Friday, April 18, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-18-14

Headlines:
On Tax Day, Alliance Calls for End to Corporate Tax Loopholes
Social Security to Stop Collecting Relatives’ Old Debts by Intercepting Tax Refunds
City of Detroit Reaches Preliminary Bankruptcy Deal Involving Pensions
Corporate-Backed Debt Reduction Group Facing Money Troubles
Commemorations Mark Centennial of Ludlow Massacre
Fiesta Addresses Machinists
Just Over a Week until Start of National Membership Conference in Las Vegas


On Tax Day, Alliance Calls for End to Corporate Tax Loopholes
In honor of this week’s Tax Day, the Alliance asks members to contact Congress and demand the end of two huge tax loopholes that benefit giant corporations. Congress is expected to return from its break and take up a bill that would renew $80 billion in tax breaks for corporations that move profits and jobs offshore. If you have not already done so, please sign the petition to Congress here: http://bit.ly/1gyoMgp. While corporations were dodging taxes, their CEO’s were taking in outrageous salaries. Find out how much CEO’s are making compared to workers at the AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch site: http://bit.ly/1jL2ZG7.

“If we can get Congress to end these loopholes, we'll be taking a tremendous step, and showing elected officials that we're watching to see if they're supporting the biggest corporations – or the people they represent,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Social Security to Stop Collecting Relatives’ Old Debts by Intercepting Tax Refunds
In the wake of revelations about its efforts to collect on old debts, Acting Social Security Administration Commissioner Carolyn Colvin announced that the agency will stop attempts to collect taxpayer debts dating back more than 10 years. The Washington Post revealed that thousands of taxpayers expecting refund checks had received letters informing them that the Treasury Department had intercepted their refunds in order to cover debts that many of them never knew existed. The debts, often incurred by parents, were the result of Social Security benefit over-payments, sometimes dating back decades.  This debt collection effort was the result of a provision placed into the farm bill three years ago.

The decision to suspend collection came after hundreds of taxpayers, whose refund checks had been intercepted, contacted members of Congress complaining that they been given no notification of the debt and no explanation as to why they were responsible for the debts of their deceased parents. For more details on the announcement go here: http://wapo.st/1mdGYk6.

“It doesn’t make sense for the Social Security Administration to confiscate taxpayers’ refunds to cover old debts created by their relatives,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. 

City of Detroit Reaches Preliminary Bankruptcy Deal Involving Pensions
On Tuesday, Detroit’s emergency manager Kevyn Orr announced that deals had been reached on pension cuts for 23,000 workers and retirees. The city of Detroit is currently attempting to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history, and pension cuts have been proposed as a step towards addressing the city’s $10 billion in unfunded liabilities. The first agreement, with the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association, would avoid cuts to current pension benefits altogether but involve a nearly 50% reduction in cost of living increases. The other agreement, with the General Retirement System, would involve a 4.5% reduction in benefits and the complete loss of cost-of-living adjustments. Though painful, the cuts are significantly less severe than Mr. Orr’s original plan, which would have seen cuts of up to 34% for most retirees and 14% for police and fire workers. The pension deals are in part the result of $816 million in funding provided by the state, private foundations, and the transfer of city-owned artwork to the Detroit Institute of Arts. Workers and retirees affected by the agreements will still have to approve the measures before they go into effect.

Corporate-Backed Debt Reduction Group Facing Money Troubles
Politico reports that The Fix the Debt Coalition, a group calling for debt reduction through cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, is itself exhibiting signs of increasing financial strain. The organization recently terminated a year long, $200,000 relationship with Mehlman Vogel and Castagnetti, a DC lobbying firm. This is the second firm the Fix the Debt Coalition has dropped in the last month and comes on the heels of revelations of financial trouble at the organization earlier this year.

“Clearly, people value their Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits enormously,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “I believe the leaders of ‘Fix the Debt’ under-estimated the importance of those programs to millions of seniors when they set out to cut them.”

Commemorations Mark Centennial of Ludlow Massacre
Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre, the most violent incident of the southern Colorado Coal Strike and an event seen as a turning point in the American labor movement. The Massacre occurred after striking miners organized by the United Mine Workers of America were evicted from company-owned housing and took up residence in tents just outside of Ludlow, Colorado. On April 20th, 1914, Colorado militiamen, company guards, and hired strike breakers began firing on the camp and setting the striking miners’ tents on fire. During the Massacre, at least 20 people were killed, including a group of women and children who suffocated when the tent in which they had taken shelter went up in flames. The horror is widely seen as bringing increased national attention to labor issues, including working conditions, safety, and worker representation. In commemoration of the Massacre’s centennial, events are being held throughout Colorado. To get involved, you can find a complete listing of these events at http://bit.ly/1r2q6gx. You can connect to the Ludlow Centennial Commemoration on Facebook and learn more about the fallen miners and their families at https://www.facebook.com/Ludlow100. Alliance member Dennis Creese recently covered the issue on KGNU at http://bit.ly/RsMF3K.

Fiesta Addresses Machinists
Mr. Fiesta was in Placid Harbor, Maryland on Wednesday to speak at the Machinists Union Political Training and Education Seminar.

Just Over a Week until Start of National Membership Conference in Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Workshops are slated to include State Battles: Fighting Back Against ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council); Seniors/Retirees Re-entering the Workforce; Messaging for the 2014 Midterm Elections and Beyond; and several others! More info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/pysgs9n .

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

Friday, April 11, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-11-14

Headlines:
U.S. House Approves Ryan Budget that Slashes Medicare
Sebelius Steps Down as Secretary of Health and Human Services
GOP Pursuing New Voter Restrictions in Swing States
Ohio Alliance Holds its Convention
Fiesta Travels to Mass. and Michigan to Discuss a New Chapter, Attend Convention
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas


U.S. House Approves Ryan Budget that Slashes Medicare
In a nearly party-line vote, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted 219-205 on Thursday to approve a 2015 budget plan unveiled last week by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. Ryan’s plan would make sharp cuts to Medicare, as well as other domestic programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, while lowering taxes for corporations and high income individuals. It would also repeal the Affordable Care Act. All of the House Democrats and twelve Republicans voted against the plan. It offers a vision of Republican budget priorities heading into this year’s mid-term elections. For a tally of the vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/krjj3em.

Ryan’s plan would give seniors a coupon to pay for Medicare, cutting benefits and shifting costs to retirees. A voucher would give seniors a fixed amount to purchase a plan, forcing them to cover the difference between the amount of the voucher and the actual cost of the plan. According to the Congressional Budget Office, premiums for traditional Medicare under Ryan’s proposal would be 50% higher than current projections by 2020. Yearly increases in voucher amounts are also not expected to keep pace with growth in health care costs, forcing seniors to cover an increasing proportion of health costs over time. Alliance members had sent more than 10,500 letters to their U.S. Representatives just this week urging them not to support Ryan’s budget. If you did not yet send a letter and still want to contact Congress, go to http://tinyurl.com/nkys839.

“Seniors hope that Thursday’s vote shows the public what would happen if the Ryan budget were to be passed by the U.S. Senate: they would pay dearly,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

“Ryan’s dangerous budget proposal would end the Medicare guarantee and cause seniors’ out of pocket health expenses to skyrocket,” added Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

To see the Alliance press release about the House action, go to http://tinyurl.com/ls9x27p. For a breakdown of what the Ryan budget would mean for each state, go to http://tinyurl.com/m93ttam.

Sebelius Steps Down as Secretary of Health and Human Services
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning. President Obama will nominate OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to follow her. “We are grateful to Secretary Sebelius for overseeing HHS during such a challenging time for our nation’s health care policy, and for all the Alliance events she attended,” said Mr. Fiesta.

