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March 26, 2002 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-26

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 26, 2002



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SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

The bottom line
was, 'Ain't no more
money, you'll have
to wait.'"
- Deb Tait, secretary of the Inner City Black
Wreckers Association, on the indefinite
postponement of the city of Detroit's
vacant building demolition program,
quoted yesterday in The Detroit News.

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Questions about unions

he first time I can
remember thinking
about labor issues
was in middle school,
when the workers at
Kroger, the grocery store
my family had always
shopped at, went on strike
over wages and benefits.
We stopped shopping there
and my parents steer clear of it to this day. I
got another chance when the long and bitter
strike at The Detroit News and Detroit Free
Press resulted in the banning of those papers
from my home. Both the children of United
Auto Workers members, my parents told me
that we should support organized labor.
I've always agreed with them, believing
anions to be a legitimate and essential means for
workers to get a fair shake as a collective that
they couldn't get from employers by themselves.
But while I still believe people have the right
to organize and collectively bargain, in the past
couple years I've found myself more and more at
odds with the goals of many unions and my fel-
low liberals who adopt their positions uncritically.
The union I've had the most direct experi-
ence with is, naturally, the Graduate Employees
Organization. I was here for the last GEO strike
several years ago and despite my long support of
unions, found myself baffled by the demands of
student instructors who taught little and, in my
experience, did a second-rate job of it at best.
Last month another round of contract negotia-
tions brought a day long "work action" by GEO
in pursuit of childcare no one else gets and yet
more money for substandard teaching. I'm sure
all those principled students who wouldn't cross
the picket line were humming one of those
catchy union ditties as they lay in bed.

The issue of free trade divided me from many
(though not all) union members as well. Free trade
is often attacked by unions for transferring jobs,
especially good paying industrial jobs, overseas.
Growing up around Detroit, I know that is an
accurate critique and how hard the waning of an
area's big local industry can hit the economic and
social fabric of a community. I do sympathize, but
communities will adjust and outside of autowork-
ers, Americans are better off when they can buy
cheaper cars and workers in developing countries
where some of the jobs were relocated are getting
sorely needed economic opportunities.
Recently the U.S. imposed tariffs on steel
imports at the behest of steelworkers unions and
the swing-state voters in their membership. Nor-
mally an ardent free trader, President Bush said
this action needed to be taken to prevent the col-
lapse of the U.S. steel industry. But why
shouldn't an industry collapse if it is no longer
competitive? Steelworker unions obviously cared
about the jobs of their members, but the funda-
mental problem of steel production - like much
heavy industry - becoming less and less eco-
nomically viable in this country is not going
away. The government has only postponed the
day of reckoning the steel industry must face
while angering our trading partners. Now other
manufacturers will have to pay an artificially
inflated price for steel and threatened retaliatory
tariffs from other countries will hurt our
Another disturbing development is the Team-
sters push for drilling in the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge that will provide only a trickle of
oil years down the road that cannot compete with
the foreign gusher. But James P. Hoffa sees a
chance to cozy up to George W., like Jackie Press-
er with Ronald Reagan. Then, as now, a Teamster
chief made a pact with a president openly hostile

to unions. Presser did it to fend off investigations
into corruption and criminality within the union.
What Hoffa is getting from a man who, according
to the AFL-CIO, "shows little regard for working
families and their unions," remains to be seen.
Finally is the problem of teachers unions. I
should say up front that I think teachers are, by and
large, grossly underpaid. But higher salaries will
never be justified to taxpayers if we can't seriously
test the achievement of teachers and dump the
ones who aren't performing. Tenure, the benefit
most fiercely protected by teacher's unions, needs
to be done away with. Teachers who can't cut it, or
who plod along in mediocrity year after year, have
no business teaching. I say this because I firmly
believe in the importance of public schools and
want to see them improved, especially by attract-
ing better teachers with better salaries. I have no
doubt most tenured teachers are good teachers, but
nothing motivates success like accountability. We
grade students because we know accomplishment
matters. We should expect the same from teachers.
Despite my growing alienation from union
stances, I still think unions are important and
believe there are many areas of the economy,
especially in the service sector, that badly need
them. But too many unions have become pro-
tectors of the status quo or just politically
opportunistic, out of step with the reality
around them. The economy is a dynamic force
and hanging onto outmoded ideas and indus-
tries to provide job security to a few ends up
hurting everyone in the long run. Those of us
who support unions should not shy away from
looking critically at their stances and thinking
about not just how union members are affect-
ed, but how the rest of us are affected as well.

