UPS Strike Highlights '90s Work Issues

Regarding "How Part-Timers Fare in US Economy" (Aug 14): How strong does United Parcel Service want to be? Strong enough to be world class. That means making a commitment to raise its quality of customer service. You must invest in your people, the critical link between your company and the customer. This will inspire excellence in the most important aspect of your business - your people.

Jimmy A. Castro

Austin, Texas

As a university student, I often sought out part-time work to help pay for tuition and food. I finished graduate school a long time ago and am now in my mid-40s, that time of life when someone with my background is supposed to be successful.

But things have turned out differently than I expected. Although I did manage to work for a few years in my chosen career in the '80s, every professional interview this decade has turned out to be a dead end - not because of the quality of my past professional work, but because of other factors, including, most recently, my age.

So I still do part-time work, for which I'm greatly overqualified, for mediocre pay and no benefits. Fortunately, I have a wide base of support from friends, many of whom are in a similar situation - trying to accept that maybe they, too, might have to lower their standards significantly to live what resembles a happy life in present-day America.

Gary Congdon

Berkeley, Calif.

As an owner of a small business virtually crippled by the UPS strike, I would feel better if I thought the two sides were negotiating in good faith. If they used half the energy trying to come to an agreement as they spend posturing for the news media, the strike would have lasted only a day or two.

Janet Winter

Oakland, Calif.

Russia in a positive light

I would like to praise "Expos of 'Old' Yeltsin Shows How Much Has Changed" (Aug. 13) for presenting a positive view concerning the effects of Gen. Alexander Korzhakov's book.

The Western media often go out of their way to present an image of instability and mafia-related crime in the new Russia. The article shows how President Yeltsin has changed for the better, along with his country, as a result of his daughter and other new image handlers and Anatoly Chubais's economic policies. This is a sorely needed image of Russian politics in these days of NATO expansion, trouble on the Mir space station, and a return to cold war villains in Hollywood.

Mark D. Sowerby

Painesville, Ohio

Central Africa's need

In the opinion-page article "Ending Africa's Tragedy," (Aug. 14), the author argues persuasively for a "regional strategy" to deal with mass killings in Central Africa. A regional refugee conference could be an important element of such a strategy.

Among the basic objectives of such a conference would be the need to find justice-oriented approaches that would ensure effective refugee protection and appropriate solutions for population displacement. It also should address the need to strengthen infrastructure and the capacities of governments and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). A conference outcome should be founded on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

There are several recent UN precedents that could help inform the nature of an African refugee conference. They include the 1989 conferences to screen applicants for refugee resettlement and repatriation of Vietnamese boat people. The 1996 CIS conference on migration-related issues, designed to assist in building the capacities of governments and NGOs and prevent future migration or refugee emergencies, is only the most recent example of such an initiative.

Arthur C. Helton

New York

Open Society Institute

Your letters are welcome. Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com.

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