Will they be fired?

Reading the NUVO piece about the whistle blower should have given a headache to anyone with a sense of social justice (Cover, Dec. 15-22). Cheryl Vara reported OSHA violations. Then she suffered the consequence of loosing her job. She not only did the right thing, but legally, the only action open to her. Had she not reported a known or suspected safety violation, she would have been legally responsible for allowing a dangerous condition at her place of work. Instead, she did her duty. "It is clear to any reasonable person that Cheryl was wrongfully terminated and a strong case against Menards can be presented. Considering this, doesn't it seem as though Menards should have offered her a satisfactory settlement?" - Brian Swinehart

It is clear to any reasonable person that Cheryl was wrongfully terminated and a strong case against Menards can be presented. Considering this, doesn't it seem as though Menards should have offered her a satisfactory settlement? Their offer of $5,000, or even the later $9,000 hush-money, is an insult to any person with integrity. Would it have killed Menards to offer a year's salary for an office manager when it is clear that they were in the wrong for firing her?

Menards lawyers know the political climate very well. They know that in Indiana companies can violate the law as it applies to OSHA, whistle blowers or wrongful termination. They know that Bush wants to limit court awards to parties who have been wronged. They understand the increasingly accepted political position that frivolous lawsuits are to blame for boosting liability insurance costs - not neglect itself.

Other employers can take this as an example of how to deal with sticky legal situations - simply get rid of the trouble-making employee who shines too bright a light on a problem. Meanwhile, employees in all fields of work are being oriented to what legal standards are in place and to their responsibilities toward reporting abuses. Will they also be told that when they obey the law, they will be fired?

Brian Swinehart


Lost a loyal customer

I am appalled. Shocked, and dismayed. OK, not really. In this age of corporate greed, the pressure to perform and get out of spending one extra cent is enormous. Although blame for Mrs. Vara's ordeal lies squarely at the feet of the general manager of said Menards, the real problem rests at the corporate headquarters (Cover, "Whistle Blower," Dec. 15-22). When a new OSHA law comes out, or a new rule is put into effect, corporate lawyers are all over it looking for a loophole so that they do not have to comply. Sometimes I think if the government hired these people to actually write the laws there would be fewer loopholes.

I will never shop at Menards again, which is unfortunate because I liked them rather than Lowe's or Home Depot. But after reading the tale of this poor woman and her family I feel that Menards is no longer worthy of receiving another dime of my hard-earned money. I wish Mrs. Vara and her family the best of luck during the holidays as I am sure it will be a rather lean one for them. She can take some small measure of satisfaction in knowing that by sharing her story at least one reader has taken action, by not only not shopping with Menards in the future, but by also sending them a letter letting them know why they lost a loyal customer.

Larry Gist


Unfair tax

David Hoppe's column ("The Memory of Things Gone," Nov 24-Dec. 1) on Social Security and the New Deal ignores some of the real problems with the current Social Security system.

1. It is a regressive, not progressive, tax. Wages are taxed up to a certain point, and no Social Security taxes are levied after that. Therefore wage earners with very large incomes are taxed at a much lower percentage than the average taxpayer. Many wealthy people set up their business to pay themselves with corporate earnings and distributions, thus avoiding the tax altogether.

2. It is a discriminatory tax. African-Americans and other minorities die at a younger age than whites, so they get less Social Security benefits. Males have a lower life span than females, so they also get fewer benefits during their retirement years, if they even make it that far.

3. It is an unfair tax. It's basically a gamble on how long you live, versus how long you work. A person that contributes for a few years and barely qualifies for benefits, but lives for a very long time far exceeds the benefits given to another person who may have worked for 45 years and had the bad luck to die right after, or before, they retire.

4. It is a crock. People who want to provide for themselves are considered crazy and really do not have the opportunity to save for retirement unless they are well to do because the government takes so much each year. It's "risky" to save for yourself, yet it is a "prudent social contract" to depend on the government's Ponzi Scheme that is the heart of the Social Security system.

Those U.S. bonds that David Hoppe describes that pay interest are paid solely by current taxpayers. Those of use who are forced to retire on the Social Security system are dependent on the political winds of change in current and future administrations. I am surprised that a liberal like David Hoppe would praise a regressive, discriminatory and unfair tax.

Brian Callahan


New Year's resolution

The past year has witnessed major national wins and losses. The Republicans won by retaining political power in the November elections. The Democrats won because they are not stuck with the losing battle for a democratic Iraq.

On the domestic front, we've been losing the battle for our health, with obesity assuming epidemic proportions. We've been losing the battle for our environment, with more animal wastes dumped in our water supplies. And, we've been losing the battle for our soul, with more and more animals subjected to factory farm and slaughterhouse atrocities.

Amazingly, each of us can do a great deal to turn this around with one simple New Year's resolution. A resolution to replace meat and dairy products in our diet with wholesome, delicious vegetables, fresh fruits, beans and whole grains. With every supermarket featuring a large variety of soy-based veggie burgers and dogs, deli slices, ready-to-eat frozen dinners, ice cream and soy milk, it's got to be the easiest resolution we will ever keep.

Luke Kellanger


Chained dogs

Everyone has seen at least one: a dog constantly chained or tethered outside, left alone with no companionship, entertainment and, often times, without adequate shelter and food/water. Think about the life such a dog leads: endless loneliness, never-ending boredom, frustration from being isolated and seeing the world pass you by, extreme cold and heat from the changing seasons, the exposure to unsanitary conditions produced from having to defecate in close proximity to where food/water and shelter are provided. The anxiety and frustration from being constantly chained/tethered also produces destructive and aggressive behavior in dogs, causing many "owners" to abandon their pet, either legally at an animal shelter, or illegally by simply dumping the animals on the streets, thus increasing an already enormous pet overpopulation crisis.

Some cities have introduced laws that place limits on the time a dog can be chained/tethered and some cities have even banned the inhumane practice altogether. Laws should be established statewide - and ultimately federally - to protect dogs from suffering through this type of treatment. Readers can write to local, state and federal officials voicing their support for legislation banning constant chaining/tethering.

Poknam McElwee



In Chuck Workman's jazz column last week, Thelonious Monk was misspelled.


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