Posted: April 18, 2012

RONNIE Polaneczky's column chiding Community College of Philadelphia's faculty and staff for daring to try to protect their pay and working conditions seems to urge us all to join the race to the bottom. Our union is indeed standing up for our health benefits; we hope to set a standard for the health care that everyone deserves. By trying to protect our health care, we are supporting all workers who are striving to maintain, or reach, a decent standard of living.

Unfortunately, the column was off-base in many important details, including the startlingly inaccurate implication that CCP faculty staff are entitled to send their kids tuition-free to Penn or Harvard. (It's tuition at CCP that is free). We also read about lavish, but completely fictional, fully paid Fridays off every week in the summer. (We work extra hours on the other days to make most of the time up).

We know that many of us at CCP have good jobs. However, we also know that some of our support staff are trying to make ends meet on near-poverty wages, and that is one of the reasons we are so upset about the administration's inflexible demand to impose new out-of-pocket health-care costs. And contrary to the claim in Polaneczky's column, we are not now "demanding anything more" in benefits; in fact, our management has rejected concessions that we have already made on health care totaling approximately $1 million per year.

Concerning salaries, our administration knows, even if Ms. Polaneczky doesn't, that our union has sacrificed higher salary increases for years because we place a higher value on our benefits. What we are upset about today is the combination of an attack on health benefits and practically nonexistent wage increases. As Ms. Polaneczky acknowledges, the college's "offer" to the faculty of 10.5 percent over five years is "sleight of hand" that will "probably never be realized."

We think the management of the college needs to prioritize. Why, in 2011, did they spend $5.8 million to purchase a building (in cash) when they knew contract negotiations were on the horizon? Why has the percentage of the operating budget for administrators increased from 14% to 21% in just 10 years? Are the people who do the actual work of the college a budgetary after-thought?

Our faculty and staff are proud that we make CCP a college that turns students' lives around. But with lower and lower salaries, many new teachers are thinking of looking for work at an institution with a better value system, and many of our support staff are simply wondering how to make ends meet. Great public institutions like CCP can do better than this.

John W. Braxton, Co-President Stephen T. Jones, Co-President American Federation

of Teachers Local 2026

Who's to blame?

Although I sympathize with the death of Jermaine Alexander, I cannot help but think that this tragic event could have been avoided had he been more responsible and not operated his dirt bike while in clear violation of the law. Jermaine's mother, Mrs. Howard-Witherspoon, spoke about his passion for dirt bikes and acknowledged that it is dangerous and illegal. However, on two occasions she purchased dirt bikes for him as Christmas presents. What if his passion was guns?

Where the does the blame lie? Jermaine's mother is quick to blame the police. Eric Carter, an accomplice with Jermaine on that day, said that the cops chased them and they split up. Police denied there was a chase. And even if that was the case, why did Jermaine flee? If he was doing nothing wrong, why not stop? Was it because he knew he was violating the law, or was it a case of catch me if you can?

These four-wheel ATVs and dirt bikes have been a pervasive problem all over the city for years. Yet, the general attitude in these neighborhoods is that the police should just ignore this problem so that these irresponsible youth can have a good time while at the same time thumbing their noses at the cops. When are the parents going to step up and take responsibility for this aberrant behavior?

I will be the first to agree that chasing these motor bikes is dangerous. However, if someone commits a heinous offense, are the police expected to just turn their heads the other way because the suspect's mode of transportation is the neighborhood dirt bike?

Joseph Di Lacqua


Ozzie is harried

Major League Baseball, where steroid use was facilitated by owners for years, now suspends the Marlins manager for daring to express the opinion that he liked Castro. "Brutal dictator," says MLB - after all, didn't he try to poison our crops and send a fake invasion force to remove our president? Once again, the First Amendment means nothing if it is bad for business - new park, many Cuban refugees from Castro, threatened boycotts. That and only that is truth. God is in the profits, the phony patriotism, the self-important moral indignation.

Jay A. Gertzman


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