Protect America's Jobs -- After reading the article "(Don't) Let Them Eat Cake" (6/05/03), pertaining to the organizing of nurses and health care professionals, I think one reason they need to organize a union is because of the so-called "foreign guest worker." An increasing number of "foreign guest workers" have been invited into this country to work in areas where there is a shortage of skilled workers in a specific profession. Many of these workers come from low-wage and low cost-of-living countries such as India, China, the Philippines and Russia. When they arrive to work in the United States, in some cases, they undercut the wages and benefits of American workers anywhere from 10 to 50 percent.
Some of the health care systems which the foreign guest workers have worked for in their home countries (for example, the Philippines) follow American standards of care, so little, or no retraining or re-education is required. There are about 1.5 million expatriates from India now working in this country, whereas we have more than 2 million unemployed American citizens. A good number of these Indian expatriates are working in the health care professions -- again, undercutting Americans employed in these professions.
Given that nursing, and the allied health care professions are, in most cases, determined to be "shortage" professions, this may allow employers and the government to take full advantage of provisions of various foreign guest worker visa classifications.
Other professions, such as IT (Information Technology) workers are taking this threat seriously, and are starting to organize unions specifically to counter this threat of the foreign guest workers. Hopefully, the nurses and the SEIU can look at this issue very seriously in terms of whether to seek union organization and counter this threat.
Henry G. Huestis
STA Needs Express Service -- In the article "The STA's Class Ceiling" (6/05/03), Robert Herold asked, "Can a system of mass transit be designed that has appeal to the middle and upper-middle class?"
The answer is right under our noses. It is so obvious that it has been completely overlooked. Take a look at the public school bus system. It's a matter of convenience. School kids have to walk only two or three blocks to get to a bus stop. Granted, it's free, but do you think anyone wants to travel several blocks to get to a pickup point, especially in winter? The problem is that STA only has main trunk lines. Most people would have to walk several blocks or drive to an STA parking lot like the one at Five Mile to get to a pickup point. That's not convenient. And "convenient" is one of today's business watchwords.
Only lower-income people have an economic incentive to make that initial inconvenient trip to a bus stop. Here's my suggestion, and I'll use the North Indian Trail neighborhood as an example. Right now, there is only the main trunk line that runs on Indian Trail Road. Those buses also stop all along the route downtown to pick up passengers. That is not convenient for the customers. First they have to get to a bus stop, then they have multiple interruptions along the way to pick up other passengers and slow their journey downtown or back home. During the morning and evening rush hours, this is not convenient for the middle and upper-middle class commuters. They want to get downtown or back as expeditiously as possible. During rush hour, the STA should run its buses through the main side streets, then express to downtown or back without any other stops.
Other major neighborhoods could be serviced the same way during rush hour. Run the big buses on these intra-neighborhood routes during the rush hours and then take the riders straight downtown. You'll get more customers in all neighborhoods that way.
STA needs to quit shoving a one-size-fits-all shoe down our throats with a take- it-or-leave-it attitude and start thinking like a business that wants to provide a service to customers.
Preserving Spokane -- With the many recent development projects that are bringing new life to downtown, Spokane has much to be proud of. The long list of renovation projects demonstrates the value of historic preservation as an economic and community development tool. The property owners, architects, contractors and bankers behind projects such as the American Legion Building, the Steam Plant, Hotel Lusso, Blue Chip Lofts and the Davenport Hotel should be applauded. Near downtown, the distinctive Kirtland Cutter-designed Gables apartments at 1302-12 W. Broadway have undergone an amazing transformation. And in Peaceful Valley, the long-vacant Cowley School has been renovated into three dwelling units. These recent preservation projects join such long-time projects as Joel, the Old Spaghetti Factory, the Met Theater and the Carnegie Library (now the home of Integrus Architects) as examples of how progress is achieved through preservation.
On a less happy note, it is sad to hear of the upcoming demolition of the landmark Lincoln School at 25 W. Fifth Ave. This venerable former grade school building provides an all-too-rare human touch to an area that has been turned into a no man's land by Spokane's medical industry. It is even sadder to hear that the building will be demolished only to be replaced by a building of a similar size. If a more imaginative approach had been taken, the existing building undoubtedly could have joined the admirable list of preservation projects that are contributing so much to Spokane's economy, culture and livability.
Stephen J. Franks
Publication date: 06/12/03