All Participating Local Unions,
This is to advise you that, effective January 1, 2017, the Central Pension Fund will begin accepting photocopies of birth certificates and marriage certificates, and certified copies of death certificates in connection with Applications For Benefits. Copies submitted will not be returned.
Please see the article below with proposals the federal government is considering for pension plans. Now is the time to contact your federal legislators and let them know that you do not support putting your pension in jeopardy!!
A coalition of unions and employers is proposing changes to the federal law that governs the pension plans of about 10 million people, including reducing benefits paid to retirees, the first time in four decades that such cuts would be allowed.
The proposal, which would undo guarantees put in place by federal law in 1974, is already stirring controversy among pension-rights advocates and rank-and-file union members. It was developed by some of the nation's biggest unions, including the Teamsters and United Food and Commercial Workers, and industry trade groups such as the Associated General Contractors of America.
Pension experts say a report issued by the group earlier this year will likely serve as the foundation of a bill to replace rules governing pensions that expire in 2014. Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), chairman of the Senate committee overseeing pension policy, called the proposals, which include cutting retiree benefits, "a starting place."
"The fact that labor and management were able to come together and agree on a comprehensive proposal to protect the pensions of millions of middle-class families is a significant development," Mr. Harkin said.
The plan is the latest to address a chunk of the nation's creaky retirement infrastructure. President Barack Obama's budget proposal this past week could also lead to a reduction in Social Security benefits for retirees. And on Monday, the Government Accountability Office said the number of insolvent multi-employer pension plans could double by 2017.
Something must be done to shore up about 10% of the roughly 1,450 multi-employer pension plans in the U.S., pension experts say. The plans, which are funded by groups of employers in construction, trucking and retail food, and pay out a monthly check known as a defined benefit, are the backbone of the retirement security for 10.3 million retirees and current workers.
More than half of such plans are funded to at least 80% of their liabilities. That is up from one out of five plans at that level in late 2008, after the stock market tanked. But a minority is in far worse shape. As many as 150 multi-employer plans are headed toward insolvency, according to government projections.
For those troubled plans, unions and employers are proposing that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 be rewritten so that benefits for people who are already retired can be reduced. Without that fix, advocates argue, the plans will run out of money and retirees will end up with a fraction of their current benefits when the government takes over the plans.
Advocates say early cuts can stave off deeper ones down the road. Under the proposal, trustees from labor and management would determine how deeply to cut benefits to return the plans to solvency. One labor official said the cuts could take effect within a year of the decision.
The cuts would depend on each plan's finances and could reduce benefits to as little of 110% of the level guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., the federal agency that backstops private-sector pensions. The 110% level amounts to $12,870 a year for people who retire at age 65 with 30 years of service.
"What we're really trying to do is salvage the system," said Randy DeFrehn, executive director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, a nonprofit group that assembled the labor-management coalition.
The coalition is recommending additional changes to multi-employer pension plans. It is also proposing a new form of pension plan that would carry less risk for employers than a defined-benefit pension, but is designed to provide more security for retirees than a 401(k). The assets are pooled, rather than held in individual accounts, reducing the investment risk to retirees. Employers would contribute a negotiated amount but wouldn't be liable for additional payments if funding levels dropped, as they currently are with multiemployer pensions.
Mr. DeFrehn said cutting retiree benefits is the controversial proposal, but noted that lawmakers have said they don't intend to bail out the pension plans. "This is kind of a reverse bailout," he said. "It shifts a lot of liabilities away from the public sector and the taxpayer."
Retiree advocates are raising red flags. Karen Ferguson, director of Pension Rights Center, a Washington, D.C., group that advocates for employees and retirees, said the union and management interest in the long-term survival of plans might conflict with the interests of older retirees who can't afford to lose their income now. She saidshe thinks legislation should make sure retirees have input in the cuts, and that Congress should consider alternatives to the cuts.
