Soap Box

The price of coming up to speed
06/07/2018

To the editor,

Allison Aichele is campaigning on her experience as La Plata County Treasurer, a position that she has held since January 2015. But that experience is costing us, the tax-payers, $24,000 a year for the next two years.

Why the extra cost to the county? Because an audit two years into her tenure showed that the treasurer’s office was out of compliance with multiple state statutes, which puts it into a higher risk category and requires a more intense follow up audit for two additional years. That’s an extra $48,000 that her office is costing the county, above and beyond normal costs.

At the Long Term Finance Committee meeting on April 13, 2017, the County Finance Director was asked if it was typical that it takes someone this long to get up to speed. The answer was “I have never seen someone take so long to get up to speed.”

This is why I plan to vote for Tim Walsworth for County Treasurer. He has 10 years’ experience as the president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Colorado, and as executive director of Durango Business Improvement District for the past five years. Tim Walsworth has the skills, integrity and character to do this job and to serve our community well.

– Beth Jones, Durango

Protecting West Slope interests
05/31/2018

To the editor,

If Congressman Scott Tipton ever shows up for an in-person town hall meeting with constituents, hopefully someone will ask him why Congressional Republicans think it should be easier for a United States citizen to get a military assault rifle designed specifically to kill people than to get health care, or at least health care that won’t bankrupt you. Then pay attention to how he talks around that.

He’s voted many times, including last year, to take health coverage from millions and millions of people. He’s been pretty quiet about any restrictions on military style assault rifles. According to Politico, he received $25,550 from the NRA during the 2016 election cycle.

If you or a loved one has a serious injury or disease diagnosis, which would you rather have? That assault rifle? Or health care?

We deserve better. It is time we remove the callous and unpopular Scott Tipton from office. Primary election ballots will be mailed June 6. I am voting Karl Hanlon for Congress. Karl Hanlon grew up on a ranch near Walden and continues to work as a rancher and water attorney to protect Western Colorado agricultural and water interests. His family operates a horse therapy program for veterans with PTSD and autistic children. Karl supports universal health care and has pledged to not take corporate PAC money for his campaign.

– Ken Francis, Durango

Standing up for workers' rights
05/31/2018

To the editor,

On Mon., May 21, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, rigged the system even more against non-unionized working people.

At issue was whether an employment contract can prevent employees from engaging in class action lawsuits that question whether company actions are lawful. The majority opinion, written by Justice Gorsuch, legitimates employment contracts that deprive employees of the right to bring a class action lawsuit and instead force employees into arbitration. His opinion relied on the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act, instead of the newer 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The three consolidated cases decided on May 21 concerned charges that employers had underpaid their workers. The workers’ employment contracts required that they resolve such disputes in arbitration rather than in court and, importantly, that they file their claims one-by-one. The combined cases are EPIC Systems Corp. v. Lewis; Ernst & Young v. Morris; and NLRB v. Murphy Oil. By a 5-4 decision, the Court decided in favor of the employers.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called this decision “egregiously wrong.” She read her dissent from the bench, a move that underscores the importance of this dissent. In her oral statement, she said the upshot of the decision “will be huge under-enforcement of federal and state statutes designed to advance the well-being of vulnerable workers.” Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, she wrote, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.” More-over, she argued that this decision will lead to more employer misconduct by changing employers’ cost-benefit calculations so that they receive greater benefit from underpaying workers and skirting legal obligations. Justice Ginsburg added that billions of dollars in underpaid wages are at issue.

Arbitration contracts are a growing trend. Justice Ginsburg wrote in her dissent that only 2.1 percent of non-unionized companies imposed mandatory arbitration agreements on their employees in 1992, but nearly 54 percent do so now.

The EPIC decision of May 21 makes it all but impossible for workers to legally insist on their rights when they

encounter discrimination, wage theft, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment or other illegal employer behavior on the job. This ruling is a significant blow to non-unionized working women, the #MeToo movement and all people seeking legal redress from corporations that have injured them, their communities, their families or the environment.