GOP Pursuing New Voter Restrictions in Swing States
Republican-controlled governments in swing states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin are pursuing a variety of new, restrictive voting rules that go even further than recently enacted voter identification laws, according to The New York Times. The new rules would limit early voting days, place limits on weekend voting, and make it more difficult to register, vote absentee, or use provisional ballots. In total, nine states have passed measures making it more difficult to vote since the start of 2013. The new restrictions come in the wake of a 2013 Supreme Court decision which struck down central provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The decision allowed a number of mostly Southern states to modify election laws without receiving prior approval from the Justice Department. Read more about the new limits in the Times here: http://tinyurl.com/n4a9572.

Democrats and opponents of the measures say that the changes are designed to give the GOP an electoral advantage. The groups most affected by the changes are expected to be minorities and low-income urban voters, core Democratic constituencies. Democrats have responded by filing lawsuits in states like North Carolina and Texas in an effort to keep the new rules from taking effect.

“These new restrictions threaten the fundamental right of Americans to make their voices heard at the ballot box,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “They certainly place additional burdens on seniors.”

Ohio Alliance Holds its Convention
The Ohio Alliance for Retired American Educational Fund convention took place on Tuesday. A state chapter-record 175 active, engaged retirees were in attendance.  They heard a rousing call to action from Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, followed by a release of the first-ever Ohio General Assembly Voting. The convention also addressed Governor John Kasich’s (R) tax shift and the recent round of voter suppression bills. As the day concluded, there was a brief presentation by Wynne Antonio, Retiree Council Coordinator at the North Shore AFL-CIO, about how to set up a speakers bureau.

Fiesta Travels to Mass. and Michigan to Discuss a New Chapter, Attend Convention
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Massachusetts on Monday for discussions about building a future Massachusetts Alliance for Retired Americans chapter.

Fiesta was in Warren, Michigan on Wednesday for the Michigan Alliance’s biannual convention.  150 people attended, marking the tremendous growth of the organization.  Re-elected to the Michigan Alliance Executive Board were: Dick Long, President; Henry Lykes, Executive Vice President; Judy Foster, 1st Vice President; Charlie Robinson, Treasurer; and Richard McInerney, Secretary.

Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Speakers include Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; and many others. Workshops are slated to include Building Coalitions; Voter Rights and Voter Protection; The Trans Pacific Partnership Exposed; and more! Additional info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1esnvMP.

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

NIPSCO Tired Of Good Public Relations?

The following comes from the USW Local 12775 web site:


"2014 Negotiations Update # 11, April 10.

Our members will want to be aware that company chief negotiator, Chris Smith, insulted our president to the rest of our main negotiating team. This, after waiting for him to leave the room: a gutless attempt to divide the committee. He was reacting to our president vigorously defending the pension and benefits of our union. Mr. Smith's comments were completely uncalled for. The committee let him know, with no uncertainty, that if our president's passion bothered him, "he ain't seen nothing yet", and that we are "100% behind him."
 That said, the main committee met this morning and into the evening today. The union made another counter proposal related to bidding rights and job families. The union is committed to giving as much opportunity as possible in their careers at Nipsco, while recognizing the legitimate business needs of the company, and the desire of our members to advance their careers.
 The union also presented all of the details of proposals to improve the benefits including vacation, sick leave, healthcare, and pension (including retirees). The company will evaluate and respond tomorrow (hopefully).
 The union generation committee countered a company proposal today regarding overtime schedules for outage work. They meet tomorrow as well.
 The field operations committees met and had productive discussions on overtime response, and job duties. All committees meet again tomorrow.
 Let's get as many "likes" and "shares" as we can. The company views our updates as well. Let's show them we are unified!"
This last sentence refers to the United Steelworkers Local 12775 Facebook page. If you have a Facebook account, please go their page and "like" it and share their posts.
Thanks.
 

Friday, April 04, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 4-4-14

Headlines:
Paul Ryan’s April Fools’ Day Budget Would Cut Medicare Dramatically;
Alliance co-hosts Conference Call, Members Rally to Increase the Minimum Wage;Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare - Annual Open Enrollment Period Extended Until April 30, 2014!;
Florida Alliance Members Meet to Address the State’s Severe Economic Problems;
Fiesta Speaks to Teachers in New York;
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas






Paul Ryan’s April Fools’ Day Budget Would Cut Medicare Dramatically
On Tuesday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) released another Republican budget proposal - this one for the 2015 fiscal year - that would slash programs that benefit seniors in order to cut taxes for corporations and high income earners. Aiming to eliminate the federal deficit within the next 10 years, Ryan’s proposal would again end the Medicare guarantee by privatizing Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system. Since vouchers would likely not pay for the full cost of coverage, millions of seniors would be forced to pay more out of pocket. In addition, Rep. Ryan’s budget would repeal the Affordable Care Act, forcing seniors to pay more for preventive health services and prescription drugs.  Ryan’s budget also slashes critical parts of the federal safety net important to working families and includes cuts to Medicaid and food stamps.

Richard Fiesta, Executive Director for the Alliance pointed out, “This year, Chairman Ryan did add something new, but it is erroneous. He is saying that the Social Security Trust Fund is not a real savings account – questioning the value of U.S. bonds. In 1936, Alf Landon made the same charge when he was the presidential nominee, and the sentiment is as wrong now as it was then.”

While Ryan’s proposal calls for painful cuts to domestic programs, it includes tax cuts for corporations and high income earners. The Ryan budget would reduce the top individual and corporate tax rates to 25%. Ryan’s budget is expected to be met with intense opposition from Democratic lawmakers opposed to the changes and from hardline Republicans looking to make even deeper cuts. Although it is unclear whether Ryan’s proposal will ever come to a vote, it is widely seen as a statement of principles emphasizing Republican budget priorities heading into the upcoming election season. See the Alliance’s reaction to the proposal at http://tinyurl.com/khutm24.

Alliance co-hosts Conference Call, Members Rally to Increase the Minimum Wage
On Wednesday, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, joined the Alliance and Social Security Works for a tele-press conference discussing new research that shows restoring the minimum wage to its 1968 level would enhance Social Security protections for low-income workers and shore up the program’s finances. Midge Slater, Organizer for the Iowa Alliance, joined the call, noting that since Social Security benefits are tied to earnings, women would particularly benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. That is because their lifetime earnings are frequently affected by lower wages and family care time spent out of the work force. You can hear the content of the call on YouTube by going to http://tinyurl.com/jwrm7rm. For a summary of the research, go to http://tinyurl.com/pg9pa25.

“Raising the minimum wage will reduce income inequality and help ensure the stability of the program in the future,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

On Thursday, the “Give America a Raise” bus tour rolled into the nation’s capital, drawing attention to the fact that too many American workers struggle to survive on $15,000 a year. Several Alliance members joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA), U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin (IA) and Al Franken (MN), U.S. Rep. George Miller (CA), AFSCME President Lee Saunders, Alliance Executive Vice President/AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, and others in saying that the minimum wage must be raised to $10.10 per hour. Video from the event is at http://tinyurl.com/k2hdwtb.

“The better your working life is, the better your retirement will be,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare - Annual Open Enrollment Period Extended Until April 30, 2014!
Are you a union retiree or spouse?  Did you know you are eligible for affordable supplemental insurance to Medicare exclusively endorsed by the Alliance?  The Union Retiree Health Plan offers several options to fit your budget and is proud to announce the program’s most competitive rates ever!  Due to an overwhelming response, this year’s Open Enrollment Period has been extended until April 30, 2014.  During this period, Medicare-eligible union retirees and spouses are guaranteed acceptance without waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you are not one of the thousands of your fellow members currently benefiting from the Union Retiree Health Plan, now is the best time to enroll!  Already enrolled?  Tell your friends!  Enrollment is easy.  For more information, please call 1-855-733-0557 today! 

