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BofA vs. S.F.
Peter Byrne's cover story ("The Great Bank Thievery," Dec. 31) on the city's lawsuit charging Bank of America with defrauding the public treasury of millions -- perhaps billions -- of dollars was a lucidly written examination of a complex case.

The implication by officials in Attorney General Dan Lungren's office, reported in the article, that the city attorney filed suit "hastily" to grab headlines is unfair and at odds with the facts.

San Francisco sued Bank of America following an exhaustive two-year investigation into whistle-blower allegations of fraud and conspiracy. The suit was filed only after an attempted mediation with the bank in which it became apparent that San Francisco had no choice but to go to court to recover public money.

In addition, questions raised by Byrne as to possible criminal prosecution and any changes in the complicated relationship the city has with the bank are well taken. While those questions do not lend themselves to quick or simple answers, our position is that we are not ruling out any options.

Marc Slavin, Deputy City Attorney
San Francisco

To the Barricades!
Your Dec. 31, 1997, cover story ("The Great Bank Thievery") is the first I have heard of the BofA municipal bond scandal -- this time around. It seemed very dejà vu to me; haven't we been here before? And, as may happen this time as well, nothing was done then.

At any rate, thanks for your efforts to bring to our attention yet another example of violation of the public trust -- not just by BofA but also by those we pay to look out for our interests. But don't you notice a vacuum in the public's interest in this issue? Not only is the local and national media not talking about it but neither are citizens particularly concerned either. This is scary.

Citizens seem to forget whose money it is that the politicians spend and misappropriate or steal. The money belongs to us. Get it? And if our hired guns do not do what they are paid to do -- look after our interests -- then surely the onus is on us to do something about that. And if we don't, then we are as guilty as anyone at Bank of America or in City Hall.

We must cease this childish dependence on elected officials and men in black robes to behave as honorable and intelligent human beings. However, ponder this: What publicity and punishment might we expect if Joe Citizen committed any one of the many breaches of fiduciary duty reported to have been committed by BofA and our bureaucrats?

J.M. Burris
Via Internet

Giving the Union Its Due
The George Cothran-John Mecklin "Union Disorganizing" piece (The Grid, Jan. 7) should have been labeled for the union-busting hit piece it is. Like all such propaganda, it ignores and distorts facts, such as:

* Invoking the Muni drivers' union defense of a gay-bashing member. Unions are bound by a legal duty of fair representation and must represent all members (and nonmembers in the bargaining unit) without discrimination or favoritism, or they can be targets of unfair labor practice charges. The union can decide how far to carry a grievance, but is legally bound to provide representation and due process in the initial stages. It's not a choice, it's the law.

* The authors claim that union organizing at nonprofits doesn't make sense financially. The reality is that most union organizing is not about money, it's about empowering working women and men. When the boss, private, public, or nonprofit, is held accountable for favoritism, arrogance, racism, or any of the other human failings they may inflict on their employees, liberal managers holler for union-buster attorneys. They cannot stand the idea of their employee, their subordinate, meeting with them as equals to insist that management answer for their actions and back off when proven wrong. It is about power all right, but employee power vs. the management's power.

* The nature of union organizing campaigns is determined mainly by the realities faced by the workers who desire to be represented. If the employer is fair, the campaign is, to use the Grid's words, "polite and high-minded." Where the employer's reaction is harsh and vindictive -- far more often the case -- the union must respond to defend the workers who have chosen it to represent them. In the case of public and many nonprofit agencies, the best defense is a strong, and public, offense. Agreements are reached when the cost of disagreeing becomes higher to the employer than the cost of agreeing.

* Cothran and Mecklin assert first that SEIU 790 is organizing nonprofits to drive up costs so that they will not be viable sources for contracting out. Then they assail the supervisors for approving a contract that "makes it nearly impossible to contract out any more work to nonprofits." If it is "nearly impossible" why would the unions continue organizing, unless it is that the employees want representation?

One last question: So just how much, total compensation package, do the Westside Mental Health Center Inc.'s directors receive?

Albert Vetere Lannon, Chair
Labor Studies Department
Laney College, Oakland
Acting Chair
Labor Studies Department
San Francisco State University


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