Mexico, Mars and the Man

Letters from the week of December 19, 2002

Labor Pains

Mexican-American War: Day labor centers might be short-term charitable fixes, but we also need some justice and context ("Herding People," Susy Buchanan, December 12). John Dougherty's 1998 "Bordering on Exploitation" provided context and a concern about injustice.

Will the U.S. ever do with Mexico what northern Europe has done with Ireland and southern Europe over the last 50 years -- help them out of poverty? Or will the U.S. continue the war against people and children born poor?

Maquiladora factories are moving to China because Mexico's $5-per-day wage is four times China's wage. Mexican farmers are being removed from their communal ejidos. What are the options? One is to risk life in crossing the desert to help grow the food that, one, will feed us and, two, will be exported back to Mexico, displacing more Mexican farmers from their land. Yes, this is "Herding People."

As Mexican papers forecast more hunger and poverty (e.g., El Heraldo de Mexico: "Mas Hambre and Marginacion en el Campo"), it is not surprising that President Fox is getting nowhere with his ideological counterpart George I to regularize the status of 3.5 million Mexicans in the U.S. or to delay NAFTA's imminent elimination of agricultural tariffs that threatens the livelihood of millions of campesinos.

Former congressman and DEA head Asa Hutchinson has been named by Bush to be in charge of U.S. border affairs. He, like Jon Kyl and most Republicans, favors militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border and has opposed any regularization or legalization of Mexican migrants.

Roland James

She works hard for the money: I find the situation so frustrating. I'm a working mother, good job, not bad wages. I can't qualify for medical assistance because I make too much, but not enough to afford our company insurance. Yet more money is being poured into needs for people who shouldn't be here because they are not doing it legally. Only in Arizona!

Marie Hanna

Neato Hideaway

You can take the girl out of the bar . . . : I would like to remind Christopher O'Connor that one guy's shithole is another gal's playground ("Nita's on the Move -- Thankfully," Kick & Scream, December 12)! I have been going to Nita's Hideaway since the grande dame (and my personal role model) Nita herself started having bands play in her bar. I continued my support through Covert's ownership, including attending the city council meetings during the unfortunate and misguided attempts to prevent the new location from opening. I plan to be a regular at the new place, too.

It is my deepest and most sincere wish that the new Nita's retains its charm and atmosphere, including velvet paintings and huge gilt mirrors, the large "amateurish insignia," and the silver curtain. Except for a larger ladies' room and a larger parking lot, I would not change a thing, except to bring in lots of cool people. The more, the merrier in my playground!

Terri J. Boaz

Man Handling

Powell to the people: Okay, so I read "Nice Guys Finish First" (Speakeasy, Robrt L. Pela, December 12). If [Chris Powell's] not taken, then how do we get ahold of him? I'm always making trips down to Arizona!

Jamie Osman
Louisville, Kentucky

Working Man's Blues

Injury injustice: Robert Nelson should rethink his journalistic prowess. Not only was "Heart Failure" (December 5) a mere piece of sour candy, written like copy in a melodramatic marketing brochure, Nelson obviously couldn't be bothered to conduct even the most rudimentary Web research. Nelson concludes: "In a right-to-work state, justice only comes to a company's employees if the company's customers demand it." Turns out, employees also have the justice of federal and state labor laws. While a "right to work" status doesn't bode well for the additional protections offered by organized labor, there are fundamental rights that unions have forged into legislation and public opinion everywhere.

First, the employer had no authority to deny the employee's workers' comp claim. Workers' comp is a matter between the insurance carrier and the employee, with oversight by the Industrial Commission. Had a claim been filed, the employee could have had all of his medical expenses paid, received some salary during his recovery, and perhaps received job training to transition him out of such a physically demanding job.

Second, depending on the size of the company, the employer may have violated both COBRA and FMLA laws. COBRA requires an employer with 20-plus employees to offer insurance coverage after termination, and FMLA requires an employer with 50-plus employees to provide extended sick leave to an employee. In many cases, this leave is unpaid, but the employee's job is protected until his return or voluntary separation.

Further, a savvy lawyer could argue that the employer terminated the employee in an attempt to prevent a workers' comp claim, which is a type of illegal discrimination defined in the state statutes.

In short, Nelson really missed an opportunity to help readers understand this story beyond a collective "what an asshole" sentiment about the employer. I recommend that the employee find a good labor attorney who will ensure that plenty of compensation is had.

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