Florida Alliance Members Meet to Address the State’s Severe Economic Problems
The Florida Alliance for Retired Americans held its Legislative Conference and Quarterly Executive Board Meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Tallahassee. Eva Dominguez, Legislative Representative, represented the National Alliance. A press conference inside the state capitol focused on housing and grandparents' rights. Attendees also addressed several other issues over the two days, including many economic factors that severely limit Florida’s desirability for people who are looking to relocate (http://bit.ly/1laM8wT).

Fiesta Speaks to Teachers in New York
Mr. Fiesta is in New York City today to address New York State United Teachers conference. The event is designed to give Local and Retiree Council Presidents the tools they need to strengthen their locals, build solidarity and mobilize for the future.

Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Workshops are slated to include State Battles: Fighting Back Against ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council); Seniors/Retirees Re-entering the Workforce; Messaging for the 2014 Midterm Elections and Beyond; and several others! More info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g. Delegates registered to attend may offer or second a resolution for consideration. It must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter and be sent to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org. Resolutions and seconds must be received by the Alliance by April 8, 2014.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/pqadrsr.

For the Alliance's Spanish language page, which includes last week's Friday Alert in Spanish, go to www.alianzadejubilados.org

Anti-Unionol now available

Friday, March 28, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-28-14

Headlines:
Doc Fix Prevents Cuts to Medicare Providers for a Year
Kellogg’s: Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops®, and a Worker Lockout
See Hidden Camera Footage of American Legislative Exchange Council in Action
NAFTA at 20: AFL-CIO Reports on Legacy of the Trade Deal
Fiesta Speaks at NEA Conference
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas


Doc Fix Prevents Cuts to Medicare Providers for a Year
On Thursday, the House approved a so-called “doc fix” bill that serves as a temporary solution to an ongoing structural problem in the formula used to determine Medicare funding levels. After hours of uncertainty over whether the bill would have sufficient support to pass, House Republican leaders moved quickly to approve the measure by voice vote. The legislation, which is also expected to be taken up and passed by the Senate on Monday, prevents a 24 percent cut in reimbursements to physicians under Medicare. The Washington Post reported that many House Democrats criticized the bill -- insisting that Congress should have voted on a permanent fix to the Sustainable Growth Rate, as the doc fix is known.

“This is a band-aid,” declared House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). “There are so many things that are wrong with this bill, but the simple fact is that the clock is ticking and on March 31, it's bad news for our seniors and the doctors that treat them.” She voted in favor of the year-long fix despite its shortcomings, after considering the consequences of not doing so.

This “doc fix” is the latest incarnation of a bill passed frequently by the House -- sometimes multiple times per year -- that avoids a sharp drop-off in Medicare payments. In 1997, Congress created the Sustainable Growth Rate, a system that pegged the amount of money budgeted for Medicare payments to projected growth of the economy. However, within a few years, health care costs far outpaced economic growth -- creating a multibillion dollar shortfall in funding.

“While we really need a permanent fix, we can at least breathe a sigh of relief that seniors will not have trouble getting doctors to accept patients on Medicare next week,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Kellogg’s: Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops®, and a Worker Lockout
Kellogg Company, the $14 billion global snack food giant, has embarked on a perilous path that threatens the very principles and values that its founder W.K. Kellogg envisioned a century ago. Under the guise of another restructuring program and led by its CEO, John Bryant, Kellogg is closing factories, cutting production lines, locking out workers, taking uncompromising and unreasonable stands at collective bargaining tables throughout the world and is even turning its back on its hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan.

More than 220 workers have been locked out of their jobs at Kellogg's Memphis, Tenn. cereal plant since October 22, 2013. The workers, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union Local 252G, who make Frosted Flakes®, Froot Loops® and other breakfast favorites, were locked out as part of the drive by the company to replace steady, middle-class, full-time jobs with casual part-time employees who would make significantly lower wages and substandard benefits.

“We need to stand with these Kellogg’s workers in order to help save the middle class,” said Rich Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. To tell Kellogg to stop the global destruction of middle class jobs, go to http://www.kellogggreed.com.

See Hidden Camera Footage of American Legislative Exchange Council in Action
Check out the Alliance’s new web page http://tinyurl.com/nqr4g2q, which features a story about a hidden camera in an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Arizona with state legislators and corporate lobbyists. The page also has action links (updated for all browsers!) and resources.

NAFTA at 20: AFL-CIO Reports on Legacy of the Trade Deal
The AFL-CIO’s new report “NAFTA at 20” outlines what workers have learned from 20 years of NAFTA. The report, available at www.aflcio.org/NAFTAat20, argues that NAFTA-style agreements prove to be a vehicle to increase corporate profits at the expense of workers, consumers, farmers, communities, the environment and even democracy itself.

“The report is particularly relevant in the context of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, wealth inequality, and the jobs deficit,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Insurers Benefit More from Additional Medicare Reimbursements than Seniors do
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has released a paper looking at the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, through which the federal government contracts with private insurers to coordinate and finance health care for more than 15 million Medicare recipients. NBER found that additional reimbursements to Medicare providers lead more private firms to enter the market and to an increase in the share of Medicare recipients enrolled in MA plans. The findings revealed that only about one-fifth of the additional reimbursement is passed through to consumers in the form of better coverage. A somewhat larger share accrues to private insurers in the form of higher profits. There was also evidence suggesting a large impact on advertising expenditures. The results have implications for a key feature of the Affordable Care Act that will reduce reimbursement to MA plans by $156 billion from 2013 to 2022. The paper is available at http://tinyurl.com/qy6yanp.

Fiesta Speaks at NEA Conference
Mr. Fiesta traveled to Houston for the NEA Retired Organizing Conference on Wednesday. The conference was devoted to training retired members of the National Education Association to organize their communities to advance the cause of public education.

Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
It is not too late to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. More info is at http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g. Retirees will take home all the information they need to fight for retirement security and help fellow Americans retire with dignity. Convention attendees will have time to network with activists from across the country, share experiences, and gain helpful tips. Delegates registered to attend may offer or second a resolution for consideration. It must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter and be sent to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org. Resolutions and seconds must be received by the Alliance by April 8, 2014.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1mbcWwV.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-21-14

Headlines:
Medicare Means Testing Would Harm Middle Class
Rapper “Common” to Support Nissan Canton Unionization Effort
Medicaid Expansion Causes Waves at State Level
Sign Up For, Share Our Spanish Friday Alert - Alerta Semanal
Convention Deadline, Register Now!

Medicare Means Testing Would Harm Middle Class
Alliance for Retired Americans member and AFSCME retiree leader Charlie Hogan of Chicago joined Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky on a press call Thursday co-hosted by the Congresswoman, Social Security Works and the Medicare Rights Center. Mr. Hogan, a veteran, stressed that the retirees of today and tomorrow contributed to our earned benefits, Medicare and Social Security, and that promise should not be broken. Hogan said, “If we didn't have Medicare, if we didn't have insurance at work, we'd lose our homes, we'd lose everything”(http://bit.ly/1h1kBt6).

Stacy Sanders, Federal Policy Director for the Medicare Rights Center, explained three important facts about further means testing Medicare on the call: Medicare is already means-tested – wealthy Medicare beneficiaries already pay more for their Medicare premiums; further means-testing means higher health care costs for the middle class; and more means-testing would undermine the universality and integrity of Medicare. Dr. Ben Veghte, Research Director for Social Security Works, pointed out that the average senior's Social Security benefits are equivalent to a minimum wage income, about $15,000/year. He added, “Indirectly, Social Security benefits have been cut by rising out-of-pocket health care costs over the last two decades.” A fact sheet on the issue is available here: http://bit.ly/1jcOxVO. Veghte said, “Our health care system is currently twice as expensive as most other Western countries’; there are a number of proposals that would reduce health care costs, not just shift costs onto seniors.”

