Thursday, June 30, 2011

For Emerging Retirees from UNION PLUS

              UNION PLUS NEWS

New Low-Cost Income Annuity Helps Union Members
Protect Their Spending Power in Retirement

If your pension or Social Security benefit falls short of covering your monthly living expenses, the peaceful retirement you’d anticipated can become a worrisome financial juggling act. Now, thanks to your newest union benefit, you have the opportunity to convert some of your savings into guaranteed income that can continue for the rest of your life (1).  In exchange for higher payments, an income annuity permanently converts principal to a guaranteed income stream.

The new Union Plus Annuity Program allows you to convert a sum of money from your savings (the premium) into a lifelong series of steady, guaranteed income payments, depending upon option chosen. Union members pay no agent fees or commissions, maximizing the annuity income they will receive. In fact, you may benefit from higher monthly income than your savings would generate outside an annuity.

Fixed-income annuities are a reliable and affordable way to help ensure enough income to cover living expenses in retirement. You have the option to schedule payments for the rest of your life, your and a loved one’s life, or a specified number of years. Income will vary depending on which option you choose. Payments can begin immediately or within a short period of time.

The income guarantees are made by issuers belonging to American General Life Companies (“American General”), one of the nation’s oldest and largest providers of income annuities, which distributes more than 100,000 monthly income payments each quarter and has been in business for more than 150 years.

Four reasons to consider the Union Plus Annuity Program:
1. Consistency. The payment is guaranteed, and you can count on being paid every month.
2. Stability. Your income won’t depend on the stock market and its ups and downs.
3. Simplicity. You don't have to study financial reports, monitor a portfolio, or buy and sell investments. Look for your monthly deposit into your checking/savings account each month.
4. Control. An American General income annuity purchased through the Union Plus Annuity Program isn’t exposed to market risk, since it is a fixed annuity product purchased by you.(2) It’s like having a retirement paycheck.

To find out how much income an annuity purchased through the Union Plus Annuity Program might provide, visit or call an experienced, non-commissioned annuity specialist at 1-877-244-1539.

1 Guarantees are subject to the claims-paying ability of the life insurance company.

2 American General Life Companies,, (“American General”) is the marketing name for a group of affiliated domestic life insurers.

American General Life Companies insurers offer a full line of life insurance, annuities, accident & health products and worksite benefits to serve the financial and estate planning needs of its customers throughout the United States. 

This contract is not insured by the FDIC, the Federal Reserve Board or any similar agency. The contract is not a deposit or other obligation of, nor is it guaranteed or endorsed by, any bank or depository institution. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Deer buck in June

This white tail buck showed up yesterday. He was with his brother who also had a nice rack. I wish I could have photographed both of them in the same shot but they wouldn't get close enough to each other.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Free Guide to Medicare Changes

The Affordable Care Act is changing the health-insurance marketplace in big ways. The first changes took effect Sept. 23, 2010. Many more will roll out over the next several years. Medicare and Medicaid are affected, too. But what does the new law mean for you and your family? Download our guides for answers from the Consumers Guide website.

Medicare: 6 thing you need to know now is a great publication.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

AARP is not the ARA

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that AARP is willing to consider benefit cuts to Social Security.

The Alliance for Retired Americans and our Strengthen Social Security allies are totally opposed to this position.

Ed Coyle, the Executive Director of the Alliance responded, “The story in the Wall Street Journal – which states that AARP supports cutting Social Security benefits - makes it apparent to me that AARP is not representing their members on this issue. AARP does not speak for all seniors.  There is no ambiguity on where the Alliance for Retired Americans stands on Social Security - never has been, never will be. We are against Social Security benefit cuts. The current economic recession is all the proof we need to know that Social Security frequently is the only safety net that keeps millions of seniors in their homes with food on their tables.”

This change in position by AARP could give political cover to those members of Congress who are wavering on this issue and may choose to support draconian cuts.

***Please call and email your Member of Congress and your Senators to tell them NO CUTS!!! ***

Send an email letter to your Representatives easily by going to the ARA web site.

Dial the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

My name is _________ and I am a constituent.  I am appalled that AARP is open to cutting Social Security benefits.  AARP does not speak for me. I urge you to stand strong against any cuts or changes to Social Security – period. There are many alternatives to strengthen Social Security besides cutting benefits. Raising the payroll cap, for instance.  Hands-Off Social Security!

Thank you for your participation!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Retiree Leader Reacts to AARP Position on Social Security Cuts

 Stresses Alliance Remains Opposed to Cuts, and Always Will Be

“My name is Ed Coyle, and I am the Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, a 4 million-member advocacy organization for older Americans.

