Monday, July 29, 2013

USW, BF Goodrich Reach Tentative Settlement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                       CONTACT: Larry Jackson,
Monday, July 29, 2013                                                                         (256) 546-6960, ljackson@usw.org


 
USW, BF Goodrich Reach Tentative Contract Settlement

PITTSBURGH (July 29) – The United Steelworkers (USW) have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with BF Goodrich covering 2,400 workers at facilities in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Fort Wayne, Ind.
The union and the tire company had been working since June on a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous contract expired on Saturday. The new agreement is scheduled to expire on July 30, 2016.
“Our goal throughout the bargaining process has been to reach an agreement that ensures a solid future both for our members and their families,” said USW Secretary-Treasurer Stan Johnson, who led the negotiations for the union, along BF Goodrich coordinator Larry Jackson. “This agreement represents a step forward for USW members at BF Goodrich.”
Specific details of the contract will be withheld until members are able to review and vote on it. Ratification votes are scheduled to take place by Aug. 9.
The USW also has reached tentative agreements covering 8,500 workers at Goodyear and 4,500 at Bridgestone-Firestone.

The USW represents 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean. It is the largest private-sector union in North America, representing workers in a range of industries including metals, mining, rubber, paper and forestry, oil refining, health care, security, hotels, and municipal governments and agencies.

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Alert, 7-26-13

Headlines:
Retirees are under Attack in Detroit and Cincinnati
See all the Highlights from the July 2 Human Chain Day of Action
Alliance Prepares to Celebrate Medicare’s 48th Birthday Next Week
Affordable Care Act Will Cut Cost of Self-Insuring in New York By Half
Delaware Caps Co-Pays for Specialty Prescription Drugs – is Whole U.S. next?
Iowa Alliance Holds its Convention

Retirees are under Attack in Detroit and Cincinnati
Retirees are facing frightening new threats this week in two major U.S. cities - Detroit and Cincinnati. The first involves the city of Detroit’s bankruptcy filing, the largest filing by a local government in U.S. history. Because Michigan's constitution says that public pensions “shall not be diminished or impaired,” Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina had ruled last week that the bankruptcy filing violates the state constitution by jeopardizing the pensions of Detroit retirees. She had directed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to withdraw the bankruptcy application and issued temporary restraining orders preventing Orr, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Treasurer Andy Dillon from proceeding with the bankruptcy process. However, a federal judge on Wednesday swept aside lawsuits challenging the filing.

Detroit has about 21,000 retirees - police, firefighters, City Hall clerks, trash haulers, bus drivers - who are owed money and fear their income is at risk in a bankruptcy, since public workers are not protected by federal pension insurance. The average public service pension is $19,000 per year. AFSCME members and other public sector workers were not consulted for input before the filing. “Detroit’s public service employees and retirees worked hard and played by the rules, but now Governor Snyder and Mr. Orr are moving to take away their right to retire with dignity,”  said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. For more, go to http://tinyurl.com/p2xvd63.

In Cincinnati, a corporate-backed attack is being lodged. The biggest change would be to workers employed by the city beginning in 2014.  Instead of getting a defined benefit at retirement, with a known payment each month, employees would have a 401k plan. “It would make it so the city’s retirees would have claim only to the retirement funds they have had taken out of their paychecks and nothing more – no employer match,” said Bentley Davis, Senior Field Organizer for the Ohio Alliance. The charter amendment also reduces the cost of living increases for current retirees. A television news clip from Cincinnati includes Ms. Davis noting that future retirees especially would take a big hit. “The pension in Cincinnati is in lieu of Social Security. They don't pay in but as a result they don't get Social Security,” she said. To view the clip, go to http://tinyurl.com/n3ml533.

See all the Highlights from the July 2 Human Chain Day of Action
The Alliance’s activities with partners on July 2 to stop the chained CPI Social Security benefit cut included 2,800 participants, generated scores of press hits, and raised awareness of the issue in towns and cities across the country. Go to http://bit.ly/13LaJRk to see the final report!