Rapper “Common” to Support Nissan Canton Unionization Effort
Tonight, a rapper and actor named Common will perform a concert in support of the workers at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant. He will be joined by actor Danny Glover. Common and Mr. Glover said, “This event is an expression of support for Nissan auto workers in Canton, Mississippi, who are fighting for a fair union election and a voice in their workplace at Nissan.”  Many at the plant have tried to push for a vote to join UAW for the last several years, but Nissan has fought unionization. A vote would be particularly significant on the heels of the failed vote at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, where union activists have appealed the result, arguing that workers were unfairly intimidated into voting against joining.  If successful, the vote will offer UAW another opportunity to represent its first foreign-owned plant in the South, and provide a launching pad for UAW. More info: http://bit.ly/1eqXCuo.

Medicaid Expansion Causes Waves at State Level
After the Affordable Care Act paved the way for Medicaid expansion, 25 states and the District of Columbia moved relatively quickly to adopt it.  Some states did the opposite, however, and their legislatures and governors are still working to block it.

This week, the Georgia legislature approved two measures that will block Georgians’ access to health insurance, including HB 990, which strips Gov. Nathan Deal of his authority to expand Medicaid. This vote came at the governor’s request, in order to prevent Medicaid expansion by any means.  That leaves 600,000 of the poorest Georgians without access to affordable health care (http://bit.ly/1ik2imv). The legislature took these actions despite Georgia having the 5th highest uninsured population in the nation. “Moral Monday” protestors, part of a movement sweeping the South which originated in North Carolina and aims to give voice to citizens whose rights are under attack by their own legislature, were present at the Georgia capitol. About 40 of the protestors were arrested for disrupting proceedings (http://huff.to/1g5RAk2).

In Virginia, despite electing a pro-expansion Democratic governor in Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Republican-controlled state house has promised to block Medicaid expansion. In response, McAuliffe embarked on a tour of the state, pitching the benefits of the program aiming to mobilize the support of Virginia citizens (http://wapo.st/1fKG9td). Members of the Senate and House of Delegates return to Richmond next Monday to continue work on the budget and Medicaid expansion. Last Saturday, Virginia Alliance members joined with Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare, Virginia Organizing, and the Virginia AFL-CIO at a capitol rally, with hundreds expressing why Virginia legislators need to put their constituents first and expand Medicaid. One fast food worker present explained that she earns minimum wage and is above the cut-off for Medicaid benefits but cannot afford to purchase her own insurance; many others shared their stories about how Medicaid expansion would improve lives. Citizens and activists, including Alliance for Retired Americans members, will reach out to constituents at their doors this weekend across the entire state, encouraging them to speak up for expansion. Ron Thompson, President of the Virginia Alliance for Retired Americans, said, “I’ve walked the halls of the capitol many Mondays and met with state legislators who say the same thing: we won’t do it because we can’t trust the federal government. They’re like clones. My question for them is: aren’t you a government employee? And don’t you work for the people of Virginia? They need health care!”

Sign Up For, Share Our Spanish Friday Alert - Alerta Semanal
The Friday Alert is now available each week in Spanish! Find last week’s Alerta Semanal, at http://bit.ly/1kMauwN or on the Alliance’s Spanish language page http://tinyurl.com/nllcz6n. You can also sign up for Spanish-language emails at http://bit.ly/1jbQ0fd or on the Spanish language page.

Convention Deadline, Register Now!
Hurry, now is the time to register for the Alliance for Retired Americans 2014 National Membership Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, April 28 through May 1. Avoid the late fee for convention registration by registering today at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box. Don't miss out on the discounted $99.00 per night room rate expiring March 21. More info: http://bit.ly/1hYpj0g.

It is more important than ever that retirees have all the information and the skills they need to fight for retirement security and to help fellow Americans retire with dignity. Convention attendees will have time to network with activists from across the country, share experiences, and gain helpful tips. Delegates registered to attend the Convention may offer or second a resolution for consideration. It must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter and be sent to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org. Resolutions and seconds must be received by the Alliance by April 8, 2014.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1kPCakg.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

What's wrong with Indiana

More than one thing. That's for sure. Lousy, dirty, stinky toll road rest areas. Goofy time zones. An intolerant, backwards, uncaring General Assembly and this:

Friday, March 14, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-14-14

Headlines:
Stand up to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Protect Pensions
Alliance Letter: House “Doc Fix” is the Wrong Solution
USA Today Piece Describes Retirees’ Biggest Financial Regrets
Spanish Friday Alert now Available
Oregon Alliance Holds State Convention, Hosts Former Governor Roberts
Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas

Stand up to the American Legislative Exchange Council and Protect Pensions
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is a corporate-funded, “pay-to-play” lobbying group that brings corporations and state legislators together to craft “model” legislation. The “model bills” they craft, regrettably, put corporate profits before the public interest. Stand up to ALEC – the coalition group that includes the Alliance for Retired Americans, the AFL-CIO, and other unions and allies, will focus on pensions during the week of March 17. ALEC’s goal is to wipe out public pension systems in favor of private 401(k) type plans. In a Wall Street-managed, individual 401(k) world, workers would lose their ability to save, invest and take action collectively. For a fact sheet on ALEC and retirement security, go to http://tinyurl.com/l6ruewq.

“ALEC and its sister organization, the State Policy Network, are planning campaigns, lobbying activities, and lawsuits to challenge and degrade state and local public pension systems in numerous states,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania are targets at the least, and we cannot afford to stay out of this battle. We will reach out to expose these anti-democratic efforts step-by-step.”

Alliance Letter: House “Doc Fix” is the Wrong Solution
The Alliance sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday regarding the “doc fix,” or “Sustainable Growth Rate” (SGR). The SGR is supposed to chop provider reimbursement if spending rises too fast, but such steep cuts in practice would harm patient care, and more doctors would refuse to treat seniors.  The letter from Alliance Executive Director Richard Fiesta opposed the passage of H.R. 4015, the SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act, as the solution. The letter suggested other ways to solve the problem, including the Medicare Drug Discount Act (http://tinyurl.com/p5px7p5). However, the bill passed on Friday, 238-181. For a tally of the vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/mgnvxze.

“While the February 2014 agreement reached by the House and Senate to fix the sustainable growth rate formula in Medicare’s physician reimbursement was bicameral and bipartisan, this legislation is not,” Mr. Fiesta wrote. “Under this egregious proposal, doctors would be paid on the backs of uninsured Americans. This is simply unacceptable….(i)t is disturbing to us that the authors of this proposal found money to provide an update for physicians, who on average make upwards of $200,000 per year, but not for low-income Medicare beneficiaries.” To read the full letter, go to http://tinyurl.com/qj7zve9.

USA Today Piece Describes Retirees’ Biggest Financial Regrets
Financial advisers, asked about their retired clients’ biggest money regrets, offered several recommendations in USA Today this week. Among the regrets listed: retiring too early, not planning for worst-case scenarios, and underestimating future medical costs. Some also regret withdrawing early from an IRA or 401(k) and not moving to a new city or state to reduce taxes.

“I’m sure many people would love to have saved more for their retirement, but the money was just never there,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Tash Elwyn, president of the Raymond James & Associates firm, says a key mistake people make is that they fail to make provisions for catastrophic events. “Whether it's a major medical issue or a debilitating illness, those that find they are not only financing their own retirement, but an adult child who has returned after a job loss aren't accounting for real life. Planning can't just be for best-case scenarios, and far too often it is.” More at http://tinyurl.com/q44lwqb.

Spanish Friday Alert now Available
The Friday Alert will now be available each week in Spanish! To see last week’s Alerta Semanal, go to http://tinyurl.com/mq7gpry. For the Alliance’s Spanish language page, which includes fact sheets and other translated documents from the main site, go to http://tinyurl.com/nllcz6n. More outreach from the Alliance to the Hispanic elder community will be coming in the next few months.

