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Elected officials should champion workers' rights

To the Editor:

Last week, an Associated Press story ran wherein the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of current and former temporary workers of Microsoft. The heart of the matter is how thousands of Microsoft's temporary workers have been excluded from the benefits extended to regular workers. According to AP, "the nation's high-tech industry has classified some employees as temporary workers to avoid paying certain benefits and to cut costs."

Yesterday, a local TV station ran a story about the widening gap between the rich and the poor. It should come as no surprise that 80 percent of the wealth in the United States is held by less than 20 percent of its citizens.

Practically every industry in America is using the same strategy as Microsoft. Who doesn't know someone working two or more jobs to make ends meet or to pay for health-care coverage their employer(s) won't help them with?

I was heartened by the prospect that maybe the American justice system works after all. This ruling can serve as a defining step in returning the balance of power to common people. In order to do this, however, the story must become the banner headline and be made the lead story on the evening news. Eventually, the court's decision must be extended to "temporaries" in all industries and businesses across America. Our elected officials should work tirelessly for working men, women and children instead of serving as shills for big business.

-- Steve K. Clarke
Colorado Springs


'Bubble law' assures needed safety and access

To the Editor:

Having escorted women into medical clinics through hordes of pushing, screaming protesters, I feel strongly about the Colorado "bubble law" now being challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

I have escorted in Texas, where protesters physically blocked entry, where their screaming was deliberately designed to traumatize women before their medical procedures. I have also escorted in Colorado under the "bubble law," which required protesters to remain outside an 8-foot radius. Even though there was still shouting, at least the Colorado women felt safer and were able to enter the clinic.

The first part of the proposed law mandates civil and criminal penalties for anyone who "knowingly obstructs, detains, hinders, impedes, or blocks another person's entry to or exit from a health care facility." The second part creates a restricted zone 8 feet around anyone entering the clinic.

Abortion opponents are challenging this, claiming it violates their right to free speech. This is a false claim since anyone can talk over an 8-foot range or offer pamphlets. Protesters oppose it, because without a required distance of separation, it would be much more difficult to prove that protesters were "knowingly" harassing a patient. A bump or moving to the path of a frightened patient could be claimed to be accidental, thus evading part one of the law.

The protection of this "bubble" is needed. It allows women unimpeded access to legal medical care.

-- George Brazill
Colorado Springs


Homes shouldn't be displaced for homeless center

To the Editor:

I am writing in reference to the Montgomery Center for the homeless and the railroad spur that are planned for our neighborhood. I have been informally advised about these plans by neighbors. No formal meeting has been brought to my attention by the organizations involved with these plans, and I am very angry. It seems as though the El Pomar Foundation, Red Cross and the Catholic Charities are trying to keep all this information a secret from those of us who are affected by their efforts.

The realty company that sent out a notice to buy our properties was very vague and would not disclose any information about who wanted to buy from us or for what purpose. Some of the neighbors have taken it upon themselves to gather information to share with the rest of us, and I really appreciate their efforts. This does not excuse the organizations that are sponsoring the building of this center from not informing all of those affected in the area. The power plant is also planning a railroad spur, which has not yet been communicated. I feel by putting the Montgomery Center and day-care center in our neighborhood, it will lower our property value so then the utilities company can come in and buy us out at a lower price than we should receive.

Many people in this neighborhood moved here years ago, because owning their own home was a dream, and the low cost of housing here made it possible for that dream to come true. Most of us have either paid our notes in full or are very close to it. I hate to think the city wants to get rid of these beautiful old houses. It's really a shame, because our homes were built so long ago they are as solid as a rock. They just don't build houses like these anymore. I do not want to sell my home, but I do not want a shelter located across the alley from my back yard either.

I don't feel it's right to put people out of their homes in order to build a homeless shelter. I'd like someone to explain the rationalization of that to me. My heart goes out to the elderly who have no means of paying a note for a new home. The prices of homes have risen, and interest rates will go up again soon. I understand The Gazette has printed that the neighborhood has been offered a fair amount of money for their property. After talking with some of the people in my neighborhood, this is not a true statement. We have not yet seen a total plan for our area, just a blueprint here and there gathered by neighbors. I feel this whole situation has been handled in an inappropriate way, and I am very angered by the lack of consideration for our community.

-- Alta Heckler
Colorado Springs


Governor's plan would help eliminate public schools

To the Editor:

Gov. Owens' plan to eliminate tenure for public-school teachers makes perfect sense -- if his agenda is to eliminate public schools ("Owens accused of duping the public," Jan. 13). Without job security, a teacher who serves at the whim of a board can be summarily dismissed for causes that are not listed in personnel policy. Fear of losing one's livelihood is not a healthy atmosphere for anyone, especially for those dealing with the needs of children. Administrators and boards would say, "We're good people who would deal fairly and only dismiss for just cause." But just cause is relative when power is absolute.

Where would replacement teachers come from? The governor is ready to deny teachers the right to due process (a violation of individual rights), and a state representative agrees with him. Teachers' salaries here are among the lowest in the nation. Schools must cut services, because school taxes are constantly voted down. What incentive is there to teach here?

What will happen when schools aren't adequately staffed? Buildings will close, class size will increase, non-mandated programs will be cut. The alternative for desperate parents is private-school vouchers, which would tend to place the privileged in the care of special-interest groups, and the underprivileged in the care of substitute or unqualified teachers, thus widening the chasm between affluent and poor. We haven't heard much about vouchers since they were voted down. They don't have to be promoted when it is hoped that they will become a natural consequence of government policy.

Public education and open discussion are key to the power of our country. Public schools need our support, generous funding and fair personnel policies that encourage the brightest to apply and enable the dismissal of the unsuitable -- but not without due process. Hiring is done for good reason; dismissal must also be for good reason.

-- Barbara Martin
Manitou Springs


Respect the right,

reduce the need

To the Editor:

The pro-choice community is celebrating the 27th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Often, the first thought about this decision is that it legalized abortion. The fact is, abortion has had some kind of legal standing dating back to Greek and Roman times. Until the early 19th century, English common law was used to address abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision, written by Justice Blackmun, states that "it is undisputed that at common law, abortion performed before quickening -- the first recognizable movement of the fetus in utero, appearing usually from the 16th to the 18th week of pregnancy -- was not an indictable offense." It was also common for lawmakers to think first of the health and welfare of the woman.

Not until the end of the 1950s did legislation appear which banned abortion however and whenever performed.

In this decision, the Supreme Court crafted a carefully balanced decision which not only gave women access to safe legal abortion, but also acknowledged a woman's right to privacy. This is the basic tenet endorsed by the pro-choice community. Abortion is a decision which should be left to the woman and those people she deems appropriate to consult with in choosing to terminate her pregnancy, or not.

It is as odious for an entity to force someone to become a mother as it is to force someone to have an abortion. Margaret Sanger, an early advocate of birth control, stated, "No woman can call herself free who does not own or control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother."

We applaud the recent news that President Clinton has proposed inclusion of an additional $35 million in his 2001 budget to provide family-planning services in the United States. Let us work together to improve access to birth control and provide education toward preventing unwanted pregnancy.

Let us respect the right and reduce the need.

Sandy Smith
president, Pro-Choice Coalition of Colorado Springs

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