Greg Smith, 64 years old, a Norton, Ohio, truck driver who retired in 2011 after working 31 years, agrees. He now receives a monthly check for $3,019 from a Teamsters pension plan that is projected to become insolvent in 2024. If that happens, the PBGC would take over and his benefit could be cut to as low as $1,100 a month.
Under the new proposal, his benefits could be trimmed before funds run out, giving the plan's investments a chance to recover in the market. His benefits would be guaranteed not to fall below $1,210 a month, 110% of the PBGC level.
"It's a precarious position for a lot of us retirees," Mr. Smith said. "Let's come up with a plan that doesn't trash the retirees and put them in the poorhouse."
A spokeswoman for the Teamsters, which participated in the coalition, declined to comment on the plan or whether the union endorses it.
David Blitzstein, who oversees multi-employer plans for United Food and Commercial Workers, said cutting benefits remains controversial for unions, companies and members of Congress. He participated in the 18 months of talks that led to the proposals. "It was a very tough bullet to bite for everyone in the room," he said. Mr. Blitzstein said the majority of unions in the coalition supported cutting retiree benefits. The UFCW has openly endorsed it. It has retirees in about 60 multi-employer plans, covering 1.4 million people. He said cutting retiree benefits could be the only way to save about five deeply troubled plans, and added that it wasn't clear how much benefits would have to be cut. "We haven't modeled it yet in some of these really sick plans."
Over time, numerous factors have hurt the ability of plans to fund benefits. Bankruptcies have cut the number of employers paying into some plans, economic downturns hurt investment returns, and some policy decisions intended to strengthen plans ended up weakening them.
The first multi-employer plans were created during World War II, when wages were controlled by the War Labor Board. Pensions were offered to unions as a trade-off. They were among "fringe benefits." At first, company contributions were the sole source of income. Funding problems in the 1960s were addressed by the passage of Erisa in 1974, which required advance funding, and investments became the main funding source.
By the 1980s, some plans were so well-funded that companies risked losing the tax-exempt status of contributions. They responded by increasing benefits for retirees to levels that have never been reduced. Multi-employer plans recovered from the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000 and the median plan was 90% funded in 2007. But they were devastated by the 2008 market crash.
Now it's harder to make a comeback because plans' recent investment gains are based on a smaller asset base. Contributions by employers are made per hour worked, and have lagged behind as employment has remained weak. Many plans are starting to have more retirees drawing benefits than active workers. Some companies have paid a penalty to withdraw from plans to get the liability off their books, leaving fewer employers paying into plans.
Big and small companies now say their future is threatened by underfunded plans. The problem is also holding down wages and benefits for current workers in industries like trucking.
Judy McReynolds, president and chief executive of Arkansas Best Corp., is among executives who back the coalition's proposals. The company's ABF Freight System unit participates in 25 multi-employer plans, and has 7,500 Teamster employees, two-thirds of whom are enrolled in troubled plans. She said half of ABF's annual pension contributions of $132 million are for people who never worked for the company, and that its contributions are 14 times greater than those of competitors. "This is not sustainable," she said. "It is imperative that we find concrete solutions."
The crucial component of a strong and sustainable transportation program -- now and in the future – is adequate funding. But very few people really understand how transportation infrastructure is actually funded, a lack of understanding that makes it difficult to increase the user fees needed.
The You Tube link set forth below will bring up a short but excellent presentation designed to help the traveling public understand how infrastructure investments get funded in the U. S. and how the U. S. has fallen behind.
Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice speaks in strong opposition to the attacks that are being made on labor unions and collective bargaining today. We speak for the right of workers everywhere to form and join labor unions in order to negotiate collectively for fair wages and benefits for themselves and their families. We urge people everywhere to recognize the many contributions labor unions make to the universal common good.
