordable housing and low-wage worker organizing. It's also amusing to see my modest salary lumped in with the handsome sums earned by the big nonprofit service agency directors. If I'm part of a "labor aristocracy," then I definitely need a raise.

For the record, I will list a few of the low-wage worker organizing efforts that the Living Wage Coalition has been key players in over the last few years, in order to refute the baseless allegation that we "sacrificed the needs of the low-wage workers":

  • The successful unionization of the 100 low-wage workers at the Petaluma Sheraton was a direct consequence of the agreement brokered by the Living Wage Coalition between the city and the hotel owners in 2000
  • Ongoing support for the organizing drive of the nursing home workers at the Sonoma Valley Health Center
  • Public and effective community organizing on behalf of the county homecare workers, who we helped move from rock-bottom minimum wage to closer to a living wage
  • Key solidarity role with the parking lot attendants for the city of Santa Rosa
  • Byrne's column is misleading and totally misses the point. Savaging the Living Wage Coalition because all we could take off the table for low-wage workers this round is half a loaf is unfair and short-sighted. The Byrne Report lacks credibility because it's looking for the shock and awe effect rather than doing the research and getting the real story. Mr. Byrne demonstrates a lack of strategic vision and this article calls into question his role as a professed ally of the progressive movement.

    Ben Boyce, Living Wage Coalition, Santa Rosa

    Peter Byrne replies: Boyce criticizes my research, yet he cannot find a single fact to fault. I urge the Living Wage Coalition to reinstate nonprofit workers into the Petaluma living wage ordinance.

    Valuable facts

    I was disappointed to see Peter Byrne's mean-spirited personal attack on the Sonoma County Living Wage Coalition and its chief organizers Ben Boyce and Marty Bennett. As an employee of Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, I know first-hand that the Living Wage Coalition is not afraid to stand up for the rights of workers at Sonoma County's non-profit enterprises. For the past three years, myself and my co-workers have been engaged in a difficult fight to have a fair ground rules for organizing our union at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. From the beginning, the Living Wage Coalition has stood with us, mobilizing community support, informing their members about our cause and consistently joining us in every action we've undertaken to win a union at our hospital.

    I hope that Mr. Byrne would consider facts like these before smearing such a valuable community organization as the Living Wage Coalition.

    Don Fugate, Santa Rosa


    The article in last week's Bohemian about the Living Wage Coalition did not tell the real story. The article says that they don't care about low-wage workers. This is not true, because I have seen them standing up for me and all the workers at the Sonoma Healthcare Center, right from the beginning of our union organizing drive over three years ago. Their coordinator, Ben Boyce, and his friends at St. Leo's Peace and Social Justice Committee have shown up in solidarity with our struggle at rallies and marches time after time. They have attended difficult negotiating sessions with the management, written letters to the editor and full-length articles for local newspapers about us. They took the lead in persuading the Sonoma City Council to pass a resolution urging Ensign Corp., the owners of the nursing home, to settle with us and grant a fair contract. We are all low-wage workers who came together to form our union to improve our working conditions and our ability to care for the nursing-home residents. Over many years now we have benefited from the commitment of the Living Wage Coalition to our cause.

    AlejandrA Recendiz, Petaluma

    And Now: Back to us

    "Life in Hell's" mysterious disappearance last week can be directly linked to our production designer having the gall to take time off. Rest easy--that won't happen again. And yes: we're talking vacations, uh huh.

    The Boho Awards are Oct. 4 at the Glaser Center (547 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa), from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Trailer Park Rangers! Free! Help us celebrate!

    WRITERS: Prick up your ears. Our Exquisite Jive contest is baaaack.


    Send a letter to the editor about this story.