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Union work

EDITOR: I started working in Sonoma County in the trades, working non-union. The company I worked for would not pay overtime. The company paid us as laborers and had us operate equipment. We worked Saturdays for cash. They also brought undocumented workers on as laborers and paid them cash. We had no medical benefits.

We worked on prevailing-wage jobs a lot, and the company got caught misclassifying some of us as laborers and having us run equipment and not paying us overtime. Thanks to the Foundation for Fair Contracting, we received checks that year for the wages they owed us.

So it seems that the bottom line for most of these non-union companies, and I know this from talking to other workers in the trades, is they pay as little as possible and exploit undocumented workers and don't provide health and retirement benefits for their workers in order to bolster their profits.

I joined the Operating Engineers union and immediately doubled my wages. I got medical benefits for myself and my boys, along with a retirement plan and holiday vacation pay and better working conditions. I could not have gotten by working non-union as well as I have working union.

RICK BAKER

Rohnert Park

A small price

EDITOR: I would like to offer another opinion on the proposed Santa Rosa Junior College bond measure ("A bond? No thanks," Letters, Wednesday). We are blessed to have one of the best community colleges in the country right here in Santa Rosa, and it deserves our support. The quality and diversity of classes offered at SRJC is superb, and I encourage anyone who has not taken a class to give it a try. Another bond measure is a small price to pay to help maintain and improve this gem.

CHRIS WILLS

Santa Rosa

Reducing water use

EDITOR: A mandatory 20 percent reduction in water use? Unfair.

Despite years of casino funding, Rohnert Park is one of the few cities without a cash-for-grass program. Our once enormous lawn? Xeriscaped. Inside? Everything replaced with higher efficiency models — washer, commodes, dishwasher, etc. I have never left water running while brushing my teeth. I can leave a 49er telecast when halftime begins, shower and return clean, dried and dressed before the second half. Hand washing dishes? Start hot water tap, fill a pot for "tomorrow's coffee," plug the sink and wash knives using the now-hot rinse water to fill sink.

A 20 percent reduction for everyone is punitive to those already conserving. A household using 12,000 gallons gets 9,600, and one using 120,000 gets 96,000. We'll have to use disposable plates and utensils, adding to the landfill, and increase trips to the gym to shower, increasing our carbon footprint.

A better solution? Determine a reasonable allotment per person, factoring in other needs, such as a single-family home requires more than a condo with landscaping maintained by the complex, and home with pets need slightly more than those without. Fine those who exceed their allotment, and offer a discount to those who use less.

JANE POOLE

Rohnert Park

Universal care

EDITOR: Dr. Herb Brosbe gets it right ("A voice from the medical trenches," Close to Home, Sunday). His portraits of three patients (not coincidentally, all women, as I believe women are more often victimized by our system's neglect) who are tragically left wanting for adequate health care, and who ultimately cost the system far more than if they were covered, are both accurate and poignant.

I have been fortunate to have worked for nearly 20 years in a field of health care where universal coverage is, in fact, the rule. Sadly, one must have a terminal diagnosis with an estimate of six months or less to live, and be prepared to give up all efforts of finding a cure, before our health care system believes that everyone should be covered equally. Hospice care treats all patients, those in Fountaingrove mansions and in Santa Rosa Avenue trailers, with the same dignity, and the same services, without regard to the coverage a patient may or may not have. It is both the humane thing to do and cost effective.

So, too, Brosbe's conclusion, that "our country can afford health care for every citizen" is both the humane thing to do and, ultimately, cost effective.

STEVE EINSTEIN

Sebastopol