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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

May 17, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Upstate N.Y. plane crash

Similar accidents in trucking due to fatigue

My heartfelt condolences go to all the families of the victims of the tragic plane crash in February near Buffalo, N.Y.

A recent report concluded that fatigue and inadequate training were contributing factors [“Pilot fatigue probed in air-crash hearing,” News, May 14]. The same factors cause many of the 5,000 deaths and 100,000-plus injuries in truck crashes every year in the U.S. My husband and a colleague were two of those who died in a 2005 crash near Humptulips.

Many truckers drive exhausted. Some resort to stimulants like as methamphetamines to stay awake. Many suffer from work-related health problems.

Medical studies confirm that performance suffers drastically under conditions of fatigue, in whatever work setting.

Safety is supposedly the primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Yet truckers can legally work up to 88 hours in eight days — an increase from prior hours limits. Safety groups have twice successfully challenged these limits in court, yet under the Bush administration the higher hours limits remained in place and still stand.

Truck drivers should be paid for all time worked and safety should be paramount in the workplace.

— Kathleen Ellsbury, MD, Seattle

A worker deserves his pay

Flight 3407 had a sleep-deprived pilot and an underpaid co-pilot. This is very familiar to Washington state’s adjunct faculty [“Adjunct faculty at state’s two-year schools deserve equal pay for equal work,” Opinion, Keith Hoeller guest commentary, May 8].

Sleep deprivation and lack of pay won’t kill students as in a pilot’s airline crash. But due to our poor work conditions, education suffers. Our employers are, figuratively speaking, attempting to squeeze blood out of a turnip and students suffer.

I know we’re in a budget crunch. This is also very familiar to adjuncts. Adjunct faculty have been in a budget crunch for decades. We can earn more flipping burgers, and with better job security and more opportunity for advancement.

Why do we stay? Many of us don’t — statistics show 25 percent get fed up and leave within five years. For others it is truly a second source of income. For the majority of adjuncts, myself included, it is a stepping stone to the full-time position — the golden ring that seems forever out of reach.

One message from the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 was written in the Bible long, long ago: “A worker deserves his pay.”

— Jim Sizemore, Bremerton

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