Sunday, May 28, 2006

"The Labor Movement and United Action for Health Care for All"

Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) delivered this speech on May 18th in New York City at an event sponsored by the Central Labor Council and other progressive organizations.

Gerard's speech, is an important statement by the leader of America's largest industrial union.

A shortened version of the full speech was broadcast on the weekly radio show of AFSCME District Council 37 produced by Ken Nash on WNYE.

HR 676 has been endorsed by 141 union organizations including 24 central labor councils, two state AFL-CIO's (KY and PA), and two area labor federations.

Click here to hear the speech.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Baucus Co-Sponsors Employee Free Choice Act

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) became the 43rd senator to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, eight short of a majority. There are 216 co-sponsors in the House, just two short of a majority. The most recent supporter in the House is Delegate Eni Faleomavaega (D) of American Samoa, who does not have a vote in floor actions.

The legislation (S. 842 and H.R. 1696) would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of workers signs cards authorizing representation. It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and set stronger penalties for violations of labor law when workers are trying to form a union.

Indiana Congressman Chris Chocola has thus far failed to co-sponsor this legislation which is so important to workers.

You can see the full list of co-sponsors by clicking here:

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nancy Dembowki for Indiana's Dist. 17 Representative


Nancy Dembowski has deep roots in Indiana’s 17th House District. Her parents lived in Knox their entire lives and her grandfather was a County Assessor and the longest-serving Fire Chief in Knox history.

Nancy was born and raised in Knox and has lived her entire life there. She graduated from Knox Community High School and married her husband Ed and they made the decision to stay in Knox and raise their family there. They have three children who live in Knox and eight grandchildren. Ed passed away in 1995. They have been married for 43 years.

While Ed worked as a union steelworker for 34 years, Nancy worked at W.K.V.I. Radio in Knox for 25 years. In 1984, Nancy was elected to the Starke County Council and received the highest number of votes among all county candidates. She was re-elected to serve on the County Council in 1988, again leading the county ticket. The County had a balanced budget all seven years Nancy served on the County Council. In 1990, Nancy received the Starke County Citizen of the Year Award. She served on the Council until 1991 when Nancy was elected Mayor of Knox. Nancy was re-elected to two additional terms and served a total of eleven years in the office of Mayor. She is one of the longest serving mayors in Knox history. As Mayor, Nancy led the effort to build the Knox Community Center and led the renovation of the Historic Gateway Depot. In addition, during her service as Mayor, the City of Knox received two prestigious Achievement Awards from the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. Only four Indiana Cities receive these awards each year.

Nancy was elected to the Indiana Senate in December of 2002 by Democratic precinct committee people to fill the unexpired term of former Senator Bill Alexa. Nancy Dembowski is a member of St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Knox. She is also a member of the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, having served on that board since it first began and currently serves as its Vice President. She has served as Chairman of Starke United and President of the Starke County Junior Achievement board and the Chamber of Commerce. She is a past member of the Kiwanis Club and also served as a member of the Knox High School Improvement Plan Committee, the Harvest Festival Committee, and the Starke County Workforce One Advisory Board.

She recently became a member of the Starke County Community Foundation and is a former member of the Starke County Coalition Against Domestic Abuse where she helped institute a plan to build the Phoenix House, a safe haven for families escaping abuse. Nancy also founded the Candy Cane Committee, a group of volunteers who built and designed Christmas decorations for the City of Knox.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Post Turtle Bush

While the right wing approves a $70 billion tax cut package for their rich pals, they at the same time are preparing to tax seniors for the rest of their lives, if they fail to enroll in the confusing Medicare Rx Program.

While the top 1 percent of taxpayers will pocket an extra $82,000 a year, the middle 20 percent will only see an extra $20.

Down with education, health and child care and other vital programs for working families. A typical Republican agenda. Anything to cause misery and suffering to “the least of these”.

Out here in the country, Bush and his buddies are referred to as “post turtles”. Those are turtles you might see on the top of a fence post. They don’t know how they got up there, they don’t know what they’re doing there, and they don’t know how to get down.

It’s up to all of us to help them get down.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chocola No Friend of Retirees

Alliance for Retired Americans Congressional Voting Record
109th Congress, 1st Session
January 2005—December 2005

This past year we saw Congress once again enact legislation that worsened the nation’s budget and fiscal crisis at the expense of retirees and older Americans. In the face of the largest deficits in the nation’s history, Congress deepened the crisis and favored only the wealthiest Americans with tax cuts. In addition, even before the Medicare Part D prescription drug program went into effect, its many flaws quickly became evident. Yet Congress did nothing.

Budget and fiscal policies dominated debate in Congress during 2005. It took Congress thirteen months to enact a budget. The result was decidedly anti-retiree. Changes in the Medicaid program now mean that states can force higher premiums, deductibles, and co-payments upon seniors in the program. Hospitals and pharmacists can refuse service if a patient cannot pay. This is a sad state of affairs for the most vulnerable in our society.

The Medicare Part D prescription drug program, coming on the heels of the disastrous discount card program, caused great confusion among seniors and their families, even before it took effect. Congress had several opportunities to make senior-friendly changes such as allow the Medicare program to negotiate for lower drug prices, extend the enrollment period without penalty, and lower rebates to drug manufacturers. But it did not act. Now seniors are faced with a bewildering program that favors drug and insurance companies at the expense of older Americans.

