Only today did I read your story on the Christmas tree workers in North Carolina ["Behind the Scenes in Santa Land", Dec. 19]. Thank you for your regular and accurate coverage of the oppressive conditions that farmworkers in many North Carolina crops work under.
In the case of Christmas tree workers, it would be helpful and appropriate for readers to complain to Secretary Elaine Chao, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20210-001. Please remind her that Christmas tree workers are not being paid the overtime earnings that the guest worker program they are hired under is required by law to pay them. The fly in the ointment is the North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA) that runs the H2-A program; it refutes the right of the workers to overtime.
Currently the NCGA is being sued by one division of the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the Wage and Hour Division, over this issue. Meanwhile, another division of the DOL, the Employment and Training Division is ignoring legal precedents by approving NCGA job orders that deny the overtime. This might be a laughable bureaucratic snag if it weren't for the fact that the workers put up with the miserable living and working conditions and isolation from their families, make good profits for their employers, and make less than a living wage.
--SISTER EVELYN MATTERN, FARMWORKER MINISTRY COMMITTEE OF THE N.C. COUNCIL OF CHURCHES, RALEIGH
I read with delight Elliot Berger's "God and Gullibility" in the Parent/Child feature [Feb. 20]. It was an articulate and courageous essay offering rare insight into certain truths about human development. Some of us, growing up in the South, closely identify with Elliot's observations on religion, faith, and belief. We are fortunate that he so aptly expressed them.
--N. GALLMAN, DURHAM