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Letters to the editor: Sick pay column misses many key facts

Joe Gilliam’s opinion column on an earned sick days policy in Portland (Paid sick days keep economy healthy, Nov. 22) was based on everything but fact. It is unfortunate that, rather than considering how to help workers stay healthy and productive, his piece focused on inaccurate hyperbole in an obvious attempt to mislead and frighten readers — and policy makers.

First, calling this concept anything other than a benefit/labor standard is off base. Businesses shouldn’t force workers to come to work sick because they’re afraid to lose their jobs or much-needed pay when they are too ill to work — too ill for their own health and too ill for the grocery customers whose food they handle and with whom they directly interact when the stores are open. Especially in the food service industry, this is a serious public health matter.

Second, calling this a tax is ridiculous. A paid sick days policy is in no way, shape or form a tax — nor would it impact businesses or workers that are merely driving through the city and not based here.

Nice try. That has never been a consideration and the author likely knows that.

Readers — and city policy makers — should be wary of a source like this who blatantly misrepresents the truth and relies on outlandish fictional comparisons intended to rile people up against the idea instead of facts. The fact is that too many workers in the Portland area don’t earn a single paid sick day while they work (41 percent of private-sector workers in the area) and for low-wage workers and Latinos, the numbers are inequitably higher.

It’s time for a new and better approach that values worker health, public health and economic health.

Jeff Anderson

Secretary/Treasurer

UFCW Local 555

Keizer

Sick pay doesn’t lead to healthy economy

A recent op-ed in the Portland Tribune (Paid sick days keep economy healthy, Nov. 22) argues in favor of a citywide paid sick leave mandate, claiming that San Francisco’s similar policy was beneficial to business. However, even the research cited in the op-ed suggests otherwise.

According to data published in a survey conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, industries in San Francisco that didn’t offer sick leave prior to the mandate were more likely to report a negative impact on profitability. And nearly 30 percent of San Francisco’s lowest-wage employees reported layoffs or a reduction in hours at their place of work following the mandate’s passage.

Again, this is according to research published by advocates for the sick leave policy, and falling short on the authors’ claim that a sick leave mandate will lead to a “healthy local economy.”

Michael Saltsman

Research Fellow

Employment Policies Institute

Washington, D.C.

Stories hurt school’s effort on race

Your recent series of articles about Scott School have been demoralizing (Teachers protest drum beat on race, Nov. 1). As a parent, I have been working with the staff at Scott School since before my second grader started kindergarten. My goal was to make my neighborhood school a great place to learn.

But I feel discouraged when new parents ask me, “Why is the book fair closing early? Is my child safe?” Yes, aside from crazy people calling and emailing death threats to the school office.

I understand wanting to follow up on a story that got worldwide attention, but three negative articles in one issue? At that point you are taking away from my son’s education, and making the lives of people working hard for Scott students difficult.

Yes, the school has work to do. We are having serious discussions about that work at Site Council, PTA meetings and in the hallways, but your articles are pushing people apart.

Give the current administrators credit, they work hard. They have hired wonderful teachers, followed the district’s rules and dealt with budget cuts every year. They have also backed off of some things.

Yes, they have pushed for change and made some staff and families uncomfortable. Change is hard and scary, but it comes to all of us.

Have I agreed with the way everything at the school has gone? No. Have I expressed my opinion to those concerned? Yes.

If I did not think things were getting better, I would yank my kid and put my hundreds of hours and dollars into a different school. We have hope for our school and community.

Don’t destroy that hope with tabloid-style reporting about our school.

Lydia Dennehy

Northeast Portland

Racial education can benefit all students

As a white parent, I wholeheartedly support leaders of color and white leaders in Portland Public Schools who are taking action to address the alarming racial disparities in day-to-day experience and academic outcomes for students (Teachers protest drum beat on race, Nov. 1).

For things to change, we need to have real dialogue about institutional racism and white privilege. Most white people aren’t used to talking about whiteness and how it affects our experiences and behavior. Years of silence may make regular conversations feel like “whiteness is constantly thrown in our face.” Being perceived through the lens of skin color is an everyday experience for most students and teachers of color.

The fact that our current systems primarily reflect white peoples’ experiences is hard for many white people to see. That’s why listening and dialogue are crucial. Schools that truly support students and staff of color, as well as white people, will look and feel different. For many white people, it will take some getting used to.