Support for labor unions enjoys a long history in the Catholic Church. Beginning in the medieval period and especially since the publication of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical
Rerum Novarum (1891), the Church has given exceptional support for labor unions. The Popes—from Leo to Benedict XVI—have encouraged workers to form unions. The official teaching of the Catholic Church as found in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (2004) holds that labor unions exert a "positive influence for social order and solidarity, and are therefore an indispensable element of social life." (#305) In 1986 the Catholic Bishops of the United States stated: "The Church fully supports the right of workers to form unions or other associations to secure their rights to fair wages and working conditions…No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself." (Economic Justice for All, 1986, #104)*
These points are rooted in Catholic Teaching on Labor Unions:
* Labor unions are based on the inalienable natural right of free association.
* Labor unions promote social justice and the common good.
*Labor unions defend the vital interests of workers and their families.
* Workers have a right to bargain collectively for fair wages and benefits.
* Employers who refuse to pay a just wage are guilty of a grave injustice.
* No one may deny the right to organize without attacking human dignity itself.
* Governments may not limit the negotiating capacity of labor unions.
The attack on labor unions and collective bargaining must stop immediately!
*For a complete understanding of Catholic teaching on labor unions see the Chapter 6 of the C
ompendium, "On Human Work" pp. 115-140. See also CSWJ’s Foundational Statement that is posted on our website.
Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice, c/o The Labor Guild, 85 Commercial St., Weymouth, MA 02118 781.340.7887.
I have never paid union dues. I have been a white collar worker most of my life, in jobs where there are no unions. But I have benefited greatly from unions.
One of my first jobs was delivering mail for a summer. That was too short a time to join the mail carriers’ union, but I was paid the good wage that they had won through collective bargaining. In college, I worked summers digging ditches and making truck deliveries. The small businesses I worked for did not have unionized workers, but I still benefited from unions. Decades of activism by organized workers had won the 40-hour week, the minimum wage, protection in case of accidents, health insurance and many other benefits. No matter where I worked, the history of collective bargaining by unionized workers made a big difference in my pay, hours and conditions.
Unions are not and never have been assemblies of angels. Many unions, notably the Teamsters, have a long history of corruption, especially by organized crime. Some union officials have lined their pockets, made backroom deals with bosses and rigged elections. In this way, unions are like businesses and governments: Occasionally they are dishonest and rip off their members, customers or voters.
But it would be difficult to argue that unions have been more corrupt than various governments, like Chicago’s, or than capitalist businesses, like many on Wall Street. Union leaders, even those whose organizations contain a million members, make only a fraction of what business tycoons take out of their companies. Union leaders and policies are created by the democratic action of their members, unlike the top-down decision-making of businesses. Unions are not perfect, but they represent average Americans much better than big business.
As grass-roots organizations, unions are feared by dictators. All of the world’s dictatorships, whether left or right, have banned free unions. The Nazis and the Communists, for all their rhetoric about representing workers, made unions into state-run transmission belts for government policy. The former dictatorships in Latin America and those in the Middle East which are being shaken today by revolt all made free union activity impossible.
Suddenly in 2011, the right of workers to bargain collectively with their employers is being threatened by state governments in the U.S. The Republican Party has never been comfortable with unions, because the GOP typically represent the interests of employers.
Billionaires fund Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. By beating down unions, big employers can gain even more power in the workplace. Even though Wisconsin workers have agreed to large pay cuts, Walker and Republican governors in Ohio and New Jersey are demanding an end to their right to collective bargaining.
Martin Luther King Jr. went to Memphis in 1968 to support the demands of municipal garbage workers for collective bargaining rights. They were working below the minimum wage with no benefits. This was a natural extension of his civil rights work. The right to organize and bargain as a group, rather than individually, is a crucial civil right in a democracy. Organized together, workers can bargain with employers on an equal footing. Only the threat of strikes by unionized workers forced employers to institute the eight-hour day, industry by industry, gradually during the early 20th century.
Our current recession has fomented a disastrous competition among Americans who are in economic pain. Although the attack on public service unions is funded by billionaires, its power comes from average Americans convinced that public employees cause budget deficits. Many public sector workers do receive very good benefits, especially health care.
The union-busters are encouraging economic envy; they want people to think, “I don’t get such good benefits, so nobody should.” In fact, the pay of public service employees is lower than private sector workers with similar qualifications.
