March 15, 2004 11:00 pm

More facts on Wal-Mart

To the Editor:

I can't help but say something about the incorrect information that is being put out concerning Wal-Mart's wages and benefits.

It would be nice if everyone who has opinions on the subject would see to it that they have their facts straight. I refer to the Feb. 28 letter from Michael Brosseau of Cove. He said Wal-Mart does not pay over minimum wage, overtime or health insurance. I worked for Wal-Mart for eight years.

Wal-Mart is a large company and many people do not like them because of it, but Wal-Mart has to operate under federal and state laws and regulations the same as anyone else.

New employees are hired at minimum wage-plus — 20-25 cents over. Each year on their anniversary date, employees are evaluated, and if a satisfactory evaluation is received, a raise is given. If the evaluation is better than satisfactory, an additional raise is granted. If the store manager feels the employee is doing an outstanding job the manager can grant another increase.

If an employee works over 40 hours a week overtime is paid. However, Wal-Mart tries to keep expenses down and through scheduling tries to eliminate overtime — the same as other employers.

Wal-Mart does have a health plan, dental plan, vacation time, sick-time hours, life insurance is available, profit-sharing, 401(k), discounts on purchases and bonuses based on years of service. So to say that Wal-Mart just pays minimum wage and no benefits is not correct.

When I retired from Wal-Mart after eight years, I received several thousand dollars in a lump sum from profit-sharing and 401(k) plans.

The court judgments that have been rendered against Wal-Mart for pay/overtime violations are not Wal-Mart policy, but the result of poor management decisions in the stores involved.

Hopefully future statements about Wal-Mart will be correct and accurate before they appear in print or are repeated.

Eugene Fullmer

La Grande

Adhere to dog leash laws

To the Editor:

There is a dog owner or owners in Union who are allowing their dogs to run loose at the expense of other people, their pets and their property. In particular two large dogs — one a black and tan German shepherd type with a curled tail and the other a black and white mixed breed with long tail — run together each morning shortly after 8 in the vicinity of First, Second and West Arch Street, although they have been reported elsewhere. Neither dog wears a collar.

They have been successful in dumping over garbage cans, depositing their waste in yards, romping through landscaped areas and treeing pet cats, two of which barely escaped the other morning. Further, when one of us tried to ward the dogs off one of them aggressively approached without any reservation whatsoever.

These are the same two dogs that former Chief Muchow assisted us with some time back when they killed two young cats in this same area. As large as they are and as aggressive as their behavior is, what's to say they may not injure someone. They clearly are not intimidated by our encouragement to leave.

People who own dogs need to respect the leash law. It is pure disrespect for the rights of others that people refuse to accept the responsibilities of pet ownership. Clearly there is a price to be paid by those who choose to ignore the law.

Arnie and Marcia Bergstrom


Wal-Mart: It's your choice

To the Editor:

On Feb. 18 Bill Rautenstrauch's opinion on Wal-Mart, "Minimum wage jobs fill niche in society,'' missed the point. The issue is not about options for those lacking the experience or skills to find other employment but the culture of a company that pays slightly more than minimum wage, provides health insurance with employee contributions beyond the employee's means, and undercuts competitors that pay well above minimum wage with affordable benefits.

This was the very issue in the grocery store strike in California. Those companies, which included Safeway and Albertsons, were cutting benefits to compete with Wal-Mart. It is noteworthy that while those companies invest in their communities, Wal-Mart has a history of funneling their profits back to Arkansas.

What happens to those folks without health insurance working for Wal-Mart? We subsidize their lack of income and benefits through community services and higher insurance premiums, which result from emergency room visits.

With the coming of a supercenter we can look forward to the closing of an optometrist's practice, a grocery store and a tire center.

Yes it is true some things are cheaper at Wal-Mart. But what is the real cost to their employees and our community?

Joel Goldstein

La Grande

Great recycling service

To the Editor:

We spent several months in the Sandy area recently and it really made us appreciate what a good job City Garbage Service is doing.

The regular garbage service was OK but the recycling was not even close to what we have. We had to have eight different paper bags to sort out the items to be recycled. We had a plastic container for the newspapers and you could put the paper bags on top on the newspapers. We usually chose the two that were the fullest. It was hard to remember to ask for the paper bags at the grocery store and all those part filled bags took up a lot of room in the garage.