Alliance Prepares to Celebrate Medicare’s 48th Birthday Next Week
Next week, Medicare celebrates 48 years of providing care and security for millions. The Alliance will be using the occasion to spark a national movement, aggressively defending and strengthening Medicare and the protections it provides. Unfortunately, some politicians in Washington continue to talk about saving money by further means-testing Medicare and shifting more costs to beneficiaries. These “reforms” would seriously hurt current and future retirees and undermine the program. The Medicare Drug Savings Act, S. 740 in the Senate and H.R. 1588 in the House of Representatives, introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), would save the Medicare program $140 billion by eliminating the loophole that blocks Medicare from negotiating with big pharma for cheaper drugs. Click on http://tinyurl.com/q3jnwer to support it if you have not done so already. Visit http://tinyurl.com/mjn2von for stories from members about what it's like for retirees and why shifting more costs onto beneficiaries would be a disaster.

Affordable Care Act Will Cut Cost of Self-Insuring in New York By Half
New York State insurance regulators have announced that insurance rates in 2014 will be at least 50% lower than the current rates, thanks to the online purchasing exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This change affects people who do not receive insurance through their employers. Currently, 2.6 million New Yorkers are uninsured and only 17,000 buy insurance on their own.  The ACA’s exchanges are spurring competition between insurance companies and driving them to lower their rates. The decrease in costs, combined with the ACA’s subsidies for low income individuals and the fact that it is now illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, will enable many currently uninsured Americans to purchase insurance. A New York Times article about it is at http://tinyurl.com/kocbx2b. “This is great news for the millions of New Yorkers who are uninsured, including many retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Delaware Caps Co-Pays for Specialty Prescription Drugs – is Whole U.S. next?
Gov. Jack Markell (D-DE) recently signed legislation that caps patients’ co-pays for specialty prescription drugs at $150 a month. Delaware’s new law applies to drugs that cost $600 or more a month and are used to treat medical conditions that include multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, and rheumatoid arthritis. “Big pharma and greedy insurance companies should not be allowed to exploit vulnerable patients facing chronic and debilitating illnesses,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. Read the Washington Post’s write-up at http://tinyurl.com/oahdvyg.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday to allow Medicare Part D beneficiaries nationally to request lower co-pays for high-cost specialty drugs used to treat chronic illnesses. The proposal, the “Part D Beneficiary Appeals Fairness Act,” is spearheaded by Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate and U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Walter Jones (R-NC), David McKinley (R-WV) and Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) in the House.  The Senate bill is S. 1365; the House measure is H.R. 2827. Currently, Medicare Part D beneficiaries are prohibited from seeking exemptions from their plans that could lower their cost-share for specialty drugs - a basic right beneficiaries have throughout the rest of the program.  A U.S. Congress news release noted that more than 30 national groups support the bill, including the Alliance.

Iowa Alliance Holds its Convention
Seventy-five members attended the Iowa Alliance’s convention in Altoona, Iowa on Wednesday.

State Senate President Pam Jochum gave a lively presentation about the Medicaid expansion that was finally passed and signed by the governor, and the Raging Grannies provided lively lunch-time entertainment with creative and timely "senior" songs. Jan Laue was re-elected President, and Rich Fiesta, Director of Government and Political Affairs for the national Alliance, was a speaker.
For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/13i8iBF.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans, Friday Alert for 7-19-13

Headlines
Why Summertime Heat is Especially Dangerous for Seniors
Alliance Members Tell Their Stories of High Drug, Health Care Costs
Democratic Senate Majority Hinges on a Few 2014 Races as First Forecasts Come in
Social Security Begins to Accept Same-Sex Marriage Claims
Contest Backfires on Social Security Privatizer
Alliance Thanks Outgoing Senior Legislative Representative Sarah Byrne


Why Summertime Heat is Especially Dangerous for Seniors
Extreme summer heat causes thousands of heat-related illnesses in the U.S. each year, and kills more people than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined. With the dramatic heat wave currently gripping so much of the U.S., seniors have been especially vulnerable recently. According to The Huffington Post, this is largely because the body's ability to regulate temperature through blood circulation and sweat glands tends to decline with age. Bodies of older adults also contain far less water than a younger person’s, and older brains don't recognize thirst as easily, making them more likely to get dehydrated. In addition, many seniors have health problems that can increase their risk of hyperthermia (the body overheating). These include diseases like congestive heart failure, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; trouble walking; and being overweight. To learn more, go to http://tinyurl.com/lqszoj8.

