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.