Oregon Alliance Holds State Convention, Hosts Former Governor Roberts
On March 8, the Oregon Alliance for Retired Americans held its annual convention, and it included the most attendees in years. Featured speaker Barbara Roberts, Oregon's first woman governor, shared her life story. In observance of International Women's Day, she encouraged women to record their successes. Progressive talk show host Carl Wolfson spoke about fighting income inequality. Resolutions were passed opposing ALEC legislative activities and supporting Postal Service banking. Board member Jim Davis reported success at the just-ended Oregon legislative session in securing funding for the placement of senior and disability mental health and addiction specialists in all 36 county mental health programs. Ron Rogers and Jane Netboy were elected as trustees.

Alliance’s National Convention is April 28 – May 1, 2014 at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
Join us in Las Vegas as we sharpen our organizing and communications skills for the 2014 elections and beyond! Confirmed speakers now include: Lee Saunders, President of AFSCME; Danny Thompson, Nevada AFL-CIO Executive Secretary-Treasurer and Nevada Alliance Vice President; Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; and several others.

Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members and the executive vice-president for community affairs. Hotel reservations must be made by March 21, 2014. Click on http://tinyurl.com/luw8vke to visit the Alliance’s convention web page. Go to http://tinyurl.com/prl8box to register on-line. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377.

Any delegate registered to attend the National Membership Convention may offer or second a resolution for consideration. The resolution must pertain to a statement of the Alliance’s position or policy on a specific matter. Resolutions, and seconds, must be received by the Alliance no later than April 8, 2014. The Resolutions Committee, designated by the Alliance President, will review proposed resolutions. Send resolutions to Resolutions2014@retiredamericans.org.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/k9vlzqv.

Letter to Indiana CD2 Jackie Walorski

Indiana has always had a proud manufacturing tradition but unless we do something to create more jobs, that tradition will be a thing of the past. We've lost 183,400 manufacturing jobs since 2000!  The way to get good jobs back is to crack down on currency manipulation. It's one of the chief reasons America's trade deficit was $456 billion last year. But a new report by the Economic Policy Institute says that Indiana could create 152,600 jobs by 2015 if we simply stamped out currency manipulation. In North Central Indiana, 20,000 jobs could be created, which makes our Congressional District sixth in the nation in the amount of jobs that could be created if Congresswoman Jackie Walorski and others stood up to unfair trade.

There is a bill in congress that would do that. HR 1276 would take countries like Communist China to task for rigging their exchange rate to cheat American companies and workers out of business. But it needs more support, and Representative Jackie Walorski hasn't added her name yet. Representative Walorski, will you help fight currency manipulation? We need to get serious about job creation, and these issues are one and the same.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 3-7-14




Headlines:
House Budget Committee Chair Ryan Misrepresents Economists in Poverty Report
President Obama Releases His 2015 Budget
Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect Medicare for Seniors
Bridge Project Reports on the Conservative Money Trail

House Budget Committee Chair Ryan Misrepresents Economists in Poverty Report
The House Budget Committee released a report, The War on Poverty: Fifty Years Later, on Monday, and the findings left several economists and social scientists bemused and angry, according to The Fiscal Times. Several experts who read it said that Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) either misunderstood or misrepresented their research. One of the study’s authors, Jane Waldfogel, a professor at Columbia University and a visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, said that she was surprised when she read the paper, “because it seemed to arbitrarily chop off data from two of the most successful years of the war on poverty.” Barbara Wolfe, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, objected to Ryan’s use of two of her studies: Ryan’s paper erroneously claimed that one of Wolfe’s studies found that only a minority of families alter their employment decisions in response to Medicaid’s design. For analysis and a link to the report itself, go to http://tinyurl.com/o23ysld.

“It is especially galling when the misinformation is used to attack the economically disadvantaged,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

President Obama Releases His 2015 Budget
President Obama released his 2015 budget on Tuesday. As expected, it did not include the chained CPI benefit cut to Social Security and other programs. The budget includes $250 million to modernize customer service at the Social Security Administration in order to decrease wait times. Also, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit is expected to benefit 300,000 working seniors, and increased funding to the Department of Housing and Urban Development is slated to expand housing for seniors by 3,000 units. The budget also includes some cuts, especially to Medicare beneficiaries, that many seniors’ advocates would rather not see. To read The Washington Post’s budget write-up, go to http://tinyurl.com/objbnjh. For the National Coalition on Aging’s take on the budget, go to http://tinyurl.com/qalg8jo. To see the White House’s fact sheet on the budget and seniors, go to http://tinyurl.com/p7evz3q.

“Seniors continue to be thrilled with reports that came out in February that President Obama has removed the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We would soon like to see a White House plan, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), to expand Social Security.”

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Are you a union retiree or spouse?  Did you know you are eligible for affordable supplemental insurance to Medicare exclusively endorsed by the Alliance?  The Union Retiree Health Plan offers several options to fit your budget and is proud to announce the program’s most competitive rates ever!  The Open Enrollment Period is currently in effect through March 31, 2014.  During this period, Medicare-eligible union retirees and spouses are guaranteed acceptance without waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you are not one of the thousands of your fellow members currently benefiting from the Union Retiree Health Plan, now is the best time to enroll!  Already enrolled?  Tell your friends! Enrollment is easy.  For more information, please call 1-855-733-0557 today.

Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect Medicare for Seniors
Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) is the lead on a bill that was introduced on Thursday to protect Medicare.
Co-sponsors include fellow Democrats Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Al Franken (MN), Brian Schatz (HI), Tom Udall (NM), Kay Hagan (NC), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Warren. The Senators introduced the Medicare Protection Act, legislation expressing strong opposition to changes in Medicare that would reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or raise the eligibility age for hard-working seniors.

“We’ve seen an irresponsible few in Washington try to balance the budget on the backs of our seniors by recklessly voting to turn Medicare into a voucher system and raise the eligibility age for benefits,” Sen. Pryor said. “I refuse to let that happen. That’s why I’m proud to lead the charge on the Medicare Protection Act, a responsible solution that will protect the health, safety, and financial security of nearly 600,000 seniors in my state alone.”

The Medicare Protection Act would amend the Congressional Budget Act to define any provision included in reconciliation legislation that makes changes to Medicare to reduce or eliminate guaranteed benefits or restrict eligibility criteria as extraneous and an inappropriate use of the reconciliation process. The bill would also express the sense of the Senate that 1) the Medicare eligibility age should not be increased, and 2) the Medicare program should not be privatized or turned into a voucher system. For a copy of the bill, click http://tinyurl.com/oa29ghe.

“This legislation would protect Medicare so that it is not turned into a voucher system, benefits are not slashed, and it is not privatized,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Bridge Project Reports on the Conservative Money Trail
On Thursday, Bridge Project, an organization dedicated to “opposing the conservative movement’s extreme ideology and exposing its often dishonest tactics,” released a new report shining a light on the money funding the conservative agenda. Coming on the first day of this year's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the report, “Conservative Transparency: A Look at the Organized Right in 2014,” and its accompanying website give the public a window into the complex and often cloudy flow of money among conservative donors, organizations, and candidates. The full report is available at http://tinyurl.com/k5ay996.