“The story in the Wall Street Journal today – which states that AARP supports cutting Social Security benefits - makes it apparent to me that AARP is not representing their members on this issue.

“I will leave it to AARP’s members to decide how they feel about this.

“AARP does not speak for all seniors.  And on this topic probably not for many of their own members.

“There is no ambiguity on where the Alliance for Retired Americans stands on Social Security - never has been, never will be.

“We are against Social Security benefit cuts for seniors.

“The current economic recession is all the proof we need that Social Security frequently is the only safety net that keeps millions of seniors in their homes with food on their tables.

“We have heard the argument that when the Baby Boomers retire, they will break the bank.  Of course their retirement will put a demand on the Trust Fund, but there are many alternatives to strengthen Social Security besides cutting benefits. Raising the payroll cap, for instance.

“The voices of doom are wrong.  The Social Security Trust Fund has a $2.6 trillion surplus, and it is projected to grow to $4.3 trillion by 2023. We do not need to cut benefits.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans will always stand up for seniors and the middle class. We are for strengthening Social Security for today’s seniors and for generations to come.

“Our members hope that AARP will directly answer some basic questions.

-    Do you support any cuts in benefits?
-    Do you support raising the retirement age?
-    Do you support means testing?

“These are questions that any seniors organization ought to be prepared to answer directly.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans has fought side-by-side with AARP on many issues in the past.

“But if the story in today’s Wall Street Journal is accurate, we will be parting company on this issue because we just can’t let seniors down.”
Source: Alliance for Retired Americans

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Here We Go Again- GOP Offers Social Security Privatization Legislation

Republican members in the House have introduced legislation which would take your Social Security contributions and give them to Wall Street. For those in Congress who routinely target safety net programs, like Social Security and Medicare, this Social Security plan is the perfect companion legislation for the GOP/Ryan Budget.  Ryan’s CouponCare plan would put insurance companies in charge of seniors’ healthcare while the so-called “SAFE” act would put Wall Street in charge of your retirement savings.

Do you feel safe?

“This Social Security proposal is political opportunism at its worst.  Supporters use the current fiscal crisis–which Social Security has not contributed to in any way– as an opportunity to defund a program many of these members do not support in the first place. The privatization of Social Security does not have support among any age-group or political affiliation once you step outside the Beltway but it remains goal #1 for those who want Wall Street in charge of billions of hard-earned American tax dollars. Max Richtman, NCPSSM Executive Vice President/Acting CEO

These privatization  proposals aren’t about fiscal responsibility because neither will save the federal government money.  The transition costs for converting Social Security into a privatized system would cost trillions of dollars while the GOP/Ryan plan for Medicare adds $13 in waste for every dollar saved. Meanwhile, millions of Americans lose their guaranteed benefits in exchange for a ride on the Wall Street roller coaster and coupons for their healthcare. Let’s not confuse what this debate is really all about because privatization is a political goal not fiscal responsibility.

For so many House Republicans who worked hard last fall (before Election Day of course) to convince American voters they haven’t and weren’t proposing Social Security privatization, this legislation certainly now destroys that claim.  It’s only been six months since the GOP regained control of the House and they’ve wasted no time pushing to privatize both Medicare and Social Security, at a time when millions of Americans are still suffering in an economic crisis these programs did not create.

Source: Entitled to Know - National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (NCPSSM)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Here's what you already knew

This shows you just how much some of our lawmakers think of our senior citizens. I encourage all of you to go to the Alliance for Retired Americans to see the full report.

The blue check marks indicate favorable votes. The red X's indicate that the guy voted against the best interest of seniors.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Do a Job Unsafely

One of the reasons I retired early is because I wanted to retire in one piece. Too many bosses at NIPSCO were more interested in getting the job done quickly without seeming to care much about doing the job safely.

No worker has to do a job in an unsafe manner. That's why I never refused to do a particular job. I have however, refused to do a job in the manner that the boss wanted me to do it.

I remember one time down at Royal Center Underground Gas Storage, the boss wanted me to reattach a guy wire on a chimney. The way he wanted me to do it would require me to get into a 55 gallon drum which had been reinforced with steel rods and then be lifted up by the use of a crane.

I had seen crane cables slip before, and told this boss that I would be happy to attach the guy wire by use of a bucket truck but I wasn't going to be lifted up with a crane.

So what did the boss do? He found another worker who was willing to break this safety rule to do the job. That happens a lot.

Sometimes taking the time to do the job safely is a pain in the butt, especially when it's noisey, dirty and hot, but what the heck, it's the right thing to do and the smart thing to do in the long run.