Yard waste was the biggest problem. There is no recycle program for it. You may burn it several months in the year. You call each day to get the OK. Many of the days that were OK, it was raining but you burn anyway. Grass and wet leaves do not burn. We really didn't know what to do with them. You are charged $40 a level pickup load to dispose of them. A large dumpster to dispose of limbs, grass, etc. would have been $400 and you had three days to fill it.

Everyone we told about the recycling of yard debris here and how it was made into mulch agreed that it was a great plan.

We will not take our garbage service for granted again.

Connie and Gordon Struck

La Grande

The facts on Almquist

To the Editor:

I have to take issue with the opinion column of March 2 in The Observer written by Debbie Clark, president of TOTAL. Her comments concerning Leonard Almquist were erroneous and misleading.

Leonard Almquist was hired through the CETA program by the Union County Museum, not, as Clark alleges, by the City of Union as administrator. I was on the city council at that time, and later when Leonard was appointed to the council, where he served for several years.

When Floyd Parrot, the then-city administrator, was going to retire, we on the council urged Almquist to apply for the position. Leonard was intelligent and caring and had all the qualities of leadership, commitment and loyalty the job required. He also had a degree in business.

He did apply, but said he would take the job only if he could work with Mr. Parrot for a period of time. This was accomplished. Almquist was hired as the full-time not half-time city administrator in 1984.

Almquist grew and flourished in the job. He worked hard to improve his skills and expertise for that job, and he was always there for the citizens, the council, and the city of Union. He was, in all respects, a professional city administrator.

Clark gives the impression that Leonard was the sole person responsible for the golf course contract. This is absurd. Her statement that we nearly had to pay a $250,000 penalty also misses the mark. The situation was resolved largely through Almquist's efforts, and we paid no penalty.

It is unfair and silly to cast doubt on someone's reputation and ability for something that could have happened but did not.

Clark needs to get her facts straight when she discusses Union's history. There are a lot of us who were there who know the facts.

Barbara James


County clerk makes right choice

To the Editor:

In a recent news article Nellie Bogue Hibbert, the Union County clerk, indicated that she would not issue a marriage license for couples other than a man and a woman.

The decision is well founded. Oregon Revised statues ORS 106.010 states "Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, and solemnized in accordance with ORS 106.150."

Until the courts make a final decision as to what the law wording means, our Union County clerk is being prudent in following the express wording of the present law. Time will tell how the present controversy over who can be issued a marriage license under the state constitution and law will turn out. The issue will be settled by legal action in the proper courts of jurisdiction for such issues.

However, present law is very clear as to who can or cannot be issued a license.

Stephen Donnell

La Grande

Bush served required time

To the Editor:

It seems that the chairman of the Democratic National Committee and a number of spokespersons for that party seem to be so upset about President Bush's guard service during the Vietnam War, but seem to raise no question about the Vietnam service of the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Now, firstly, I do not belittle or slight the service in Vietnam of Sen. John Kerry. He served honorably and bravely, receiving the Silver Star for rescuing another serviceman. He also received for wounds three Purple Hearts. Honorably, the senator has refused to participate in questioning the president's service.

The normal tour of duty in Vietnam was 12 months. My son served 13 months as an artillery forward observer, decorated with the Bronze Star. He continued in the Officers' Reserve Corps for the years required for retirement. He never called his service, any of it, "an obscene memory" and he never participated in demonstrations of any kind as did John Kerry, who served five months, returned to the states and left the Navy early.

The normal term in the Texas Air Guard was two years. As a former army officer, I know that an officer is allowed 30 days a year leave time. In my five years of service I took a total of 10 days. So the president was entitled to approximately 75 days leave during that Guard service. The information the president furnished of his service showed that he had served all of the required time.

Roy Hills

Island City

Congress looted Social Security

To the Editor:

As we watch the shambles being made of both foreign and domestic policy, our economy brought to its knees, our environmental laws ignored, our standing in the world diminished by arrogant and stupid decisions, perhaps the most cynicism is engendered by the debate concerning the deficits and the Social Security system.

Alan Greenspan is an apologist for the elitist elements that are strangling our economy. I include in this category the thieves who looted our domestic corporations and those who operate under the umbrella of multi-nationals such a Halliburton, their corrupting influence pervading what we do around the world.

The Social Security system isn't part of the deficit problem and it never has been. Congress looted it as if it was some open-ended cookie jar and won't pay the money back. It takes pleasure instead in granting obscene tax breaks to a wealthy lawless class. These business criminals then send their henchman Greenspan to Capitol Hill on a mission of mercy, carrying the bad news: the middle class must pay to make Social Security solvent — in other words pay again, this time to cover the stolen goods.

