Letters to the Editor

Letters from the issue of May 4, 2000

Editor's note: In next week's issue, accompanying our annual "Best of Miami" edition, we will publish a special letters section devoted to all aspects of the Elian Gonzalez case and its aftermath. We have received hundreds of messages and will publish as many as possible. To be considered for inclusion, your letter must be received no later than this Friday, May 5.

The Sex Million Dollar Man
You shelled out a lot of money to women who complained about principal Michael Exelbert. And you didn't even know it.
By Ted B. Kissell

Years of Behaving Badly
Thanks so much for Ted B. Kissell's article on Miami-Dade County Public Schools administrator Michael Exelbert ("The Sex Million Dollar Man," April 20). As a teacher at the Merrick Educational Center and a union steward, I was aware for years of the unprofessional behavior of Mr. Exelbert. I might add that sexual harassment was not his only problem. Unfortunately it is difficult to get women to report these types of things for fear of reprisal.

Keep up the good work.

Margarethe Abbott
South Miami-Dade

Years of Behaving Badly and Still Being Paid?
As a female and a sixteen-year employee of Michael Exelbert, my hat is off to New Times for finally exposing what we all have known for lo these many years. After having testified at least three times against him, I am now working with professionals at a different school and am thrilled for all my friends who have suffered long and mightily and are finally getting their payback.

Hats off to you and your hard-hitting article. The question remains: Why is this man getting paid by the school district and preparing for a big retirement -- at all of our expenses?

Sally A. Enright
Homestead

Salaried Scumbags and the Clowns Who Pay Them
Thank you for "The Sex Million Dollar Man." I have expressed my disgust through other avenues with regard to the actions of the Miami-Dade County school board. Judging by their personnel policies, they have got to be a bunch of clowns. They seem to operate on the Peter Principle: Promote people to their highest level of incompetence, and as they screw up, move them to new positions and then repeat the process. All at big salaries, of course. Heavens, don't they ever fire any of these scumbags?

Keep the heat on them.

M. Carswell
Miami Lakes

Nursing a Grudge
The Jackson Memorial nurses' union is troubled by controversy about everything from bad accounting to homophobia
By Kathy Glasgow

Nurses: Out with the Weeds, in with the Union
This is in response to Kathy Glasgow's recent article ("Nursing a Grudge," April 6) regarding a group of disgruntled union members and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The registered nurses at Baptist Hospital in Miami are actively involved in an organizing attempt supported by SEIU. At the present time more than 50 percent of the eligible RNs have supported this effort, which is greatly needed for our profession in order to maintain the high standards of nursing and quality of care our patients deserve. Baptist management is opposed to this organizing effort, mainly owing to the potential loss of control over the nurses, being forced to provide accountability, and looking beyond the dollar when it comes to attracting and retaining quality nurses.

Ms. Glasgow's article was placed all over our hospital nurses' workstations the day it was published. (It's funny that an article published a few weeks ago with a positive spin regarding SEIU and Baptist was kept hidden.) The New Times story seemed to attack SEIU without allowing all the facts to be heard.

The passion and commitment involved in trying to organize a group of dedicated workers is overwhelming. Unions have an important role in ensuring workers get a fair, equitable voice regarding their profession. Nurses in particular need to have this voice as they speak not only for themselves but for their patients, who happen to be your neighbor, your friend, your family member, and you.

From our experience working with SEIU's Martha Baker (president of Local 1991) and Sheryl Pettitt (executive director), they could not be more committed and dedicated to the efforts and needs of nurses and health care workers. In our opinion New Times has done a grave disservice by publishing an article that shows an unjust portrayal of SEIU, one that those opposing our efforts at Baptist quickly distributed for all to read. We can only hope intelligent minds will recognize the control that dominates our workplace and strive diligently to uproot that thorny weed and sow a more prolific and bountiful harvest of unification.