Always remember that you are replaceable and the boss knows it and companies know that to disregard safety doesn't cost them anything if the worker knew the safe way to do the job.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Support HR 639 Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act

I call upon all our SOAR members who live in their respective congressional districts to call their congressional representatives to support and co-sponsor HR 639 which is now pending in Congress. If your representative has already co-sponsored this bill, thank them for their support.

As you well know, the Chinese have been manipulating their currency (at times up to 40%) to make U.S.  imports more costly and chinese exports less costly in the international marketplace. HR 639 will corect this unjust trade issue and put America on a more level playing field with the government of China.

Passage of this bill also has the potential of creating 500,000 to one million jobs in America. The bill would also have a tremendous effect in reducing our present deficit. Please take the time to call and get your congress person on board to help save and create jobs in America.

Jim Bickhart USW District 4

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Hot Hot Hot

It's on days like today with temperatures nearing 100 degrees that I recall my days working in NIPSCO generating stations. All too often workers were overcome by the heat when working for some nitwit inexperienced supervisor.

Remember this.....when it comes to your own safety, you're the boss. Take a break when you need to and drink plenty of water. Don't let some stinking boss who is trying to impress his own boss keep you from maintaining your health.

Too many times workers are murdered by bosses like that. They don't give a rip about you. They only care about themselves.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Elvis Has Left The Building

For the past ten days we've had an unwelcomed visitor ....... a bat. Since he took up residence in our home, we named him Elvis.

We've been trying to catch the darned thing ever since. We had all the necessary equipment in place. Bad mitton rackets, fishing net, plastic curtains covering the doorway to keep him from goint into other parts of the house and a string fastened to the door knob so we could close it quickly when he entered the room.

Every evening at 9:30, Elvis made his appearance by flying up from the cellar and circling around the room but we kept missing him.

Tonight, when Elvis made his appearance, I pulled the string. The door slammed shut. Elaine messed up his flight pattern with the fish net. I put the net over Elvis. Elaine opened the back door. Elvis began crawling through the hole in the net. Somehow we managed to persuade him to exit.

We're both exhausted and are sure glad this ordeal is over.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Friday Alert

June 3, 2011 edition

2010 Alliance Voting Record, Compiling Key Congressional Votes, is Now Available
On Tuesday, the Alliance released its 2010 Congressional Voting Record, detailing the votes of every U.S. Senator and Representative on key issues affecting current and future retirees. The document is available at “At a time when Congress has been debating the future of Social Security and Medicare, it is more important than ever that people of all ages know the issues and how their elected officials voted,” said Alliance President Barbara J. Easterling. The voting record examines ten key Senate votes and ten key House votes from 2010, giving the roll calls on issues such as strengthening Medicare, help for Social Security recipients, and protecting older Americans from consumer and lending fraud. According to the Voting Record, 183 U.S. House Members achieved perfect scores of 100% in 2010, while 83 members of the House received scores of zero. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the architect of the GOP’s plan to privatize Medicare and cut Social Security, was one of the House members receiving a grade of zero. Twenty-two members of the U.S. Senate received perfect scores of 100%, while 16 Senators received scores of zero.

Alliance Teams with Social Security Works to Release State Social Security Polls
In a new poll released on Wednesday, 76% of likely voters in Florida’s 2012 election said that they oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the federal deficit. Those opposed include 90% of Democrats, 66% of Republicans, 71% of Independents, and 56 % of Tea Party supporters. The poll was paid for by Social Security Works, a national organization that convenes the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, which is comprised of more than 300 national and state organizations from many of the nation’s leading aging, labor, disability, women’s, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations. It was released as leaders in Washington debate how to reduce the federal deficit, and many members of Congress call for including deep cuts to Social Security. The poll found that Social Security could be a real wedge issue in the 2012 U.S. Senate race in Florida.  Nearly seven in ten (69%) of Florida voters say they would be less likely to vote for a Senate candidate who supports cutting benefits to reduce the deficit. Social Security could also influence swing voters: by a margin of 57% to 9% of independents and a margin of 65% to 5% of those who are undecided in the generic 2012 Florida Senate ballot, voters indicated they would be much less likely to vote for a candidate who supports cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit.