Arbitrations are generally held behind closed doors. Justice Ginsburg pointed out that because they are not public, they may lead to very inconsistent results in factually similar claims.

In contrast, class action lawsuits allow people experiencing a similar issue with a particular company to band together to fight for justice. This is nearly impossible for anyone but the wealthiest to do on their own. Since the 1980s, class action lawsuits have held corporations responsible for their actions, especially when those actions or inactions have led to pollution, dangers to health, or unsafe or unlawful impacts to employees or to civil rights. Class action lawsuits are public, not decided behind closed doors.

The EPIC decision is part of a larger trend in which the Supreme Court has sided in favor of corporations over workers and consumers. It also affects those who seek redress for pollution or negative public health impacts of corporate wrongdoing. Justice Ginsburg called for Congress to redress this wrong and ensure an equal playing field. As your Congresswoman, I will join with my colleagues to right the wrong and here’s how:

I will support and cosponsor two important bills that have been proposed:

• Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s HR 4130 that mandates transparency.

• Sen. Richard Blumenthal’s Arbitration Fairness Act, which would render arbitration clauses unenforceable in employment, consumer, anti-trust or civil rights violations.

I will stand up every day for workers, consumers, women’s rights and for all people to seek redress. That’s

why the Colorado AFL-CIO, Colorado Professional Fire Fighters and Denver Chapter of Progressive Democrats of America have all endorsed me for our third congressional district.

I invite Scott Tipton to represent us and to stand up for us in the wake of this unjust Supreme Court decision.

– Diane Mitsch Bush, candidate for Congress

Hate-filled missive enlightening
05/31/2018

To the editor,

On May 22, the Durango Herald published on its website a letter to the editor filled with hate against the LGBT community of Durango. The letter ended with “May God drain the LGBT cesspool.” Several folks condemned the publishing of such a letter to the editor. I disagree with them. I am glad the writer submitted the letter and
that the Herald published it online!

The reasons for my positive attitude toward the letter being published are based on my beliefs from childhood when I saw newspaper and magazine photos of the Klan in their white robes and hoods marching around spewing their venom. They did not hide their identity. You knew who they were and you could confront these fringe characters and address their discrimination and hate-motivated diatribes and overt and often criminal behaviors. Simply, they “came out” and showed exactly what THEY were all about.

Similarly the LGBT letter writer exposed himself as to the type of individual he is and the Herald ownership and editor exposed themselves by publishing the hate-filled missive. Realize the publishing of letters to the editor is discretionary. As good old Paul Harvey used to say “And now we know the rest of the story!” And now we know a little more about Durango!

– J. Meyer, Ignacio

An unlikely Reagan-era hero
05/24/2018

To the editor,

Conservatives aren’t usually at the forefront of climate solution proposals. I applaud the former Secretary of State in President Reagan’s administration, George Shultz, a leading elder statesman. In 1989 he worked closely with Reagan on negotiating the Montreal Protocol – an international treaty to prevent the degradation of the ozone layer. His memo to Reagan stated, “Environmental effects of stratospheric ozone depletion could include decreased

crop yields, adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems including fisheries, and potentially significant climate change.”

In a recent interview, Shultz said that we need to protect our climate and solve our political gridlock. He stated “We have a lot of scientific data. I think it’s pretty convincing that we have a genuine big-time problem. This is a matter of observation. I think we should be taking out an insurance policy.”

He explained that back in the day, Reagan wanted an “insurance policy” in case the scientists were right about the ozone depletion. There were people who thought there was a problem, others who doubted. They agreed there was a big consequence if it happened. So Reagan said, “Look, let’s take out an insurance policy.” And so the Montreal Protocol was born.

Due to our continued use of fossil fuels and our green-house gas emissions, we’re causing global warming. Shultz proposes we convert our economy to one based on carbon-free electricity with a legislative revenue neutral carbon pricing plan. Thank you, Mr. Shultz, for being a climate hero!

– Susan Atkinson, Durango