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Raid The Pentagon

I read with interest Mobtown Beat, in which Edward Ericson Jr. highlighted the dispute between the mayor and some City Council members (“Budget Revolt Stifled,” Mobtown Beat, June 27). As stated in the article, members of the progressive community sided with City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young in opposition to the mayor’s budget.

It is important that citizens get involved in the budget process. But in this dispute, it was Democrats jousting with other Democrats. And they are arguing over crumbs. The real money is in the Pentagon piggy bank. In my city, swimming pools, rec centers and fire stations are being closed. This is criminal. A drone crashes on the Eastern Shore, and that’s $176 million down the fiscal drain. Imagine what Baltimore could do with that chunk of change, wasted by the military.

Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, and Paul Ryan are laughing it up as cities and states are suffering from budget anxiety. Stockton, Calif., joined Harrisburg in declaring bankruptcy. The problem is not in the cities, but with a Congress which refuses to cut military spending. Slash the money going to the war machine, and get those tax dollars back to cities and states.

We the people must rise up and demand severe cutbacks in Pentagon spending, so that Baltimore, Harrisburg, Stockton, and cities around the country can keep open fire stations, libraries, and facilities for the children. Baltimore schools need billions of dollars just to provide desperately needed repairs and maintenance.

I urge City Paper to do an investigation of the downed drone. What was its mission? Why did it crash? Was it a killer drone?

All sectors of society must come together to save this country from the Pentagon. In another letter, I will argue that military madness is most responsible for climate chaos, evidenced by Friday’s storm. Mother Earth knows war is not the answer.

Max Obuszewski

Baltimore

wage justice for immigrants

Thank you for Baynard Woods’ insightful article (“The Other Occupiers,” Feature, July 4). It brought important issues afflicting our city to light: poverty, unemployment, housing, and other challenges facing undocumented immigrant populations. I write in response to the story’s suggestion that undocumented immigrant workers have no recourse when they are victims of wage theft. In reality, state and federal wage laws protect all workers, not just those with legal status. Undocumented immigrant workers have the same rights as any other worker to be paid fully for their work, to earn overtime pay, to be covered by their employer’s workers’ compensation policy when injured on the job, and to access the court system to address violations of these laws. If laws protecting workers did not cover undocumented workers, it would create a perverse incentive to hire them. Such a system would essentially create a class of workers in slave-like conditions, where employers could receive the benefits of a worker’s labor with no legal obligation to ever pay for it.

On the other hand, the reality of combating wage theft among immigrant workers is extremely challenging. Undocumented immigrants are often employed in low-wage industries, like construction and agriculture. They are often hired by the day or week, and once the job is over, they may have trouble tracking down unscrupulous employers for their pay. Many are hesitant to seek help due to fear of exposing their undocumented status. Some employers prey on this fear, threatening to report workers to immigration if they complain. Regardless, many of their employers may be judgment proof because they lack assets or money in their business. Faced with legal battles, they frequently shut down operations, open up another business under a new name, and engage in the same illegal practices with other workers. As a result, although federal and state laws protect undocumented workers, the reality of enforcing those laws on their behalf is another story entirely.

Several legal and community groups work to end the exploitation of undocumented workers in Maryland. CASA de Maryland, the state’s largest immigrants’ rights organization, provides legal services, policy advocacy, and engages Maryland’s immigrant communities to improve their quality of life. Another is the Public Justice Center (PJC), a Baltimore-based non-profit legal services group that works with people to confront laws, practices, and institutions that cause injustice, poverty, and discrimination. The PJC’s Workplace Justice Project combats wage theft among our state’s most vulnerable workers. We represent workers regardless of their immigration status, and specifically target employers that try to take advantage of workers like those highlighted in this article. The Project can be contacted at (410) 625-9409.

Andrea Vaughn, Attorney

Public Justice Center

Baltimore, MD

Black (and White) In The Day

I very much enjoyed Evan Serpick’s article about the Afro-American newspapers (“Black Life in Black and White,” Art, July 4).

Forty years ago this month, I began my professional journalism career right after graduating from what was then Towson State College with the Afro, as one of three white employees. Another was also a reporter, and the third worked as a proofreader, I believe. I was told that the Afro had always hired whites, since its founding here in 1892.

As a cub reporter, I covered virtually all beats at once: crime, politics—both at City Hall and the Statehouse—prisons and jails, human interest stories, movies, books, plays, and the Baltimore City School Board. My first presidential obituary, of Lyndon Johnson, occurred because LBJ had died after the paper had closed for the evening. As I was the only one left, I got to do the page one story. I even started my own column,”Black and Proud,” that highlighted the accomplishments of mainly unknown, but talented, young people in the city. One clipping of mine that I recently came across was of a young man of 22 who had high hopes for his future. His name is Congressman Elijah Cummings, and this was when he still had hair! I sent him a copy a few weeks ago, and he wrote me a nice note back.

After working a week for free as an intern, I marched one Friday into the office of then-President John H. Murphy III, and asserted that I’d be back on Monday with a paycheck, or I wouldn’t be back on Monday. Just two months later, a major endorsement meeting was held in that same office to support the then-Democratic nominee for the presidency of the United States, South Dakota Sen. George McGovern. There were only two white people in that office that day: the senator was one, and I was the other. The late congressman Parren J. Mitchell introduced us.

My first “official” day on the job was to cover a riot at the Maryland Penitentiary, a few blocks away from the paper’s then-downtown office. The inmates had taken guards as hostages, threatening to throw them off the roof if their demands weren’t met. They wanted to see the governor, congressman Mitchell, and Elizabeth Murphy Oliver, then one of my two bosses in the newsroom. A car was sent for her, and she took me along; I hadn’t even signed my formal employment papers yet. Outside its high, gray stone walls, the BCPD, with riot guns and dogs snarling, were itching to go in, with the late colorful WCBM radio reporter Eddie Fenton urging them on. This was a little over a year after the bloody riot suppression at Attica Prison in New York State had occurred, but the trio went in, and bloodshed was averted. This was no mean feat either, as all the prisoners were already on Death Row and had nothing to lose. Later, I used to get letters from them.

Mrs. Oliver is gone now—as are Elizabeth Murphy Moss and famed sports editor Sam Lacy, whose desk was next to mine. Paul Evans had left just before I arrived, but we became friends. I left after a year, having been invited to become assistant editor of Baltimore magazine.

Mrs. Oliver gave me a great piece of advice about getting my stories done and turned in on deadline, and I’ve used it for life as well: “You can’t agonize about it, child. You just have to go with it.”

Blaine Taylor

Towson

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