Peter Cunnife can be reached

West Seven Mile forever

few weeks ago,
upon my return
from a spring
break in sunny Mexico, I
was driving through Detroit
on a crisp, sunny day with
my window down bumping
"Respiration" by Black
Star, taking in all the sights
that my city has to offer,
and I was motivated to
write this here column. More importantly, it
gives me an opportunity to address a lingering
issue that reared its ugly, confused little head
back in the beginning of my freshman year ... .
What's the deal with all these clowns shit-
tin' on Tha D like they do? Every time I turn in
another direction, someone else is blasting my
city. After some deliberation, I have broken the
haters down into three specific categories:
There is your average, sheltered, suburbanite
whose experience with inner city black folks has
probably only been limited to Chris Tucker
movies. People in this category make quick and
often unfounded conclusions about a city that
they have never set foot in. A few years ago, I
told a girl from St. Clair Shores that I was from
Detroit: Her first response? "Umm, so, like, uhh,
do you, like, y'know, umm, live in the part where
people get, like, killed a lot and stuff?" It's like
her big brother ventured to Greektown once and
came home with a "comprehensive" report of the
violent areas in the city or something.
Next, there are your New York/Chicago/
L.A. natives who won't waste a hot second to
tell you how wack Detroit is compared to their
hometowns. They have a really bad superiority
complex (particularly some of these goddamn
New Yorkers), and they like to spend time
bitching about how they can't find the clubs,
music or restaurants that they have at home. If
you have complaints about Michigan, then stay
your sorry play-going, latt6-sipping, University

jock-riding asses at home and spare us the
complaints while you are here, eh?
And finally there are the natives of Detroit
who can't stand it and wanna be out as soon as
humanly possible. I can side with these people,
for they know the city and its inner workings,
and perhaps they have legitimate reasons to
want to leave. If you came up on some money
and you wanna get away from Schoolcraft,
then I can support a move to West Bitch, Ster-
ling Heights or somewhere of that caliber.
For me, though, it's more about the people
than the city itself. I suppose it's something about
niggas being ghetto fabulous that has always
inspired me. Only in Detroit will you find cats in
front of a gas station trying to sell you a DVD
copy of "The Matrix 2." Only in Detroit will you
see women walking around with a ridiculous hair-
do stretching about half of her full height into the
air. Only in Detroit will you find cats walking
around in a purple suit with a lime green silk shirt,
a brim hat with some poor bird's feather sticking
the hell out and the obligatory snakeskin boots
(pick a color).
Oh, I won't argue the fact that Detroit
needs some help on a number of levels. For-
mer Mayor Dennis Archer was ranting a;out
the rejuvenation of'the city and our niw
Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is doing more of
the same ... question is, is Kwame blowing
smoke as well, or is he going to give Detroit
the kick in the ass that it so desperately
needs? You see, you can't run Detroit with-
out a little gangsta edge. Coleman Young,
may he rest in peace, had that edge, but he
got old and ornery and he died. Let's see if
good ol' Kwame can stand up to city with
the necessary cojones.
Our schools? They do need some serious
help. Though I have not taken a stance either
way with affirmative action policies, I think
one would have to spend the 13 years that I did
in. the public school system to understand the

huge discrepancies. Do I think the mighty Cass
Tech prepared me for the University? On no
level, whatsoever. However, I did make it
through to here and I'll be damned if that
doesn't account for anything. People always
complain about how "frightening" Detroit Pub-
lic is, but I'll bet you will never find some "mis-
treated" nutjob slaughtering people en masse
because someone called him a "loser" a few
times ... that's some "suburban-esque" shit that
always tends to surprise the hell out of people
because they expect something like that to hap-
pen in a bad neighborhood.
Bottom line is that most people want to
make excuses all day about why they have a
problem with Detroit, when the fact is that they
actually lack the testicular fortitude to step foot
south of Eight Mile Road. So we don't make a
good substitute for the exciting activity on.,
Manhattan Island, and you won't find bubbling
brooks and green pastures and shit like you
would in East Pleasant Gulley Falls, Conn. or
somewhere like that, but we got gumption,
dammit and that has to account for something.
I challenge any non-urban raised, non-black
who claims that he is "in touch" with the black
community to go hang about in Tha D for a day
or two. Go to Hart Plaza during the fireworks.
Hit up a couple of rib joints in the city. Give the
Mom n' Pop record stores some business. It's
not all bad around the way ... just stay on point
when you come around and don't act scared,
and you should be okay (i.e. the pricks at The
Michigan Review probably wouldn't make it
out alive). And for the record, bullets will not
graze your car when you cross the town border.
I suppose that I should just get use to the bad
rep, though. It could be worse ... I could be
from Long Island.
Dustin J. Seibert can be reached
at dseibert@umich.edu.


Sept. 11 does not validate
the Hollywood empire
I was watching the Oscars last night and Tom
Cruise was speaking at the beginning of the show
about whether, in light of the events of Sept. 11,

required every famous and prominent person to
stop and ponder whether his work was deeply
meaningful. Not only was the answer a unanimous
yes, most found their work to be even more impor-
tant after Sept. 11. No wonder we're such a cultur-
al juggernaut.
It's not just the famous; I've heard a lot of peo-
ple say the same thing: That Sept. 11 validates

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