Letters to the Editor 

postscript

Counterpoint

To the Editor:

I realize that the Flyer probably doesn’t wish to have the Newspaper Guild and The Commercial Appeal get into a point/counterpoint discussion in its letters section, but as the “hired gun” that publisher John Wilcox undoubtedly is referring to, I feel compelled to speak out when he plays fast and loose with the truth (Letters, June 30th issue).

Wilcox spent the better part of his missive taking the Flyer to task for items which are little more than errors of semantics. (How could calling the “carriers” by the inaccurate term “drivers” change in any way the terrible conditions under which they are forced to work?) He then pretends to set the record straight with arguments that are misleading, self-serving, and false. I can best illustrate his duplicity by using his own words to make my case.

Wilcox wrote: “The newspaper does not have a merit-pay system for its union-covered employees. The pay described is actually ‘above-scale pay’ and has absolutely no relation to the merit-pay system we are proposing. An employee may receive above-scale pay for a number of reasons; a merit-based pay system rewards top performers better than nonperformers.”

So his point, as I understand it, is that the union and the Washington, D.C., firm it hired to conduct the study weren’t able to differentiate between those who were receiving above-scale pay versus those who had received an actual merit increase. I would like to quote from the study:

“The company did not make it easy to compile this information. In preparation for bargaining, the guild requested merit pay and demographic information on all employees in the bargaining unit. The company said it did not have the information we wanted on merit pay. The company produced payroll data as of November 10, 2003. Although it listed hourly rates of pay for employees, the company provided no data to explain reasons for those employees paid over scale.

“Through extensive interviewing of employees, the guild attempted to sort through the reasons for over-scale pay. There are several reasons for it. For example, some employees are paid over scale because they once held supervisory positions and were transferred to jobs with fewer responsibilities and lesser pay. They retained their higher pay because of rights guaranteed in the guild contract. Other employees receive pay over scale because they are given some supervisory responsibilities.

“The survey identified 48 of the 70 over-scale employees whose extra pay stemmed entirely or in part from merit pay. Among these merit-pay cases, disparity is all the more pronounced and evident. Among the 48 merit-pay employees, 44 (92 percent) were white. Just four (8 percent) were black. Just one of the merit-pay employees was a black male.

“Of 32 merit-pay employees in editorial, all were white.”

I’ve never met Mr. Wilcox. From the day I began my assignment, I’ve been barred from entering The Commercial Appeal. I’ve only got one close look at the man and that was at the zoo, but I was preoccupied that day as four police cars showed up and the officers wanted us to leave. (Didn’t his letter say that the police were not called when the union exercised its First Amendment rights?) I certainly can appreciate the difficult position he finds himself in trying to put a good face on all of this, but I have to point out that everything he stated about not differentiating between merit pay and over-scale pay is just false.

Finally, I’d like to ask Wilcox why he is talking about what our members earn, unless he is trying to put some distance between them and those reading his letter. Yes, those pictured on the picket line in the story are paid at the top of their scale. But so what? Is Mr. Wilcox seriously suggesting that only those at the bottom rung of the ladder have a reason or a right to protest?

Members of the Memphis Newspaper Guild have a long and proud history of sticking up for what’s right and for sticking together. That kind of solidarity transcends departments, shifts, scale, gender, and race. The Commercial Appeal would be well advised to quit its heavy-handed attempts at pitting worker against worker and to return to the bargaining table more than once every three or four months and to bargain a fair and equitable contract. Nothing short of that will suffice.

Shannon Duffy

Memphis Newspaper Guild

Shelby Foote

To the Editor:

Here in Australia, I have just heard of the death of Shelby Foote (Editorial, June 30th issue). I am writing to let his wife and family know that he was a man highly regarded in other parts of the world and not just in his native country.

I feel a great loss, and not just from the memories of the most delightful of Southern voices as heard in The Civil War series, having researched his activities over many years and having also had the pleasure of some correspondence with the gentleman. I also purchased, read, and re-read the series of books relating to this sad period in America’s history.

I told Mr. Foote many years ago that his writings should be mandatory reading for all Americans. My interest in that period of your country’s history has been with me for over 40 years, and I have visited as many of the sites that I was able to. I don’t know why I relate to this period of American history, but it must stem from an inability to understand how it all came about, even having read the wonderful writings of Mr. Foote.