Alliance Members Tell Their Stories of High Drug, Health Care Costs
“Even though Medicare gives me access to health care and prescription drugs, it can still be a struggle to pay the copays and out-of-pocket costs,” said Leah Witherspoon, a member of the Texas Alliance. “Instead of cuts to Medicare, like more means-testing or new home health co-pays, it seems to me we could and should save money for the Medicare program and taxpayers with policies like negotiating better prices on prescription drugs,” the activist declared. The Alliance has begun collecting stories from our members of high prescription drug costs and other health care costs under Medicare. The stories will reinforce the fact that cuts to Medicare are the last thing this country needs. Tell us your story about these high costs by clicking on: http://bit.ly/13FwE84.

Democratic Senate Majority Hinges on a Few 2014 Races as First Forecasts Come in
Recent analysis from New York Times statistician and political prognosticator Nate Silver illustrates that control of the U.S. Senate after the 2014 midterm elections hangs in the balance. Currently, Democrats hold 54 Senate seats and Republicans hold 46. According to Silver, Republicans have about a 50% chance of gaining a Senate majority in 2014, in part due to the retirement of several long serving Democratic Senators. In North Carolina, where Sen. Kay Hagan (D) will face off against the winner of the Republican primary, Silver predicts a particularly close race. Other nail biters include Louisiana and Arkansas. Seniors are likely to play a major role in the outcome of these races, because of their high turn out during midterm elections. To read Silver’s state-by-state analysis of the 2014 races, go to http://tinyurl.com/pnkrefk.

“Far right conservatives have controlled the House of Representatives for nearly three years,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “In that time, they have consistently obstructed government, refused to compromise, and voted for anti-senior policies like the destructive Paul Ryan budget. Seniors will fight to ensure that the Senate does not fall under the control of the same irresponsible team of ideologues.”

Social Security Begins to Accept Same-Sex Marriage Claims
The Social Security Administration announced last Friday that it would begin accepting benefit claims related to same-sex marriage (http://tinyurl.com/mlq3mvj). The change comes after the Supreme Court ruled in June that the heart of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional, deciding that the federal government couldn't treat same-sex marriages approved by some states any differently than heterosexual marriages. Prior to the ruling, an individual in a same-sex marriage was unable to claim survivor benefits from Social Security when a spouse died.

In a bit of a twist, The Hill notes, the Supreme Court’s recent DOMA ruling could also end up reducing the federal budget deficit despite the likely increase in Social Security spending, since most high-income married couples face a tax penalty when filing tax returns jointly. “The fact that the DOMA decision could help the deficit is just the icing on the cake,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “This was about civil rights and fairness, and I am glad to watch as the Social Security Administration reflects this change.”

Contest Backfires on Social Security Privatizer
Pete Peterson, a conservative billionaire, is a major financier in the effort to dismantle, cut and privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. According to the AFL-CIO blog, he and his foundation recently held a contest asking people to submit videos describing why it is important to “fix” the national debt, of which he and his foundation falsely claim, Social Security is a major contributor. However, “sometimes the best-laid plans for a propaganda campaign can go awry. The winner of the $500 grand prize determined by popular vote on a website sponsored by Peterson came from the completely opposite side of his ‘cut Social Security’ argument.”

The “Just Scrap the Cap” winning video features “rapping seniors rhyming their way to the conclusion that the way to shore up Social Security isn’t through cuts or privatization but by scrapping the payroll tax cap on Social Security.” That means billionaires and rich CEOs would pay the same Social Security tax that low- to upper-middle-income workers do. Currently, any income above the $113,700 cap is exempt from the Social Security tax. Peterson’s check went to Robby Stern, a member of the Alliance and of Social Security Works, the group that produced the video. Stern signed the check over to Social Security Works, saying, “We will use the $500 to finance our education efforts and our Scrap the Cap campaign. We want to save Social Security from Peterson and his band of wealthy supporters.” To see the winning video, go to http://tinyurl.com/p2hvybp.

