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Feedback 4/17

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Farmworkers deserve good work conditions

Republican state senators are demanding a public forum in support of the New York Farm Bureau's attempt to kill the Farmworker Fair Labor Standards Act.

I have owned three businesses, employing about 400 dedicated, hard-working members of our communities. I couldn't envision not paying them for overtime, not allowing them paid days off or vacation, not allowing them to bargain collectively or decide for themselves whether to unionize.

I cannot imagine living in a system that did not require that they have drinking water supplied at their place of work or have adequate bathroom facilities within easy access. I cannot even think about allowing them to work in dangerous conditions. And yet as a result of New York's antiquated labor laws, farmworkers are not afforded these protections.

Some of our elected officials claim that what would be unfair for my employees would be fair for agricultural workers who do work that most Americans would not even consider. The Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act would allow farmworkers the same basic rights as all other workers. State senators were elected to represent all the people in our community, not just those who have money in their pockets, not just those who are members of the New York Farm Bureau.

The Republican senators cite the loss of small dairy farms as an impact of removing historically racist barriers to equal employment. However, milk production has increased 10.7 percent over the last five years, and gross income per dairy farmer has increased by 12.8 percent, according to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets' most recent report.

I know many farmworkers; some are my family members. They are proud of the work they do and how they lead their lives. I also know many farmers; most are fair-minded employers who watch out for their workers, protect them when they can, and go to major family events.

I recognize that economic pressure on our farmer neighbors is a long hard battle, caused by such factors as decreasing consumption of liquid milk, low milk prices, and the Trump administration's trade wars. But we must recognize that all workers in New York State should have equitable labor rights. Anything less is not only unethical, it is immoral. Our elected officials' pandering to the Farm Bureau is not fair to our less visible and less vocal neighbors, the farmworkers who literally put the food on the table.

JOHN GHERTNER, SODUS

Parents' role in students' achievement

Your "Call to Action" article again bemoaned the sorry state of affairs regarding student achievement in city schools. "Sorry" is an understatement. It is a disgrace.

Your article assures us that the problem lies with all of us: businesses, unions, churches, etc. etc., ad nauseum. Puleeez! With so many people, institutions, and entities attempting to correct the problem, rest assured that nothing will change, and the problem will fester into the foreseeable future.

Only strong, bipartisan leadership, not beholden to politics or personalities, will have a reasonable chance of getting the job done. Mayoral control?

The elephant in the room is parental involvement and home environment. If this subset is missing, we are just blowing smoke, because nothing anyone does will change. Yes, some exceptional students will overcome and excel, but the majority will fail, as the facts indicate.

Changing an ingrained cultural attitude is necessary. An involved mother and father with high expectations for the children is what is needed, not platitudes and social finger pointing. It all starts in the home. Pity the children who are the victims.

BOB TACITO, WEBSTER

The writer of a recent letter in the Wall Street Journal, about failing schools in Dayton, Ohio, places the blame on district residents: Schools can be no better than the residents of the school district. The writer proposed that poor-performing schools correlate with out-of-wedlock births.

I encourage CITY to explore the family status of students in the Rochester City School District. If you find that "no fathers" is the fundamental problem in the district, then no amount of money and effort will solve the poor-school problem. Only the return of a family unit with a father (male) and mother (female) will make things better.

HARLEY RUFT, ROCHESTER