Many people from as far away as Australia respected his efforts, his passionate determination, and his writing. I feel that I have known him for the best part of my life, and now he is gone. He will be sadly missed.

Rex Williams

Canberra, Australia

Half-right

To the Editor:

President Bush told America recently that the war in Iraq was “difficult, but winnable.” He’s only half-right -- it is clearly difficult. Our military is stretched beyond its means; enlistment has dropped by 40 percent; and our security needs in other parts of the world, as well as at home, are not being met. The Iraqi army, despite what the president said, shows no signs of being able to control the country without American help.

I did not expect Bush to apologize (ha!) for the mistakes he and his team of corporate-elite, oil-hungry, defense-contracting bedfellows made by leading us into this war. I had hoped Bush would not pull the “9/11 card,” as he has done over and over again and again to justify a war in a country that had nothing whatsoever to do with those attacks. I had hoped he would seize the moment to define victory and let America know, as we deserve to, how he intends to reach it. Pathetically, the president missed his opportunity and instead only answered questions no one is asking.

We know that a stable and democratic Iraq would be worth American sacrifices. We know bringing an end to terrorism is the goal. We know the spread of freedom is a good thing for all. We know dictatorships are bad.What we don’t know, and need to be told, is how President Bush plans on bringing these dreams to fruition.

Given the way this war was planned (or not planned), the president does not have any good options available. If our forces are withdrawn, Iraq will sink into a civil war that would turn the country into private militias and give home to stateless terrorists who would then be able to operate as they pleased.

No one wants disaster in Iraq, but the president cannot continue to obsess with self-justification and the need to color Iraq with the memory and the pain of 9/11. America does not want it and cannot afford it.

Terrell Tenhet

Memphis

Disdain

To the Editor:

After fighting so hard against the cult of Scientology, imagine my disdain to find a Scientology pamphlet stuck into last week’s Flyer. Considering the skepticism normally displayed by the Flyer staff, it’s hard to believe this slipped by unchallenged.

Scientology was founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who once remarked, “If you want to make a lot of money, just start your own religion.” He did, basing Scientology on a bit of Freud and few bogus mind-machines called “e-meters.” As the religion grew, he added the story of Xenu, a galactic warlord responsible for infesting humans with alien souls. Most practitioners aren’t aware of this; they must pay their way to a high level first.

The leaflet you sent out does not deal directly with the faith. Rather, it promotes a recruiting program, the drug-treatment course Narconon. Narconon was devised by Hubbard (not a doctor) and relies primarily on dangerously quitting cold turkey. Afterward, the patient takes niacin pills to “release toxins from fat.” Unfortunately, niacin does not break up fat.

Whatever your views on Scientology, it is irresponsible to promote a drug-treatment program shown to be ineffective. It even becomes dangerous, considering the amount of religious indoctrination a troubled addict might be exposed to.

While I understand the Flyer’s bottom line, promoting outright fraud is a disservice to the community.

Brett Hanover

Memphis

Editor’s note: The Flyer editorial staff is not involved in decisions as to whether an ad is accepted for publication.

My Block

To the Editor:

My Block: The Hustle & Flow of Memphis on MTV2 was appropriately titled, seeing as how almost half of the show was dedicated to promoting Craig Brewer’s new film. (It’s not surprising, since Viacom, which owns both Brewer’s movie and MTV, is just protecting its investment through this type of strategic promotion.)

Not to discredit the show, but I’m disappointed that “juking,” the uniquely Memphis dance form instituted in 1987, was not mentioned. My Block’s production staff always does a good job of crunching content, interviews, and layout into an entertaining and informative 22 minutes, but they can only work with what they’re given. I charge Memphis’ rap impresarios who were interviewed with not unveiling our fine-tuned variation of breakdancing to the world. The scales of satisfaction were balanced when Jazze Pha (Phalon Alexander) and his father, James Alexander of the Bar-Kays, were interviewed. To know that Memphis funk lives on through Jazze Pha was highly rewarding.

Anthony D. Lee

Memphis

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