The first of several planned state-based case studies was also released on Thursday: it details how North Carolina, since 2010, has pushed one of the most aggressive right-wing agendas in the country. The North Carolina case study is available at http://tinyurl.com/qcvw5ms. The group’s accompanying website, www.ConservativeTransparency.org, tracks the flow of money among conservative donors, advocacy groups, political committees, and candidates. In the 2012 cycle, conservative outside groups spent more than $800 million on federal elections.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/pvlnvcd.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-28-14




Headlines:
U.S. Ranks Just 19th in Retirement Security Worldwide
Virginia Alliance Member Joins Sen. Chris Murphy in Support of Affordable Care Act
Rep. John Dingell Announces his Retirement after Record 58 Years in Congress
Pentagon Budget Could Hurt Military Retirees
Nebraska Takes Center Stage in Medicaid Expansion Debate
Texas Alliance Stands up for Minimum Wage Hike, Illinois for Nursing Home Safety


U.S. Ranks Just 19th in Retirement Security Worldwide
U.S. retirees are facing worse conditions for their golden years than retired workers in many other developed countries -- from Canada and the United Kingdom to South Korea, CNN reports. The U.S. ranked 19th in retirement security for the second year in a row, according to information from Natixis Global Asset Management that ranked 150 countries based on health care, finances, economic well-being and quality of life factors. European countries took eight of the top 10 spots, lifted by strong social programs for seniors. Number 1 Switzerland, for instance, is known for its strong public and private pension system. In contrast, American workers increasingly have to save for retirement on their own or through workplace 401(k) plans, while high health care costs remain an added burden. More at http://tinyurl.com/lfg23ns.

“A nation as wealthy as the U.S should be doing better than 19th,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “I see in these numbers more proof that we need to expand Social Security.” The Alliance fully supports the Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 (S.567), introduced by Tom Harkin (D-IA) in the U.S. Senate, and its companion bill H.R. 3118, introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) in the House. The legislation would increase annual Social Security benefits by an average of $800. It also improves the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) calculations by using a formula that reflects the cost of goods and services typically used by older Americans and ensures the Social Security Trust Fund remains solvent for years to come.

Virginia Alliance Member Joins Sen. Chris Murphy in Support of Affordable Care Act
On Wednesday, U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) launched a coordinated effort in Congress to highlight the positive effects that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is having on millions of low- and middle-income Americans. Over the past four years, the law has provided health insurance coverage and new benefits to millions, reduced their overall cost of care, and reduced federal health spending. More than 6 million Americans have signed up for health insurance since 2010. Many say that Republicans in Congress have worked to sabotage the ACA by attempting to block implementation and deny funding for critical provisions of the law. At the Wednesday event, senators highlighted the impact the law has had on seniors across the U.S. Please tell us your story about affordable health care here: http://bit.ly/1gHdg34!

Virginia Alliance member Ken Pease joined the five senators, stating, “The Affordable Care Act is important, because it gives me peace of mind to know that my drug costs will be lower than they would have been without it. Repealing the health care law would send my prescription drug costs right back up again.” Photos at http://tinyurl.com/ooby3ve. Paul Krugman wrote this week in The New York Times about the multitude of false stories propagated by opponents of health care reform in an effort to make their case. Read the article at http://tinyurl.com/nxwu4vk.

Rep. John Dingell Announces his Retirement after Record 58 Years in Congress
U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), at 87, the longest-serving member of Congress in American history, announced his retirement on Monday. Dingell, a fierce protector of Detroit’s auto industry, is the former chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. He has served with every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower. In September, 2006, Rep. Dingell received the Alliance's Leadership Award for a career dedicated to the health care and economic justice of retirees.  He had presided over the House vote to pass Medicare in 1965. For a video of Rep. Dingell with that day’s gavel, go to http://tinyurl.com/k5lxubl.

“Rep. Dingell has been a great friend to seniors ever since he was first elected in a 1955 special election to replace his late father,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor (D-AZ), also won’t seek reelection in 2014, he announced Thursday. Last week, both Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA) announced that they will not be seeking another term in Congress. The full list of members who will not be returning to their seats can be found on the Roll Call Casualty List at http://tinyurl.com/mhfd3l.

Pentagon Budget Could Hurt Military Retirees
On Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined in great detail the Pentagon's plan to save money while emphasizing special operations and technology by calling for a smaller Army, changes in pay, and the elimination of some aircraft, weapons and bases. The budget calls for a 1% pay increase for most troops. However, generals and admirals would receive a one-year pay freeze. Hagel said he wants to slow the growth of housing allowances and require active-duty and retired members of the military to make a larger contribution to their health care costs in the TRICARE program. Future pay and pension questions will be handled by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which is expected to issue its report in a year.

Nebraska Takes Center Stage in Medicaid Expansion Debate
With more red states moving toward adopting the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, Americans United for Change is targeting a series of radio ads in a place that could actually do it: Nebraska. The spots contrast Gov. Dave Heineman's (R) request for a new $3.3 million state plane with his refusal to pay the state's relatively minor share of the cost to expand Medicaid. A bipartisan bill to expand Medicaid and cover an additional 54,000 Nebraskans is pending in the legislature, but it is several votes short of the 33 needed to break a procedural hurdle. The 33 votes would also be enough to override a veto, if Heineman were to reject the measure (http://tinyurl.com/mmvdeqc).

“Several states with Republican governors or state legislatures still might expand Medicaid, despite initial objections,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “…Nebraska, Arkansas, and Maine, just to name three.”

Texas Alliance Stands up for Minimum Wage Hike, Illinois for Nursing Home Safety
A Daily Kos blog post highlights an event at which Texas Alliance activists joined a downtown Dallas demonstration in favor of increasing the minimum wage at http://tinyurl.com/mgdlw4w. To view Illinois Alliance members protesting GOP gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner's ties to dangerous nursing homes, go to http://tinyurl.com/nbje5r9.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/ob44khs.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-21-14

Headlines:
President Obama Takes the Chained CPI out of his Fiscal 2015 Budget
Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Narrowly Vote not to Unionize
“Doc Fix” is in the Works, but it may not be a Reason to Celebrate
Listen to the Alliance Point of View on Labor Radio
Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas


President Obama Takes the Chained CPI out of his Fiscal 2015 Budget
In a great victory for the Alliance, White House staff has announced that President Obama’s Fiscal 2015 budget will not include a switch to the chained CPI formula that would limit cost-of-living increases in Social Security and other programs. Alliance members who had worked diligently for months in the hope that the change would not be implemented - and that earned benefits would not be cut – celebrated the news jubilantly. Especially relieved and excited were the thousands of Alliance members who had joined hands at dozens of “Human Chain” events held nationally last July (http://tinyurl.com/kocng72).

“We are thrilled with reports that President Obama heard Alliance members from across the country and removed the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance.

Mr. Fiesta continued, “Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.”

Mr. Fiesta added, “The Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. We held dozens of ‘Human Chain’ events with thousands of Alliance members all across the country, and are elated that they paid off.” To see the complete Alliance press release, go to http://tinyurl.com/kzpcclw

Deficit hawks said Obama's move to shelve chained CPI likely kills any chance of a grand bargain for the rest of his term. In an effort to save $230 billion over 10 years, the President had proposed adopting a new way of calculating benefit increases that assumes consumers don’t always pay higher prices for products but rather substitute with cheaper alternatives. The net result is a lower inflation rate than measured by the conventional consumer price index. For additional coverage, including a Miami Herald article mentioning the Alliance, go to http://tinyurl.com/m2medu5.

Just prior to the President’s announcement, 117 Members of the U.S. House, led by Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), had signed a letter (http://tinyurl.com/mmhbowc) urging him not to include the chained CPI in his 2015 budget, and 16 Senators had signed a letter, spearheaded by Sen. Sanders, urging him not to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid (http://tinyurl.com/l4xjdlu).

Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Narrowly Vote not to Unionize
Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee narrowly rejected joining the UAW last week by a 712-626 vote. The efforts to organize were met with strong anti-labor threats from Republicans like State Senator Bo Watson, who said that if workers opt for UAW representation, Volkswagen would have a “very tough time” securing future tax incentives from the state.  Outside organizations like the Grover Norquist-led Americans for Tax Reform also swarmed on Chattanooga to influence the vote.

The defeat came as a major disappointment to labor, as there had initially appeared to be an outpouring of enthusiasm, and Volkswagen had officially stayed neutral on the vote. Despite the loss this week, workers may again vote to unionize in a year’s time. 