The system is and always has been solvent. In fact it was so solvent that it was an irresistible target for the profanity of bloated, wasteful military spending. Now there's a new bureaucracy to cultivate, something with the Edgar Hoover inspired name of Homeland Security. Orwell would be proud.

We are not feeding or housing all our citizens. Just as important, our air and water need the healing grace of a more benign and thoughtful approach to what we do on the land, one that forsakes poisons and heavy fossil-fuel inputs. The need for such enormous inputs derives from the industrialization of our farms and our natural resource extraction activities, itself the result of an energy policy that has never had any rational direction.

We need to change this, but it will not happen if we are constantly allowing the greedy to bleed us in the name of fear and dread. Any attempt to destroy Social Security must be rejected.

Norm Cimon

La Grande

Scrutinize art displays

To the Editor:

Eastern Oregon University is referred to as an institute of higher education. This concept is being abused by a few individuals supporting a most offensive art display at Hoke Center.

During Women's Week several presentations have been promoted throughout the campus. Some of these have great value, but the display in question did nothing to elevate, uplift or place women in high regard. Instead, it was degrading, disrespectful and distasteful. We speak of the 8x8 "vagina" that hung in Hoke.

When speaking with the provost and others from the university, one individual indicated this to be a work of art and that students should have their freedom of expression.

We do not want to debate the definition of art, but feel if this is to be titled art, it should be displayed in the art gallery, where people can make a conscious choice to view it.

Less than 20 years ago, EOU had a committee that reviewed all posters or announcements that would be placed on the bulletin boards or on the campus walls. It seems that anything is now allowed.

We would think that the university would promote a higher concept of women. Women are more than a certain female body part. They have minds to think with, hearts that love and hands that serve. Women have strength, wisdom, knowledge, tenderness, grace, dignity and serve with love.

Think of Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jacqueline Kennedy, Maya Angelou and Mother Teresa. Think of your own mother. Do you think these fine examples of womanhood would want to see a vagina represent them?

Have we become so coarse and hardened that nothing shocks or appalls us anymore?

We call upon the good citizens of this community and the leadership of EOU to stand up for decency! We encourage the university to give close scrutiny to what is displayed in public facilities. If the university wants the support of community members it should consider higher standards of dignity and decency as paramount.

Leon and Judy Hendrickson

La Grande

Threat not taken lightly

To the Editor:

On the insistence of my friends, and since I have not been able to ascertain the identity of the person who sent me that condescending, insulting, belittling, arrogant, patronizing blackmail letter full of untruthful assertions, vicious innuendos and cowardly threats in a sick attempt to force me through intimidation to recant my recent letter to the editor and urge others to vote against what I stood for while gutlessly failing to sign it, I feel moved to allow him, it or them to review the consequences of this despicable crime with the following:

Within 30 minutes after I had opened the letter I notified the district attorney and The Observer, and lodged a formal criminal complaint with the Oregon State Police investigator who did investigate and will prosecute if the perpetrator is identified.

I also reported the incident to the U.S. Postal Inspector with a copy of the offending documents along with a cover letter. Since a threat to cause harm sent through the mail is a federal felony, the postal inspector is very interested in pursuing this as a criminal matter, even more so since it is likely that more than just one person may be involved, which would make it a conspiracy to commit a felony.

So start looking over your shoulder. I'm right behind you.

Jim Bovard


Beware of raccoons

To the Editor:

I'd like to share my recent experience as a warning to all people who enjoy hiking, horseback riding or camping and who take along their dogs. I have been aware of the risks of coyotes, large birds of prey, skunks and porcupines. I did not know about another terrible danger.

Last week, I took my two fox terriers on a walk along Willow Creek. The dogs were happily snuffling along, bounding in and out of the brush along the bank when there was brief, excited barking, some loud hisses, and a splash. Afraid they had flushed a cougar, I ran in the direction of the noise and saw a raccoon swimming in the creek.

Relieved it wasn't a cougar, I called for the dogs. I thought surely they would kill the raccoon, getting scratched and bitten in the process. I yelled for them to stop and come. Being terriers in the heat of the chase, they couldn't. This is what they were bred to do.