Alliance Thanks Outgoing Senior Legislative Representative Sarah Byrne
After nearly six years as Senior Legislative Representative at the Alliance for Retired Americans, Sarah Byrne has moved on to join the Social Security Administration’s Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs. During her time at the Alliance, Sarah worked tirelessly to educate Alliance members and the public on social insurance and was also the principal Alliance staffer working with the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations coalition. Her last day with the Alliance is today.

“Sarah’s extraordinary work advocating for retirement security and Social Security has greatly benefited not only our members but all older Americans, and she has been a favorite of her colleagues,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “I know that thousands of Alliance members join me in congratulating Sarah on her outstanding work here, her bright future, and her continuing work at the Social Security Administration.”


For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/130cqXK.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans, Friday Alert, 7-12-13

Headlines:
Human Chain Effort: A Smashing Success in More than 50 U.S. Cities!
Republicans May Demand Earned Benefit Cuts in Exchange for Raising Debt Ceiling
Tell Congress: Co-Sponsor Rockefeller-Waxman Bill to Reduce High Drug Costs
Federal Budget Forecast Shows Smaller Deficit for this Year

Human Chain Effort: A Smashing Success in More than 50 U.S. Cities!
On July 2nd, the Alliance’s Human Chains events, designed to stop the chained CPI cut to Social Security benefits, took place in more than 50 cities and included more than 2,800 participants. Alliance members raised awareness of the chained CPI to many people who had never heard of it and led an effort to send over 108,000 emails to members of Congress. Activists’ voices were heard not only in the halls of Congress, but in towns and cities across the country. The idea for the Human Chain originated with the California Alliance, and the effort paid off, leading to more than 110 press hits nationally.

“Thank you to those who braved the rain and heat, lending your time and energy to this important effort,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance. “This month is critical in bringing more members of Congress onboard opposing these cuts. Some elected officials continue to call for unnecessary cuts through a chained consumer price index or chained CPI. This would mean if you’re 65 years old today, you would lose more than $650 a year when you reach 75 and more than $1,000 a year when you reach 85. Put simply, some cuts never heal!”

The events included clever refrains. For instance, as the AFL-CIO’s blog noted, more than 30 Indiana activists formed a human chain holding a red-and-white paper chain outside the U.S. Federal Building in Fort Wayne and chanted, “It's time for us to just say no/Chained CPI has got to go. We're smart enough to see the lie/So don't you chain our CPI.”

In dozens of cities across the nation, Alliance members, other senior advocates, community and faith allies formed human chains outside lawmakers’ offices and federal buildings to protest the cuts in Social Security that a proposed “chained” CPI would bring. Many of the actions were aimed at lawmakers who back the Social Security cuts, but others included those who are fighting to protect Social Security. The South Carolina Alliance received widespread press attention for their protests in Conway and N. Charleston. The California Alliance led two large events, one with 350 activists - including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) - in Los Angeles, and one with 500 members and allies in San Francisco. The Texas Alliance formed a chain outside Rep. Jeb Hensarling’s (R-TX) office in Dallas. Attendees of all ages also chained up outside Sen. Mark Warner’s (D-VA) Richmond office to urge him to oppose the chained CPI cuts.
 
In addition to Rep. Waters, many other members of the U.S House and Senate joined the effort. In Rhode Island, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Reps. David Cicilline and Jim Langevin, took part in the festivities. Reps. Brian Higgins and Daniel Maffei in Lackawanna and Syracuse, New York, respectively, also participated. Reps. Dina Titus in Las Vegas and AndrĂ© Carson in Indianapolis appeared at the events in those cities. For more on the July 2 events, including news articles and video footage, go to http://tinyurl.com/pd8pbsz. Go to http://bit.ly/1dnCEs1 for photographs. To read the AFL-CIO blog’s coverage of the events, go to http://tinyurl.com/mke7car.