There will inevitably be missteps on all sides on the road to creating a more equitable system. But to me the fact that some white people feel uncomfortable is a good sign that real change is happening. Many of my deepest understandings about racism have come from experiences where I started out feeling uncomfortable, defensive and self-righteous.

White educators have a critical role to play in transforming our schools. I hope they will take advantage of this opportunity to engage in self-reflection and work side by side with people of color to support change. It benefits our entire community when all students and educators feel affirmed and are able to succeed.

Molly Franks

North Portland

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Taxi drivers wait as long as two hours at Portland International Airport for a fare, meaning low wages for drivers. Portland's cab drivers make on average $6.22 an hour, according to a city report. Many say a new union cab company could boost wages and provide better working conditions.

City should aid union taxi drivers

I have been driving a taxi with a legal permit for many years (Here Come the Cabs, Nov. 15). I have worked with most taxi cab companies (Green, Broadway and Radio) in Portland. What I experienced all these years has inspired me and other taxi drivers to come together to ask the city for a taxi-driver-owned company that would be more accommodating and look out for the welfare of the drivers. Our democratically run Union Cab Cooperative would help us put the “independent” back into independent contractor, which is what taxi drivers are classified.

Many drivers and I work on a contract with the cab company, and have to pay for the car lease whether or not we used the car for that day. We pay even if we are unable to work due to illness or family matters that are out of our control. The car lease amount is really high ($80 per day) and is paid whether or not the driver was able to make any money. This forces a lot of drivers to go home with a negative amount of money even after working a 12-hour shift.

I was charged a $300 fee by the Broadway Cab Company for talking on the phone for two minutes when my son’s school called because my son was not feeling well and I had to pick him up. I tried to explain the situation to the company, but I was still forced to pay.

In addition to approving our Union Cab Cooperative permit application, the City Council also should approve cab company accountability standards, which would include appeals rights for drivers before having to pay fines (called “administrative fees”) for customer complaints.

Zuber Abdullah

North Portland

Some welcome more cabs on the street

I find it interesting that the subject of increasing the number of cabs and easing the law regarding taxi operations is being brought up at this time (Here Come the Cabs, Nov. 15).

I have been a TriMet bus rider for 34 years.

I used to be able to travel all over the city at any time of the day. However, I have found myself in the past couple of years relying more and more on cab service due to the many TriMet cutbacks on bus service. I simply cannot get to many places I need to go by bus any longer where once I was able. They simply don’t go there anymore.

While I do not want to see any cab drivers suffer due to changes in the system, I have to admit I would welcome more drivers on the street. I have had long waits when calling for cabs and I would love to be able to hail a cab as I can do in other cities when visiting there.

I hope the drivers and the cab companies can come to an equitable agreement. I know I cannot depend upon TriMet to get me there.

Vicki Harrison

Southeast Portland

Union Cab will benefit drivers, riders

Four out of the five main cab companies in Portland are not answerable to cab drivers (Here Come the Cabs, Nov. 15). They make no effort to create more business for the drivers, nor do they dispatch in accordance to their own contracts with drivers.

Dispatch is required under city code. The only thing the companies care about is their “kitty,” the charge of up to $580 per week that drivers must pay for the “privilege” of driving cab in Portland.

When the city raises fare rates, the cab companies raise the kitty — while drivers must pay for gas, maintenance and waiting time. When drivers go home with very little net pay after paying the kitty, we cannot complain because at least it’s a job. This is even after driving 12 to 14 hours per day.

Certainly, there are not many choices for drivers. Some drivers in the city are blaming too many cab permits when the real culprits are the companies who don’t fulfill their obligations to the cab drivers and then overcharge them for what few services they provide.

If we continue in the same way that the industry is run, soon cab drivers will be at each other instead of trying to improve the industry for everyone. One way to change is to encourage driver-owned, democratically run, economically sustainable companies such as Union Cab Cooperative is proposing in its application. The City Council should approve this application for drivers to empower ourselves.

In addition, cab companies should all have standards and be held accountable for them. We can change the taxi industry in Portland so that we can actually support our families on a regular work schedule.

Hassen Ahmed

Northeast Portland