I stood on a snow-covered embankment about 20 feet above deep, muddy, swift water. My male terrier, Andy, dashed past me running as fast as he could go, and plunged into the creek. I watched in horror as the coon skillfully rolled him under time and again. Andy would surface, sputtering and barking, and the coon would pull him under. In a few short minutes, he stopped coming up. I never saw our little female, Echo, again. I think she was similarly drowned immediately after the splash upstream before Andy caught sight of the raccoon. We searched for the dogs, or at least their bodies, but found no trace.

This has been a heart-breaking way to learn about the risk raccoons pose to dogs, especially those with strong hunting instincts. I would not wish this on anyone.

Please be careful when you have your dogs loose in wild places.

Lyndall Shick


Display is a disgrace

To the Editor:

I read the letter to The Observer by S.D. Hendrickson and I agree with her comments about the art displays at Eastern Oregon University.

I too think it is a disgrace to womanhood. Their intimate body parts were not put there for public display. No, I have not, nor do I intend to view the so-called art. This also applies to the other art that shows the private body parts of the male.

I can see no uplifting value in putting on a drama which will depict the nature of the play as the title implies. No, I have not viewed this production, nor do I intend to.

Just because this type of pictures and plays are put on in our places of higher learning, doesn't raise them above pornography.

I may as well say a word about this gay marriage business. This is a dishonor to the Godgiven institution of marriage. God gave Eve to Adam. Adam and Eve were instructed to multiply.

When have we seen man to man, or woman to woman multiply? I don't think so.

We now have our private body parts displayed as art, our movies and plays degrading the sanctity of marriage, gays want the Godgiven right of marriage, couples just living together instead of entering into the covenant of marriage. This seems to me of some concern to our society.

I thought our nation was founded on Christian principles. If we believe the word of God, then why in the world, do those in our society keep trying to change the meaning of the words that God gave us so we could live in peace and harmony with our neighbor.

Does man know more than God? I don't think so.

Enough is enough.

Clayton R. Breckon


All should have the right

To the Editor:

I was asked why I wanted to get married. My fiance and I have been together for six years in a relationship of complete love, monogamy and commitment. We have a beautiful 8-month-old daughter. Sounds perfect, right?

Wrong. My partner and I cannot give emergency medical consent. We cannot name each other on our insurance benefits, medical plan, or retirement plan. We cannot file taxes together. We cannot buy a house together.

When we become old and feeble, we will not be allowed to buy a cemetery plot together. Years after we have gone no one will acknowledge the lifetime we dedicated to each other — unless we get married.

No one tells their children they can't get married but that they will get married when they fall in love. Every human has the right to marry — even criminals. Murderers in prison have the basic human right to marry. Everyone but my fianc and I have the right to marry.

Why? My fiance is a woman. Although we live a life of civic duty, we are not given the same civic rights as the convicted felon who harms many.

We are a country in the midst of a war to end terrorism and inequality yet we cannot end the terror and inequality inflicted upon so many gay and lesbian Americans.

My fianc and I traveled to Portland and became one of the thousands of couples granted the opportunity to marry. Why do I want to get married?

Ask any person married or engaged, heterosexual or homosexual, black or white and I argue they would all say the same thing: To declare to the world that I have found the person that I want to build a life with.

This is why I want to marry.

Tricia (Douglas) McFatter

La Grande

Letter writer offers apology

To the Editor:

I am writing because I owe a humble apology to Kathleen Edvalson-Almquist and because that apology needs to be as public as the words that caused her distress.

I don't believe that any person in Union has the right to cast doubt upon the character and integrity of Leonard Almquist, and if she believes that is what I did, I am deeply sorry for the pitiful attempt I made to get my point across.

The point I meant to make was that Leonard did not come to City Hall as an experienced city administrator, and yet he was able to use the resources available to him in order to learn the job. I think that Leonard was an incredibly intelligent man. What I meant to say in my letter to the editor was that Union would have lost out on an exceptional city administrator if the city council had insisted that only candidates with prior experience in a similar position be considered for the job.

My source of information did not prove to be accurate, and for that I also take responsibility and offer my deepest apology to Kathleen. The facts were mixed up about the CETA program, and which job Leonard actually did during the program. Perhaps those who believed that he was hired to operate heavy equipment were confused by the fact that Leonard was willing to help out with the Public Works Department. I don't believe anyone meant Leonard harm or meant to be disrespectful in any way.

As much as I try to do the right thing, I am a quite imperfect human being. I hope Kathleen will find it in her heart to forgive my stumbling and bumbling.

Debbie Clark