Peggy Rodriguez, RN
Pat O'Bryan, RN
Sallie Smithwick, RN
Theresa Worden, RN
Baptist Hospital
Kendall

Nurses: Here's Hoping Your Hospital Stay Is Unionized
I was astonished to read "Nursing a Grudge." I thought I was reading an article from a gossip magazine. To write such an inflammatory article based on unsubstantiated and in some cases false information based on comments from two obviously biased people and several anonymous nurses was simply yellow journalism. To focus on two to five unhappy people in a union of 3000 workers is unfair and extremely harmful, not only to all union members but to the health care-consuming public.

The problems in health care did not come from the unionized workers, they have occurred as a result of corporate greed and managed care. Nurses are working harder, with more patients, worse conditions, and less benefits. As a result patient care is declining. I have been a nurse for more than 31 years, and I believe that forming a union for nurses and other health care workers is the only way we can significantly change health care so that we have a say in how things are done, and how the money is spent.

The complaints from these people are ridiculous. How dare they even mention (and how dare you even print) the obviously homophobic charges about the executive director and the president. Who cares how much their house costs? How can you print such insults without even giving the names of the "dissident" nurses?

Your biased, poorly researched article was gleefully duplicated by many anti-union lawyers and distributed to many hospitals. It has caused damage to the thousands of nurses in Florida who are striving to have a voice in taking care of your family. I hope that if you are hospitalized you will be taken care of by a union nurse who is appreciated by her employer, who makes a good salary, who has enough time to spend with you, who is not exhausted and frazzled, who is using modern and safe equipment, whose work is not being done by poorly paid, unlicensed personnel, and who can fearlessly speak up about the quality of your care.

Noreen C. Prill, RN
Davie

Nurses: The Truth Lies in Between
I have been an SEIU member at Jackson Memorial Hospital since the union's inception in 1991. I have not been active but have regularly paid my dues. I do what I do best, which is nursing, and I leave union issues in the hands of the union.

What I do know is that SEIU has been very good to me. We have the best working contract of any hospital in Florida. Recently they handled a grievance for me and my fellow associate head nurses that resulted in an average check of $4000 for back pay.

I was shocked to see the smiling faces of the three nurses in the article. Two of them I personally know and with regard to one, I have serious professional concerns. As for the union representatives who were let go, I dealt with one on several occasions. I finally had to write to the union concerning that nurse's unprofessional approach toward me and a disruptive attitude on the unit.

I guess what I am saying is that Kathy Glasgow's article addressed only the two sides: the three angry nurses and the legal representative for SEIU. The truth lies in the middle, with the members. Ask us. As for me, SEIU has been good about addressing my concerns and improving my working conditions.

Nick Cassun, RN, MSN
via the Internet

Transit Blues
Elizabeth Lanteigne has a few hundred thousand choice words for the county's public-transportation system
By Victor Cruz

Thanks to Metrorail, I Finished War and Peace
As I sat at the Brickell Metrorail station reading New Times, I came across Victor Cruz's article in the "Metro" section about Elizabeth Lanteigne and her battles with the public transportation system ("Transit Blues," March 9). I was able to read the article while waiting for the southbound train to arrive. I also read the next article and the next and the next. The reason I did so much reading that afternoon was that the train I was waiting for took nearly 40 minutes to arrive. I was obviously a little upset at the delay. But as I read the article about Mrs. Lanteigne, I thought about all the money Miami-Dade has spent on her numerous complaints. You might think a person in my shoes that afternoon, reading that article, might applaud the efforts of this elderly woman in her fight against the system.

But I cannot help wonder if the money that went into defending against and settling with Mrs. Lanteigne might have been better spent on more trains, more operators, or something that could keep me from sitting at the Brickell station reading the New Times for 40 minutes. Nothing against New Times. I just wanted to get home.

I certainly have not been riding as long as Mrs. Lanteigne, but I have never seen any problems while using the public transportation, except for the tardiness of the trains. I just think maybe she is laying it on a little thick. She may have gotten a rough ride once or twice, but the rest of us shouldn't have to pay for her legal action.

Lawrence Sudderth
Miami

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