Letters: What Do You Think?

This week: Do Nonprofits’ “Gifts” Help the Community?; A Letter to Senator Warren; and a clarification

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Do Nonprofits’ “Gifts” Help the Community?

Stephanie Kraft’s article in Imperium Watch, “Beware of Corporations Bearing Gifts” (February 28, 2013), was interesting but overlooked an aspect of corporate “philanthropy”: the contributions nonprofit corporations make and how those are funded.

Listen to the radio (including NPR) or read the newspapers and you will repeatedly hear or see ads for public events such as the Springfield Symphony, Bright Nights and even Chamber of Commerce events listing “nonprofit corporations” (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) as sponsors, co-sponsors or supporters. Many of them are “sponsors” of NPR.

Mercy Medical (part of Catholic Health East, based in Pennsylvania), Baystate Medical Center, Health New England (actually a for-profit owned by a “nonprofit,” Baystate Medical Center) and others contribute under what I assume is some type of “community benefits” requirement for nonprofit hospitals.

I don’t see how the Brattleboro Retreat “sponsoring” NPR, for example, is in keeping with its “mission.” Perhaps if Baystate and other “nonprofits” didn’t siphon off so much in “surpluses” (profits in the real world) for outrageous executive salaries, “public relations” (called advertising in the for-profit world) and such, we could have affordable healthcare.

From my point of view, they are “donating” what is in some measure our tax dollars, given that probably 70 to 90 percent of the revenue for many of these “nonprofit” (and also many for-profit) corporations comes from state or federal sources such as Medicaid and/or Medicare, although in cases like HNE’s (a for-profit), it’s probably “surplus” customer premiums being used.

As a trade unionist, what I find most egregious is nonprofits belonging to, funding and promoting the agenda of anti-worker/anti-union groups like the Chamber of Commerce or Massachusetts Municipal Association, groups whose legislative agendas have included reducing unemployment and health insurance benefits.

I recently heard state auditor Suzanne Bump speak, and she stated that “about 80 percent of state spending is under private contractors.” That’s a direct result of politicians of both parties engaging in policies over the years to reduce the number of state and municipal employees. There has, in reality, probably been no real reduction to the number of jobs so much as a shift of those jobs to private sector contractors who provide lower wages and benefits so as to skimp on providing services while funding excessive executive salaries and topheavy management systems.

The fallout over the debacles at the state crime lab, compounding pharmacy illnesses/deaths, and the deaths of two human service workers in 2011 continues. Combine that with the Massachusetts state auditor investigating the Department of Early Education and Childcare around issues with their vendors, and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration investigating working conditions and safety issues at vendors contracted with the Department of Mental Health, and a reasonable person might conclude that it is time to reviewed our current “nonprofit” system and put better regulatory oversights (and enforcement) in place.

Ronald Patenaude, President Hampshire Franklin Central Labor Council
via e-mail

A Letter to Senator Warren

Senator Warren: We are the Holyoke Women for Peace and Mediation. We have been following you during your campaign and tenure as our U.S. Senator. We acknowledge and appreciate your voice on our behalf in regards to holding big banks accountable. That being said, we are taking this opportunity to hold you, as a woman, a senator, and a human being accountable for the ways in which you participate in systemic violence. Despite your support of the Violence Against Women Act, your stances on international policies tell another story.

We object to your overall support of a culture of violence. We challenge your unfettered support of Israel, flooding it with weapons as a way to escalate tensions with the surrounding countries, including Palestine. We oppose the use of Israel as a U.S. base under the guise of calling it an ally. Palestinians live in what Noam Chomsky recently called “the largest open air prison,” degraded and subject to violence on a daily basis. Our concern should be in supporting peace, self-determination and human rights in this region.

We stand against your objective to seek conflict with Iran over alleged proliferation of nuclear weapons. In reality, it is the fault of our own country that others seek to acquire such weapons. The United States is currently the most dangerous force in the world. There is no moral imperative to spread democracy. The United States fights wars for profit, or as decorated general Smedley Butler once said so succinctly, “War is a racket.” Those words are true today.

Finally, we are vehemently opposed to the use of drones as weapons across the world, both at home and abroad. We are disgusted by the daily reports of innocents, specifically children, who are being murdered as a result of the drone war. We stand in solidarity with women all over the world who have to bury their children as a result of this violence. We are frightened for our nation and for the citizens of the world that the Democratic Party would so unanimously support a member who was instrumental in the creation of the drone program as the head of the CIA. We are concerned about the backlash from this type of warfare.

We, the women of Holyoke, advocate for a world where women, men and children can live without the fear of sniper attacks, sanctions-induced starvation, or the silent attack of a drone. We understand that foreign policy is a complicated road to navigate. However, we as women, as U.S. citizens and as human beings refuse to accept the status quo of a culture of violence. We ask you to join us.

The Holyoke Women for Peace and Mediation

via e-mail


Clarification: Last week our story “The Loneliest Organizer,” about an attempt to form a barista union, contained this sentence: “Quinn submitted the cards on Friday, May 11, 2012. Taking advantage of legislation that had been enacted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in December, 2011, he expected the vote to be scheduled a week or so later—much faster than had been previously allowed.”

Reader Bob Hein sent in this correction: “The NLRB does not enact legislation. It does issue regulations under enabling legislation enacted by Congress and signed by the President.”

Hein is right. We regret the error.




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