Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘public’

Detroit firefighters and police face pension cuts with no safety net. Not even Social Security.

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Laura ClawsonLosing a pension you’ve worked years to earn is a nightmare scenario, one that can change a comfortable, secure retirement into one filled with worries and penny-pinching as Social Security goes from being part of your retirement income to all of it. For public workers in many places, including firefighters and police in Detroit, it’s a doomsday scenario, because they don’t get Social Security at all.

About 30 percent of public employees nationwide aren’t covered by Social Security; government workers weren’t covered by the program at its inception and while many have been moved under its umbrella over the years, some cities, towns, and states continue to run pension plans that don’t include Social Security. Detroit’s firefighters and police are in that group:

Of the nearly 21,000 city retirees now collecting pensions, 9,017 retired police officers, firefighters or their surviving spouses don’t get Social Security, or about 44 percent of all city pensioners.

For those who have worked in other jobs for long enough to qualify for Social Security, those benefits are reduced by a percentage of their Detroit pension. That’s not a lavish pension, by the way: The average annual police pension in Detroit is $30,000, compared with $58,000 in Los Angeles, $47,000 in Dallas, and $42,000 in Kansas City. And public workers’ pensions, unlike the pensions of many private sector workers, aren’t insured by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, meaning if they lose their Detroit pensions, that’s it, there’s no safety net to catch them.

What we’re talking about here are workers who spent decades earning less than they might have elsewhere in exchange for the promise of a secure—though not lavish—retirement. And now they face the very real threat of being left with a small fraction of what they earned and need to live on. They kept their promises to the city of Detroit. It must keep its promises to them.

This article originally posted on Daily Kos Labor on August 12, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author:  Laura Clawson is the labor editor at Daily Kos

"Grim"

Friday, February 1st, 2013

jonathan-tasiniIt is the strangest contradiction: things have not been so bad for workers probably since the Great Depression, with wages declining, health care costs going up, pensions becoming a thing of the past. People are really angry and frustrated. Yet, at the same time, unions continue to decline in numbers and power.

It got worse:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nation’s overall employment rose by 2.4 million. The percentage of workers in unions fell to 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 percent in 2011, the bureau found in its annual report on union membership. That brought unionization to its lowest level since 1916, when it was 11.2 percent, according to a study by two Rutgers economists, Leo Troy and Neil Sheflin.

And, even worse:

The portion of private sector workers in unions fell to just 6.6 percent last year, from 6.9 percent in 2011, causing some labor specialists to question whether private sector unions were sinking toward irrelevance. Private sector union membership peaked at around 35 percent in the 1950s.

And it will likely get worse, if that’s possible.

Now, I am not one who believes it is over. BUT: there needs to be a serious debate about what needs to be done. I agree with all the outside obstacles: the billionaires who want to kill unions, the right-wing march to eviscerate public sector unions and the growing numbers of big manufacturers who are setting up non-union operations.

But, a more systematic, honest analysis of what is not working internally is warranted.

This post was originally posted on Working Life on January 23, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Jonathan Tasini is a strategist, organizer, activist, commentator and writer, primarily focusing his energies on the topics of work, labor and the economy. On June 11, 2009, he announced that he would challenge New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in the Democratic primary for the 2010 U.S. Senate special election in New York. However, Tasini later decided to run instead for a seat in the House of Representatives in 2010.

Maine Union Members Tell Snowe to Support a Public Option, and More Health Care News

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Image: Seth Michals

Photo by Joe Kekeris/AFL-CIO

When Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) suggested she would block health care reform if it included a public option, Maine workers took action: The Maine AFL-CIO put its convention on hold so attendees could call her and tell her that a public option is essential to make reform work. (Recent polls in Maine suggest Mainers strongly support a public option.)

Here are some of the latest developments in the fight for real health care reform:

  • Momentum is building for a public option in final bills being crafted in the U.S. Senate and the House. This is a critical time to contact your senators and representatives.
  • Big companies like Wal-Mart are lobbying hard to exempt the coverage they provide from health care reform. That would leave tens of millions of workers stuck in the same high-cost, no-guarantee system we have today.

    Union members in Arkansas and across the country are telling their senators to support real health care reform.

  • 55 members of Congress who oppose giving America the choice of a public option are actually getting government-administered health care through Medicare.
  • Becky Moeller, president of the Texas AFL-CIO, writes in today’s San Antonio Express-News that the insurance companies are trying to stay in charge of our health care, but working families can’t afford the status quo.
  • Mark Froemke, president of Minnesota’s Northern Valley Labor Council, has a great op-ed today in the Grand Forks Herald that lays out the stakes on health care:

If Congress fails to enact reform, things won’t just stay the same-they’ll get worse…unless we enact changes now, those who manage to keep their coverage will pay an even heftier price over the next 10 years.

As it stands, insurance companies have a stranglehold on our health care system, driving up costs and coming between middle-class Americans and the care they need.

  • Minnesota union members rallied for heath care this week in Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.
  • Union members in Louisiana and Arkansas also are rallying and reaching out to their Senators to demand health care reform that works.
  • Yet another insurance company is playing with numbers, seeking to scare people about health care reform. This time it’s WellPoint fudging the facts and leaving out critical information. Check out this great chart from Think Progress that shows how the insurance companies are fighting reform.
  • The Center for American Progress Action Fund has a great new report out today detailing insurance company’s tactics to hide vital information about denying coverage.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO blog on October 23, 2009. Re-printed with permission from the author.

About the Author: Seth Michaels is the online campaign coordinator for the AFL-CIO, focusing on the Employee Free Choice campaign. Prior to arriving at the AFL-CIO, he’s worked on online mobilization for Moveon.org, Blue State Digital and the National Jewish Democratic Council. He also spent two years touring the country as a member of the Late Night Players, a sketch comedy troupe.

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