Social Security privatization was the one major issue for retirees and their families on which Congress did not vote. Halting privatization before a vote was due largely to the grassroots efforts of Alliance members throughout the country. We let Congress and the White House know that Social Security privatization was unacceptable. President Bush made Social Security privatization the hallmark of his second term, highlighting it during his January 2005 State of the Union Address. He crisscrossed the nation promoting it. Dozens of key members of Congress lined up to support it. In the end, the good sense of the American people of all ages prevailed. Social Security, which lifts nearly half of older Americans out of poverty, is the most successful program in our nation’s history. At a time when the baby boomer generation nears retirement, the creation of private accounts under Social Security would not only threaten the economic security of millions of retired and disabled Americans and their families, it would also add trillions of dollars in additional national debt. Stopping Social Security privatization was one great victory in an otherwise disappointing year.

This Voting Record reflects how committed our elected representatives are to retirees and older Americans. Use it to educate yourself on where your elected representatives stand. Get active today and help create an America that protects the health and economic security of seniors, strengthens families and builds safe and thriving communities.

George J. Kourpias, President - Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer - Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director

The following is a list of ten key votes selected as representative of the votes
of critical importance to retirees taken by the U.S. House of Representatives:

How to read this record:

Democrat (D) Republican (R) Independent (I)
Check mark= Voted With Alliance Policy
X=Voted Against Alliance Policy
S= Speaker Did Not Vote
P= Present
?= Did Not Vote
O= Not Eligible Member
+= Announced For
_= Announced Against
AL= At-Large
The number before each name indicated Congressional District.
100%= Best Score Possible

1. Anti-Retiree Budget I
The House passed the annual budget resolution for fiscal
year 2006. The resolution sets spending and revenue guidelines.
The budget cuts domestic spending programs by $68.6
billion over five years and includes $106 billion in tax
cuts that help only the wealthiest Americans. This fiscal policy
threatens the financial stability of the Social Security
and Medicare Trust Funds. The resolution passed 218-214.
A NO vote is the pro-retiree vote. H. Con. Res. 95, Roll Call
No. 88, March 17, 2005.

2. Skewed Estate Taxes
This bill, introduced by Representative Hulshof, R-MO, would
permanently extend the repeal of the federal estate and gift
tax, which is set to expire beginning in 2010. The repeal benefits
only the wealthiest Americans, threatens the Social Security
and Medicare trust funds, and impedes funding of a
comprehensive Medicare prescription drug benefit program.
The bill passed the House 272-162. A NO vote is the proretiree
vote. H.R. 8, Roll Call No. 102, April 13, 2005.

3. Pension Protections
Rep. Miller, D-CA, introduced an amendment to the Labor
Department’s funding bill that would prohibit the Pension
Benefit Guaranty Corporation from using funds to take over
four United Airlines employee pension plans. The pensions
of more than 120,000 workers and retirees were at risk of
major reductions. The amendment passed 219-185. A YES
vote is the pro-retiree vote. H.R. 3010, Roll Call No. 309,
June 24, 2005.

4. Victims’ Court Rights
This bill, introduced by Rep. Gingrey, R-GA, would place
national caps on awards in medical malpractice cases.
The bill caps non-economic awards at $250,000. The bill
is especially unfair to older Americans, because retirees
often have only non-economic injuries since they are no
longer working. The bill passed 230-194. A NO vote is the
pro-retiree vote. H.R. 5, Roll Call No. 449, July 28, 2005.

5. Cutting Seniors Programs
The House rejected the conference report for funding the
Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.
Included in the bill were substantial cuts to health care
spending, Medicare, Medicaid, medical research, and vital
programs such as the Older Americans Act. The House rejected
the conference report 209-224. A NO vote is the pro-retiree
vote. H.R. 3010, Roll Call No. 598, November 17, 2005.

6. Anti-Retiree Budget II
The House passed the budget reconciliation bill that made
deep cuts to programs that especially affect seniors. The bill
cuts the Medicaid program at a time when older Americans
are the fastest growing age group in the United States. Older
Americans, because of long-term care needs, use the Medicaid
program more than any other age group. The House
passed the bill 217-215. A NO vote is the pro-retiree vote.
H.R. 4241, Roll Call No. 601, November 18, 2005.

7. Skewed Tax Cuts
The House passed a tax reconciliation bill that provides
$56.1 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The
legislation extends tax cuts and threatens the financial stability
of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds. These
tax cuts occur at a time when the nation faces the largest
budget deficits in its history. The House passed the bill 234-
197. A NO vote is the pro-retiree vote. H.R. 4297, Roll Call
No. 621, December 8, 2005.

8. Corrupt Part D Passage
Rep. Pelosi, D-CA, introduced a privileged resolution that
denounced a “culture of corruption” in the House that led
to the 2003 passage of the Medicare Part D prescription
drug program. The House Leadership held the vote open for
more than three hours, which has led to investigations of
bribery. The House voted 219-188 to table (set aside) the
privileged resolution. A NO vote is the pro-retiree vote.
H. Res. 591, Roll Call No. 622, December 8, 2005.

9. Pension Reform
Rep. Miller, D-CA, introduced a motion to send a pension
bill back to the appropriate committees in order to strengthen
the bill. The new provisions would include language to make
it more difficult for companies to declare bankruptcy and
eliminate pension plans as well as specific relief for airline
industry and multi-employer pension plans. The motion
failed 200-227. A YES vote is the pro-retiree vote. H.R. 2830,
Roll Call No. 634, December 15, 2005.

10. Anti-Retiree Budget III
The House passed budget reconciliation spending cuts totaling
$39.7 billion, much of it on programs for the elderly,
poor, and disabled. States can force seniors on Medicaid to
pay higher premiums, deductible, and co-payments, regardless
of whether they are affordable. The House passed the
conference report 212-206. A NO vote is the pro-retiree
vote. S. 1932, Roll Call No. 670, December 19, 2005.