“The loss in Chattanooga will not halt the efforts of unions and those who support the rights of workers,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “The UAW will continue to explore opportunities in the South.” More at http://tinyurl.com/mknpes8.

“Doc Fix” is in the Works, but it may not be a Reason to Celebrate
The nation’s most powerful lobbies for physicians are heaping praise on legislation heading to the floors of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, perhaps within the next month, to address an upcoming cut in Medicare payments to doctors.  The deal, which both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians have called a “bicameral, bipartisan” agreement to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), would bring an end to stopgap corrections to dramatic cuts in doctor payments from Medicare in what has been labeled the “doc fix.”

“If this legislation passes, it will make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to see a doctor,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “However, we can’t celebrate without knowing if it will shift more costs onto seniors.”

Listen to the Alliance Point of View on Labor Radio
You can hear Mr. Fiesta discuss current events every Friday at 2:00 PM Eastern Time on The Union Edge radio show (www.TheUnionEdge.com). Charles Showalter hosts. Download a free app for your smart phone or dial 712-432-5866 from any phone, anywhere in the world at any time to listen to the most recent program. You can also hear Mr. Fiesta the second Wednesday of every month on America’s Work Force radio at http://awfradio.com, with host Ed “Flash” Ferenc.

Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
Join us in Las Vegas as we sharpen our organizing and communications skills for the 2014 elections and beyond! Confirmed speakers now include: Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security; Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; and Jimmy Gilbert, Director of the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council.

Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members and the executive vice-president for community affairs. Alliance members whose dues are paid and are in good standing as of February 27, 2014 are eligible to be a voting delegate. Hotel reservations must be made by March 21, 2014. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377. Ready to register? Download a registration form at http://tinyurl.com/nqnz97a or register on-line at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1h6h53o.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

President Obama Heeded Our Call


Today, it was reported President Obama heeded OUR call and struck the chained CPI cut to Social Security and other programs from his 2015 budget.

The 4 million member Alliance for Retired Americans made eliminating the chained CPI our top priority of the past year. You have been key in making that successful. Thank you.

•    Our “Human Chain Against the Chained CPI” events across the country paid off!
•    Our grassroots educational forums actually turned the language and understanding of the “chained CPI” into the “chained CPI benefit cut” for seniors, veterans and others

•    We will continue to do our part to educate, advocate and mobilize for retirement security for Americans who work hard and should be able to count on a secure retirement.
•    Now that the pesky chained CPI is out of the way, we can focus on the real task at hand, articulated well by members of Congress like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), as well as Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), which is to expand Social Security so that it fits the retirement security needs of today.

Thanks so much for your confidence, support and especially activism! Together, we do make a difference!

Sincerely,
Richard Fiesta
Executive Director, Alliance for Retired Americans

Friday, February 14, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-14-14




Headlines:
Wall Street Journal Profiles People Affected by Failure to Expand Medicaid…
…While Washington Post Profiles Those Whose Unemployment Benefits Ran out
Democrats Bail out Speaker Boehner to Raise the Debt Ceiling
Senate COLA Vote Restores Full Pension Benefits to Younger Military Retirees
AOL’s CEO Faces Backlash for Singling out Employees with High Health Care Costs
Mortgage, Home Equity and Credit Card Debt Increases among Seniors Ages 65-74

Wall Street Journal Profiles People Affected by Failure to Expand Medicaid…
The Affordable Care Act was meant to cover people in part by expanding Medicaid to workers earning up to the federal poverty line—about $11,670 for a single person; more for families. In addition, people earning as much as four times the poverty line—$46,680 for a single person—can receive federal subsidies. However, The Wall Street Journal this week profiled some of the millions of people caught in the middle, who are finding that their Governor’s refusal to expand Medicaid in their state has left them unable to afford any coverage.

In 2012, the Supreme Court struck down the health law's requirement that states expand their Medicaid coverage. Federal government offered to pay the full cost of the expansion for three years, and then states would pay 10% of the annual expansion costs. Republican elected officials in 24 states then declined the expansion, triggering the coverage gap. As of January 1, 4.8 million people earn too little to qualify for health law subsidies to buy private insurance, and aren't eligible under existing state programs for the low-income, either. More at http://tinyurl.com/mpn8c99.

“We are seeing people who fall into a new coverage gap,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Without the expansion of Medicaid, it is possible to fall between the maximum you can earn to qualify for Medicaid benefits, and the minimum you need to make to get subsidies.”

…While Washington Post Profiles Those Whose Unemployment Benefits Ran out
According to The Washington Post, “never in more than 65 years have so many workers been without a job and without a government lifeline.” Studies show that about a third of the people cut off from long-term unemployment benefits will find help from Social Security or other government programs. Others will thread together dwindling savings or support from family. But economists are studying the people who appear to come up with “more-idiosyncratic solutions,” which are tough to identify and almost impossible to track. More at http://tinyurl.com/ltnmbu4.

Americans United for Change has commissioned two polls from Public Policy Polling that suggest opposition to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) extension may have damaged two GOP Senators. They find voters in Ohio and Illinois say they’re less likely to vote for Sens. Rob Portman and Mark Kirk by 24-point and nine-point margins in 2016. GOP opposition will remain key to the argument against Republicans in a cycle that many Democrats are making about inequality.

Democrats Bail out Speaker Boehner to Raise the Debt Ceiling
On Tuesday night, only 28 House Republicans joined nearly all Democrats to approve a “clean” extension of the government’s borrowing authority - one without strings attached. For a tally of the 221-201 vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/mtl5j48. The one-year extension left Republicans ceding control to Democrats, after a collapse in support within his own party for an earlier proposal advanced by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

On Wednesday, the increased borrowing authority was approved in the Senate, 55-43, on a strict party line vote with only Democrats in support (tally at http://tinyurl.com/mg9b2lr). The legislation, which President Obama said he would sign, would eliminate any chance of default on $17.2 trillion in debt — and the financial havoc that would ensue — until March 2015. Passage this week brought considerable breathing room before February 27, when the U.S. Treasury had expected to exhaust existing borrowing capacity, putting federal payments at risk.

Senate COLA Vote Restores Full Pension Benefits to Younger Military Retirees
The House also approved a bill, 326-90, on Tuesday for restoration of full cost-of-living pension increases for younger military retirees, a bipartisan surrender to groups that opposed a cut when it was enacted less than two months ago.

The Senate passed a similar bill on Wednesday, 95-3. For a tally of the House and Senate votes, go to http://tinyurl.com/qbx387l and http://tinyurl.com/n6sa7ek. The savings to the government from the reduction had been calculated at $7 billion over a decade, but would have cost individual veterans tens of thousands of dollars over their lifetime. More at http://tinyurl.com/kutyaoq.

AOL’s CEO Faces Backlash for Singling out Employees with High Health Care Costs
Staff complaints about recent comments by AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong have led AOL (previously America Online) to reverse policy and again match employees' 401(k) contributions each pay period, rather than once a year. Mr. Armstrong announced the reversal in a staff e-mail on Saturday. In addition, he apologized in the memo for comments made during an employee conference call when he mentioned “specific health care examples” in trying to explain his decision- making process around AOL’s employee benefit programs. Armstrong did not describe the examples, but on the employee call Thursday, he had cited two distressed pregnancies costing $1 million each as a reason for switching to the annual 401(k) matching. More from CNN at http://tinyurl.com/kj7noey.

One problem with once-a-year contributions is that employees who leave before the end of the year generally don't get any matching contribution, unless they retired or became disabled. Employees who get a year-end match also lose the benefits of compounding, or earning a return on money invested throughout the year.

There are other problems with annual 401(k) contributions as well. “Your risk goes up,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “If you happen to get your single payment when the stock market is tanking, you can lose a substantial amount before you even cash your check.”

