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Consumers Union dispute

I was pleased to see the article ``Consumers Union: going beyond the `best buy,''' Nov. 30. It captured much of the organization's unusual character. Yet the description of the labor dispute with the company's union, the Newspaper Guild, included some serious omissions.

For instance, it is not just the picketing employees calling for a boycott of the CU magazine, Consumer Reports; it is the Newspaper Guild and the entire AFL-CIO.

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For 51 years Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, has been a unionized company. In fact, it was founded with union money by striking workers.

The sense of fellowship, equity, and dedication to a fair deal that the article discerned among the staff has been fostered by that union heritage.

Yet the present management has halved the union staff, tripled management ranks, closed our subscription fulfillment plant and, in 1984, provoked a three-month wintertime strike. The management has retained a professional union buster to design union concessions and do their negotiating.

The article paraphrases CU's executive director, Rhoda Karpatkin, in noting that the lean years - the late '70s - brought layoffs among management. It might have revealed that between 1975 and 1982, the company fired 249 union members and just five managers.

The article reported that nonprofit Consumer Reports ran a surplus of $6 million (actually, over $7 million) last year. It failed to say that the union staff has not had a pay raise in nearly two years.

Consumers Union is a tax-free organization with no stockholders, no debt, and growing revenues. The union staff asks nothing new: just the preservation of our historic independence and openness so that we can continue serving the subscribers and the public. James Boyd Mount Vernon, N.Y. Chair, Consumers Union unit Newspaper Guild of New York

Dignifying the homeless I read with interest ``The women of the Regent Hotel,'' Dec. 3.

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This excellent article captured the spirit and dignity of the homeless women interviewed. Too often these people are portrayed as an anonymous statistical mass.

Thank you for reporting on a positive aspect of an otherwise grim and depressing situation. Susan Cammarata Pittsburgh

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