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Editorial: The dignity of work

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In defending her union’s decision not to make any concessions that might help Mayor Bloomberg balance next year’s budget, DC 37 executive director Lillian Roberts spoke eloquently about “the dignity of work.”

“When workers work,” she said, “they want the dignity of work.” She contends that making concessions on health coverage would force some union members to seek Medicaid. She claimed that giving back anything could force the rank and file into the poor house.

More than 36,000 members of DC 37 live in Queens. They do some of the hardest work at the lowest end of the city wage scale. It may be that, in comparison with other municipal unions, DC 37 has the least to give. The average salary for union members is $29,500. Even with benefits, on this salary alone a worker with children would be living near the poverty level.

What Ms. Roberts did not discuss is the indignity of being out of work. There is no dignity in collecting one’s last unemployment check. It may well be true that DC 37 members cannot afford wage cuts or a reduction in health benefits. However, we suspect that every union could find some way to save money for the city. Rather than taking money out of the workers’ pockets, union leaders should offer changes in work rules and productivity gains.

The first priority for any union leader should be saving jobs. There is reason to believe that the city has bottomed out and is on the road to recovery. With moderate growth, the financial crisis should be over — for now. Ms. Roberts and the city’s other union leaders can take no credit for this recovery.

Editorial: Weekend warriors no more

It’s likely that the men and women of the 77th Army Reserve never envisioned that they would be sent one day to fight the enemy in the scorching sands of some desert in the Middle East. They were “weekend warriors,” trading one weekend a month and two weeks out of every summer for a small salary and help with getting a college education.

But when they were called by their country to fight the armies of the Iraqi dictator, they didn’t hesitate. They kissed their families goodbye and headed off to war. Even those whose duty was to provide support services soon found that no place was safe. To this day, men and women of the reserves stand side by side the regular army in the effort to bring stability and democracy to Iraq.

The TimesLedger congratulates the men and women of the 773rd Transportation Company who returned last week to Fort Totten. Once again this historic fort is the gathering place for heroes. These reservists have won the respect of a grateful nation. Congress may find cause to question the justifications offered for engaging in this war, but no one should question the courage and dedication of the American men and women who successfully fought this war.

We may never think of the reservists in the same way. These are not “weekend warriors.” They are professional soldiers with the skills and training necessary to fight alongside the regular army. As the United States pursues the war on terrorism, the members of the reserves will become increasingly important. It is clear that they have become an essential component of the national defense.

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