Parts of Wisconsin's Controversial Anti-Collective Bargaining Law are Struck DownTwo parts of the controversial Wisconsin law that severely curbs collecting bargaining rights were overturned last Friday by a federal judge, giving a partial victory to union members, retirees, and activists who have struggled to retain their rights. The two parts struck down would have banned public workers from allowing union dues to be taken out of their paychecks and required annual recertification votes agreed upon by all members in order to stay organized.
“Retirees and workers have really stuck together to go up against Governor Scott Walker,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Retirees know how important collective bargaining is – the better you work, the better you retire.”
Wisconsin elections officials said last week that nearly 901,000 signatures were collected on petitions to recall Gov. Walker (R) from office, more than enough for an election to be ordered. A primary for that election is set for May 8, followed by a general election June 5. At least three Democrats are running for governor, making a primary likely. Recall drives against Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four GOP state senators were launched in response to the anti-collective bargaining law the Governor and the Republican-led Legislature enacted last year.
State Chapter Update: Michigan, New Hampshire
Last Friday, approximately 130 retiree delegates convened to found the Michigan Alliance for Retired Americans (MiARA). The newly-chartered Michigan Alliance has its work cut out for it in 2012, as it engages in important state and federal legislative initiatives affecting the retirement security of older Michiganders.
The founding convention attendees heard from U.S. Rep. John Conyers; State Sen. Vincent Gregory; Brenda Moon, MI AFL-CIO Regional Field Rep.; and several representatives from the Alliance for Retired Americans including Barbara J. Easterling, Alliance President; Ruben Burks, Alliance Secretary-Treasurer; Dani Pere, Alliance Field Mobilization Director, and Rich Fiesta, Alliance Director of the Department of Government and Political Affairs.
The following officers were elected: President – Dick Long; Executive Vice President – Henry Lykes; First Vice President – Judy Foster; Treasurer – Charlie Robinson; and Secretary – Richard McInerney.
Mr. Long said, “Retirees in Michigan must take heed. Our Governor’s exacted attacks on pensions and workers’ rights threaten to unravel what we worked our whole lives to create.”
Ms. Easterling said, “Michigan is the Alliance’s 32nd chartered state. Seniors in Michigan will help shape the future of Social Security and Medicare. This year and beyond, we will do everything we can to help seniors separate fact from fiction.”
Also, in Nashua, New Hampshire on Monday, Mr. Fiesta spoke to Alliance members on the topic, “What’ll Congress do with Medicare?”
Single Retirees Often Face Extra Challenges
The Wall Street Journal blogged recently about the financial difficulties that many single retirees face late in life at http://on.wsj.com/wCUW0s. Rising numbers of older adults are finding themselves single – almost half (43%) of Americans who are 65 or older, according to a 2011 U.S. Census Bureau report. In that age group, 27% are widowed, 12% are divorced or separated, and 4% never married.
Midlife divorce is on the rise: Think tank BMO Retirement Institute estimates that 44% of U.S. marriages will end before the couple’s 30th anniversary. Retirees who find themselves suddenly single face one significant disadvantage: Their income typically drops without their partner’s Social Security or pension, but many expenses stay fixed. Examples: rent or mortgage, property taxes, home maintenance and repairs, car and gas, and utilities. And they may incur new costs replacing chores done by their partner, such as lawn-mowing, tax preparation or cooking.
So what’s a single retiree to do? Be vigilant about making sure you’re balancing income and expenses, BMO says. When your expenses are outpacing your income, they recommend trying to make changes rather than draw down on reserves. They suggest downsizing your housing, sharing a home with friends, or lightening your insurance coverage.
Something on Your Mind? Write Letter, Win Pen!
Is there something you want retirees in your community to know about? Take a moment to write a letter to the editor, and if it is published, the Alliance will send you a free, union-made “Retirees with the Write Stuff” pen. “Letters to the editor are free and are often widely read,” said Mr. Burks. “With the deep-pocketed business interests we are up against, it’s nice to have an option that doesn’t cost money.” Most recently, Charlie Averill, Janice Ayres, Bruce Bostick, Sam Burnett, Leon Burzynski, Doug Curler, Robert Dougherty, Robert Erzen, Jean Friday, Dave Friesner, Gary Hall, Jo Jacobson, Earline Jones, Don Rowen, Gene Roza, William Stevens, Linda Stone, and Charlie Williams contributed to their local papers. If you have had a letter published lately, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
American Story Bank
Do you have an interesting personal story to tell? Something involving your prescription drugs, your finances, or perhaps your relationship with your grandchildren? Let us know. The Alliance is collecting stories for when reporters contact us. We will check our database and do our best to connect seniors with reporters who are looking for a particular type of senior to round out a story – or to profile. Please send story bank e-mails, also, to email@example.com.