Ms. Easterling participated in a similar event releasing a poll in Virginia on Tuesday.  That poll showed that 75% of likely voters in Virginia’s 2012 election oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the federal deficit. A poll being released today reveals that 78% of likely voters in Missouri’s 2012 election oppose cutting Social Security benefits in order to reduce the federal deficit. For more on these and other polls, go to

Playing Politics with the Debt Ceiling
On Tuesday, Congress voted down a “clean” debt ceiling increase, in favor of tying the measure to politically motivated goals such as cutting Social Security and Medicare.  The defeated bill had no strings attached, and merely raised the debt ceiling from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion. Republicans wish to only raise the debt ceiling if they can attach provisions from the unpopular Ryan Budget.  However, by voting down this bill, Republicans have rendered the prospect of government default a very real possibility. If the debt ceiling is not raised by August 2nd, the U.S. will not be able to meet its financial obligations, a situation that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has described as “Catastrophic”.  “As this debate heats up, we will have to focus more than ever on protecting Social Security and Medicare from cuts,” said Ruben Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer.

Voter ID Laws Target Those More Likely to Vote Democratic
Since the 2010 midterm elections, Republican state legislators and governors have been working tirelessly to enact tougher voter identification laws. While many politicians veil the push for the laws as a way to cut down on fraud, evidence of such widespread voter fraud has yet to materialize. In reality, the push for voter ID requirements disenfranchises young people, seniors, and minorities, all of whom lack state issued photo ID’s at a greater rate than the rest of the general population. Minorities and young people are overwhelmingly Democratic voters, while seniors are overwhelmingly swing voters.   In Wisconsin, for example, 23% of seniors; 59% of Latina women; and 78% of African-American men 18 to 24-years-old lack a state-issued photo ID. Currently, 12 states require a photo ID to vote. Some states are also shortening early voting periods and restricting the ability of third parties - such as the League of Women Voters - to hold voter registration drives.

New Alliance State Presidents for North Carolina, New York
Jim Moore was elected State President at the North Carolina Alliance's convention in Raleigh on Wednesday. North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall and Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina AFL-CIO MaryBe McMillan delivered remarks.  Attendees thanked John Newman for his seven years as president, and Richard Fiesta, Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs for the Alliance, spoke about current Social Security and Medicare developments. In New York, Dennis Tracey takes over as state president, following Jim Wood’s four years of dedicated service.

Nevada Alliance Commemorates Memorial Day
On Sunday, the Nevada Alliance (NARA) sponsored a Memorial Day BBQ to honor veterans and to defend the Social Security benefits upon which so many depend when they return to civilian life. Teachers, local labor leaders and other supporters joined in the celebration, featuring Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), purple heart recipient and veteran Rodney Smith and AFT member and veteran Dick Collins. Scott Watts, President of NARA, presided over the tribute.  Richard Fiesta also lent support. To see photos, go to

Presidents of NAACP, NEA to Speak at Alliance Convention in September
Help us mark our 10-year Anniversary at our upcoming Legislative Conference, Celebrating Our Past, Fighting for Your Future, on September 6 - 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C.! Information and registration forms were mailed last month. You may also register online at Benjamin Jealous, President of the NAACP, and Dennis Van Roekel, President of the National Education Association, are scheduled to speak. Any questions, please contact Event Coordinator Joni Jones at 202-637-5377 or

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Friday, June 03, 2011

Our Growing Inequality

Since the 1970s, the CEO class and their political allies have used policy to reshape our economy to their benefit.  They’ve gotten excessive tax breaks for corporations and the very richest, trade policies that rob our communities of good jobs, deregulation that left average Americans unprotected from financial fallout and laws that encourage union-busting.  Last year they even got a court case – Citizens United – that allows unlimited corporate dollars to influence our elections.

These policies matter a great deal.  They are creating a massive wealth and income gap in our country.  Take a look at the numbers:

  • The richest one percent of Americans owns over 35 percent – more than one-third – of our nation's wealth.
  • The four hundred wealthiest Americans now have more cash, stock and property than the combined total of half of America’s households.
  • Median CEO pay jumped 27 percent in 2010. Workers’ pay grew just 2.1 percent in 2010.
  • The average hourly wage in 1972, adjusted for inflation was $20.06.  By 2008, the average hourly wage dropped to $18.52.  In other words, income for the middle class has stagnated over the last 30 years.
  • In the early 1960s, the top fifth of wealth holders had 81 percent of all wealth, and the bottom four-fifths held 19 percent. But it has only gotten worse since then – as of 2009, the top fifth wealthiest Americans hold over 87 percent of the nation’s wealth. The bottom four-fifths hold just under 13 percent.
Let’s Fight Back – The next time someone tells you that our country is “broke” remind that person that there is plenty of wealth – it’s just not in the hands of the middle class.  This isn’t good for us.  It isn’t good for our democracy.  And, it will get worse if we lose the state-level fights over collective bargaining rights – our tool to fight for fair wages and benefits.  Please stay involved in state and national fights and watch for ways to get involved through Rapid Response.