Republicans May Demand Earned Benefit Cuts in Exchange for Raising Debt Ceiling
According to recent reports, Republicans in the U.S. House are in the process of preparing for this fall’s debt ceiling showdown by creating a “menu” of benefit cuts that they plan to demand in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. These demands are based largely on the ultra-conservative budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). According to National Journal, possibilities being considered include implementing chained CPI; means testing Social Security; gutting Medicaid by turning it into a block grant program; and privatizing Social Security and Medicare.  President Obama has said that he will refuse to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling limit.

“Although this showdown is likely still several months away, we must remain vigilant against any proposed cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance. “We will not allow far right politicians to hold our vital benefit programs hostage to their irresponsible threat to shut down the government.”

Tell Congress: Co-Sponsor Rockefeller-Waxman Bill to Reduce High Drug Costs
Under current law, the Medicare program is not allowed to negotiate with drug companies to get the lowest rate on prescription drugs. This amounts to a massive windfall for big pharmaceutical companies at the expense of taxpayers and Medicare beneficiaries. In response to this unjust situation, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) have introduced the Medicare Drug Savings Act, S. 740 in the U.S. Senate and H.R. 1588 in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation would eliminate the special deal for brand-name drug manufacturers, saving the federal government more than $140 billion over ten years. That is money that should be used to help all Medicare beneficiaries, not to line the overstuffed pockets of big pharma. Please click http://tinyurl.com/q3jnwer to ask your Senators and Representatives to co-sponsor the Medicare Drug Savings Act.

Federal Budget Forecast Shows Smaller Deficit for this Year
The midseason review from the White House Office of Management and Budget has projected that the federal budget deficit for this fiscal year will be $759 billion, which is considerably smaller than it has been in recent years. The review also found that the budget deficit will continue to shrink through the year 2018. The decrease in the deficit is the result of several factors, including the improving economy and increased tax revenue. Although the spending cuts imposed by sequestration are also a factor, this year’s budget deficit is projected to be much lower than last year’s even if the cuts are repealed. Other recent projections, such as those from the Congressional Budget Office, have shown similar findings. For more on the budget, read the Washington Post’s write up at http://tinyurl.com/mh3htyn.

“Given this news, it is clearer than ever that those misguided individuals who advocate gutting earned benefit programs can no longer use the budget deficit as an excuse,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “It is not surprising that deficits were high in a time of economy instability, and are now coming back down as the economy improves. Our nation’s fiscal health clearly does not require any cuts to benefit programs. The reckless across-the-board cuts imposed by sequestration are also unnecessary and should be repealed.”

For a printable version of this document, go to http://bit.ly/1b6WHOG.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Alliance for Retired Americans Chained CPI Event

For Immediate Release
July 2, 2013
Contact: Laura Markwardt – 202/637-5178 or lmarkwar@retiredamericans.org

Seniors to Form Human Chains in 50 Key Locations Protesting the Chained CPI Social Security Benefit Cut

“Some Cuts Never Heal”

Washington, DC--- Today, Tuesday, July 2nd, the Alliance for Retired Americans will sponsor a National Day of Action opposing the chained CPI Social Security benefit cut.

Members of the Alliance will work together to create a human chain in front of important locations to protest the chained CPI. More than 50 human chains will be formed in front of key Congressional offices and Federal buildings, as well as other strategic locations, in states around the country.

“The chained CPI would cut Social Security benefits by changing the cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula - and some cuts never heal!” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.

The chained CPI is an immediate Social Security benefit cut, and it would result in an annual benefit that is roughly $1,000 (2012 dollars) lower by the time a beneficiary reaches age 85. Activists will stress that the chained CPI does not accurately account for large health care cost increases faced by seniors and people with disabilities.

Click here to view a map and list of events taking place across the country. For more on the chained CPI, click here.

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The Alliance for Retired Americans is a national organization that advocates for the rights and well-being of over 4 million retirees and their families.