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Feedback 2/13


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Dissidents group isn't 'small'

The RPO board's arrogant referral to the RPO Community Supporters as a "small group" is just as ridiculously inappropriate as calling the New York State delegation to Congress small! In both cases, these small groups represent constituencies that are immensely larger; that's how representative democracy works!


Time to reform 'employment at will'

While many people are unaware of its existence, the employment-at-will doctrine allows employers to do what the title implies: hire and fire employees at will, with a few limited exceptions. It is incredible that a workplace legal principle from the Reconstruction era has survived basically unscathed into the 21st century, with little modification.

The doctrine was devised in 1877 by Horace Gray Wood. Incredibly, as an intellectual basis of the doctrine, Wood analyzed master and slave relationships in formulating a lasting policy for arbitrating employer and employee relationships. Do we really want to base our employer-employee relationships on an archaic and repugnant plantation mentality originating from the Jim Crow-era South? Of course, we should not, and that's why this long-standing policy cries out for reform. In the current era of lavish tax breaks for corporations, we continue to see companies lay off and under-employ taxpaying Americans in a greed-driven race to the bottom.

In the last few years we have seen laws that take away employee rights, passed through movements substantially financed by multi-billionaires such as Charles and David Koch. The employment-at-will doctrine has been a willing accomplice in the assault on the American worker. The employer has no duty to articulate just cause when dismissing an employee – no cause at all is just fine under American law, except in certain defined cases of discrimination. "No cause" firings should be unacceptable and illegal in the 21st century, but unfortunately, this practice is allowed to continue.

Many "right to work" laws are being passed by states other than New York. In my opinion, these laws are best characterized as a right to work for a lot less pay, no benefits, and few, if any, employee protections under law. I guess this is what is meant when it is said that right-to-work states are business friendly. With friends like them, the taxpaying American worker needs no enemies. One again, the employment-at-will doctrine aids these abuses.

We in New York can do something to change this policy, which has become a festering wound impeding employee well-being and, in the long run, hampering a strong and sustained economic recovery. If there are problems in the employee selection process, it is up to the employer to fix them. It is much easier to hire carefully than to correct the damage done by those already hired. The slash-and-burn approach to employee firings and layoffs should be unacceptable and illegal in the modern era. We have great universities and colleges within New York State to tackle these issues; the U of R, RIT, Syracuse University, and Cornell are just a few of the outstanding institutions in our area that strive to change our workplaces for the better.

It is long past time to reform the repressive employment-at-will doctrine. Let's get to work.


Bertolone is past executive vice president of the Monroe County Law Enforcement Association.

Fight fracking

Although the media reports the contention on both sides of the fracking issue, we do not hear the proven implications of the effects of fracking on the environment and public health.

The gas industry has told us repeatedly that the practice is environmentally benign, but I ask readers to take a day trip to Pennsylvania just across the border to see the manifest destruction of state forest and Bureau of Land Management land. The hundreds of thousands of truck loads of water off to be mixed with carcinogens and neurotoxins to mitigate drilling have taken an incredible toll on Pennsylvania's environment. In Greene County, Pennsylvania, Whitely Creek can be lit on fire because of methane coming up through the bedrock that has been tapped via fracking.

Fracking wastewater is in the millions of gallons per well, contains neurotoxins, carcinogens, and can often be radioactive. This water is either recycled, injected in deep abandoned wells, or is sent to municipal wastewater treatment plants that are only equipped to filter human pathogens, yet they still release the water into streams and rivers to be utilized downstream for the next towns' water supply, including drinking water.

Another means of disposing of the toxic salty water is spraying it on roads to de-ice them, which ends up in our wells and watersheds.

And if fracking is safe, why has it been singled out in the 2005 energy bill to be exempt from environmental law? I urge people to get involved in the movement to prevent hydrofracking in New York State.


Consider abortion's toll, too

In "Seeing the Toll of Violence" (Feedback), Doug Hoener rightly reminds us that in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, we need to open our hearts and minds to a wider discussion of how violence is impacting our children and culture.

Mr. Hoener points to the hundreds of thousands of children who are subjected to cruel neglect and abuse every year at the hands of adults. While the number of reported incidence of violence against these small victims certainly baffles the mind, the number of pre-born children who succumb to the fatal violence of legalized abortion is above 1.2 million each year in the United States alone.

By framing abortion within a discussion of "choice" or "women's equality," some people, including our own governor, have been lulled into the false sense that the killing of tiny human beings is something other than barbaric, or at the very least something every women should embrace. As Governor Cuomo and others move to greatly expand abortion access in New York as part of his so-called "Women's Equality Act," New Yorkers have an opportunity to reverse this trend of heinous violence by telling him and our legislators that enough is enough.

We must no longer be willing to stand silent while children die violent deaths at the hands of abortionists.


Brunacini is executive director of Feminists Choosing Life of New York.

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