Mortgage, Home Equity and Credit Card Debt Increases among Seniors Ages 65-74
A new report from the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) shows that the percentage of 65- to 74-year-olds who report having a mortgage or home equity loan payment increased from 21% in 1989 to nearly 37% in 2010. The average credit card balance for the same group rose from $2,100 in 1989 to $6,000 in 2010. More at http://tinyurl.com/k43qgcr.

“Many seniors have had to borrow against the equity in their homes to meet basic expenses,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “It is another sign of the difficulty that the middle class has been enduring the past few years. If you are suffering, you are definitely not alone.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/k48ws6a.

Join the World's Dirtiest Dating Service

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

STRIKE, Unfair Labor Practice, NEO Industries

STRIKE

Unfair Labor Practice

Support our Brothers and Sisters

In Solidarity

USW Local 2003-15
Neo Industries
1775 Willowcreek Road and US 20
Portage, Indiana 46368

Neo grinds and chrome plates rolls, mostly for Mittal Steel and an Alcoa Plant. We have
been in bargaining with Neo since earlier October of 2013 and their labor agreement expired
November 26, 2013. The Company has not bargained in good faith, they have done nothing but say
take it or we’re shutting down. The Company wants to eliminate part of the bargaining unit by
contracting out the trucking work, this would eliminate 10 drivers. The Company has also offered
a very modest severance package. They have now put the Union on notice that absent us agreeing
to their terms, they will implement their proposal and contract out the trucking. They have hired
a trucking firm called Area Trucking and they are a non-union company.

We are not going to allow this company to take our good paying jobs and contract it out just
to save a few bucks they claim they will save and the Union disagrees with their numbers.

Please stop by and show our members at Neo your support and let’s show Neo that when
you take on one Steelworker you take on the USW. If you can’t make it tonight please just stop by
anytime and show your support. This is a 24/7 STRIKE Stop by anytime.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alert 2-7-14




Headlines:
NY Gov. Candidate Astorino: Let Seniors Eat Soup, and They Won’t Need Dentures
Harvard-CUNY Study: Governors’ Refusal of Medicaid Funds May Kill up to 17,000
Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Vote to Extend Benefits for the Long-Term Unemployed Fails in Senate
Republicans in House Discuss Tying Debt Limit to Medicare
“Compassionate Allowances” Speed up Social Security Disability Claims
Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas

NY Gov. Candidate Astorino: Let Seniors Eat Soup, and They Won’t Need Dentures
This past Monday, Republican/Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino formed an exploratory Committee to run for New York Governor against Andrew Cuomo (D). The New York Daily News covered it by reporting on an interview that Mr. Astorino gave in 2011. During a “Capital Tonight” conversation, Astorino said that Medicaid should not pay for dentures for seniors. Asked by interviewer Liz Benjamin how seniors would be able to chew, Astorino said, “Soup is good.”

In response to the article, Dennis Tracey, President of the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans, said, “Telling seniors who depend on Medicaid to ‘go eat soup’ is insulting and degrading to senior citizens everywhere.  This kind of thoughtless comment ignores that there are countless senior citizens who depend on Medicaid for all kinds of critical health issues, from prescription drugs to dentures.” Mr. Tracey continued, “To mock these real issues shows that Rob Astorino not only doesn't care about the needs of seniors, but that he thinks our best use is being the butt of a political joke.  Mr. Astorino should immediately apologize.” To see video footage of Astorino’s original remarks, go to http://tinyurl.com/q4zgjvq. Monday’s Daily News article is at http://tinyurl.com/nwk254m.

Harvard-CUNY Study: Governors’ Refusal of Medicaid Funds May Kill up to 17,000
Using mortality rate statistics from other states’ previous efforts to expand Medicaid, a Harvard – City University of New York study has found that between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans are likely to die due to 25 states’ refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. More at http://tinyurl.com/pgdpchx. For an Alliance fact sheet with Medicaid information for 2014, go to http://tinyurl.com/oz43huc.

Affordable Senior Health Insurance to Supplement Medicare
Are you a union retiree or spouse?  Did you know you are eligible for affordable supplemental insurance to Medicare exclusively endorsed by the Alliance?  The Union Retiree Health Plan offers several options to fit your budget and is proud to announce the program’s most competitive rates ever!  The Open Enrollment Period is currently in effect through March 31, 2014!  During this period, Medicare-eligible union retirees and spouses are guaranteed acceptance without waiting periods, regardless of preexisting health conditions.  If you are not one of the thousands of your fellow members currently benefiting from the Union Retiree Health Plan, now is the best time to enroll!  Already enrolled?  Tell your friends! Enrollment is easy.  For more information, please call 1-855-733-0557 today!

Vote to Extend Benefits for the Long-Term Unemployed Fails in Senate
On Thursday, the Senate again failed to approve an extension of emergency unemployment insurance, 40 days after the benefit was allowed to lapse. One vote prevented 1.7 million long-term unemployed Americans from receiving a desperately needed lifeline. Republicans opposed the bill even after Democrats met their demands that it be fully paid for and only three months in duration. For a tally of the 58-40 procedural vote, go to http://tinyurl.com/pnsjnd9. Sixty votes were needed. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) switched his vote to “nay” in the end, enabling him to bring the vote up again in the future. More at http://tinyurl.com/qbj234b. “Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) had said, ‘If [Senate Majority Leader Reid] gave us an offset, I’d be a yes.’ However, he did not keep his word,” noted Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Republicans in House Discuss Tying Debt Limit to Medicare
This week, House Republican leaders have tried to craft a debt-limit package that could pass with only Republican support. Now, according to Politico, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) and others are considering “attaching a whole laundry list of provisions to the debt ceiling that do precious little to decrease the deficit but would instead serve only to attract enough Democratic support to move the legislation on to the Senate.”

One option being widely discussed is attaching a nine-month patch of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) to the debt-limit increase. The SGR, or “doc fix,” is the formula by which the federal government reimburses doctors who treat Medicare patients. Such a move would enable doctors to continue treating Medicare patients without seeing a cut to their payments. However, Medicare beneficiaries could see their costs go up. Also in the mix is a proposal to reverse recent cuts to the cost-of-living adjustment for some military retirees’ pensions. Top Republicans think that could attract Democratic support, but Senate insiders say Boehner is mistaken. The debt ceiling likely needs to be hiked by the end of February to avoid a default. More at http://tinyurl.com/pqhpean.

“Compassionate Allowances” Speed up Social Security Disability Claims
Acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin has announced that 25 conditions would be added to the Compassionate Allowance program, bringing to 225 the number of conditions covered. The program allows individuals with the most serious disabilities to be pushed through the process of applying for, and receiving, benefits at a much faster rate. For many, applying for Social Security benefits can take months, but the Compassionate Allowance program cuts this wait to days. You can see the list of conditions added, including a dozen cancers, at http://tinyurl.com/pgrmuso
“We welcome the expansion of the Compassionate Allowance program, and the relief it will provide to countless Americans who don’t have the luxury of waiting to get their benefits,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance.

Come to the Alliance’s Convention, April 28 – May 1, 2014, at Bally's Hotel Las Vegas
Join us in Las Vegas as we sharpen our organizing and communications skills for the 2014 elections and beyond! Liz Shuler, Alliance Executive Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO; J. David Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees; and Linda Chavez-Thompson, former Executive Vice-President of the AFL-CIO, are confirmed speakers. Alliance members will elect a president and secretary-treasurer, and community members will elect six community-based board members and the executive vice-president for community affairs. Alliance members whose dues are paid and are in good standing as of February 27, 2014 are eligible to be a voting delegate. Hotel reservations must be made by March 21, 2014. Questions? Contact Joni Jones at jjones@retiredamericans.org or 202-637-5377. Ready to register? Download a registration form at http://tinyurl.com/nqnz97a or register on-line at http://tinyurl.com/prl8box.

For a printable version of this document, go to http://tinyurl.com/lo7upfz.