The 19th century robber baron Jay Gould once said, “I can hire half the working class to shoot the other half.” He counted on ignorance and desperation to allow him to divide and conquer. That’s exactly what the anti-union politicians are counting on. They want people to believe that teachers are overpaid and that policemen’s pensions are too high. They want people to believe that knocking down middle-class public workers will benefit them.
If our economy is based on middle-class consumer spending, how will making middle-class jobs less appealing help us?
The only people who will benefit are the 21st-century robber barons who are funding the Republican Party.
Steve Hochstadt of Jacksonville is a professor of history at Illinois College. His column appears every Tuesday in the Journal-Courier and is available and on his blog at stevehochstadt.blogspot.com.
Wages, Rate of Employer Benefits Lower
In Right-to-Work States, EPI Concludes
As numerous states are considering proposals to enact right-to-work legislation, the Economic Policy Institute Feb. 17 released a report finding that both wages and the rate of employer-sponsored benefits are lower in states that have these laws than in states that do not.
In an EPI Briefing Paper titled “The Compensation Penalty of ‘Right-to-Work’ Laws,” Elsie Gould, EPI's director of health policy research, and Heidi Shierholz, an EPI economist, examined the impact of RTW laws on wages and benefits of both union and nonunion workers. Finding that these laws result in lower wages and benefits, the authors concluded that their findings should “discourage right-to-work policy initiatives.”
While right-to-work legislation “misleadingly sounds like a positive change in this weak economy, in reality the opportunity it gives workers is only that to work for lower wages and fewer benefits,” the authors said.
Right-to-work legislation prohibits employers and unions from negotiating union security clauses in contracts that require all workers who are covered by the contract and receive representation to pay their share in the administrative costs for those services.
Wages in RTW States 3.2 Percent Lower, Paper Finds
According to the briefing paper, the wages of workers in states that have right-to-work laws are 3.2 percent lower than those in non-RTW states. Using the average wage in non-RTW states ($22.11) as the base, the authors found that the average full-time, full-year worker in a RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
The rate of employer-provided health insurance is 2.6 percentage points lower in states that have right-to-work laws than in those that do not. “If workers in non-RTW states” were to receive health insurance at this lower rate, “2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered,” the report said.
In terms of employer-sponsored pensions, the rate is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states than in non-RTW states, the report found. “If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions,” the report said.
Looking at workers who are not represented by a union or covered by a union contract, the report found that these workers make 3 percent less than union-represented workers. The benefit “penalty” for nonunion workers is 2.8 percentage points for health insurance and 5.3 percent for employer-provided pensions, the report said.
“Our results suggest that proposals to advance RTW laws likely come at the expense of workers' wages and benefits, both within and outside unions,” the authors said.
The authors analyzed data from a sample from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey that consisted of 108,627 workers, ages 18-64, who earn wages and salaries. Approximately 37 percent of the sample live in states that have right-to-work laws. The researchers also took into account some state-level variables, measured by the state unemployment rate, as well as differences in cost of living across states.
According to the report, the characteristics of these workers in both RTW and non-RTW states are similar, with the average age nearly the same as is the share of the workforce that is male and is married.
Workers in Non-RTW States More Likely to Be Unionized
“The biggest difference between workers in RTW and non-RTW states is the fact that workers in non-RTW states are more than twice as likely to be in a union or protected by a union contract,” the authors said. “Average hourly wages, the prime variable of interest, are 16 percent higher in non-RTW states ($22.11 in non-RTW versus $19.06 in RTW states). Median wages are 14.4 percent higher in non-RTW states ($17.16 versus $15.00).”
Right-to-work laws directly limit “the financial viability of unions, reducing their strength and ability to negotiate favorable contracts, higher wages, and better benefits,” the authors said. “Similarly, by diminishing union resources, a RTW law makes it more difficult for unions to provide a workers' voice on policy issues ranging from unemployment insurance to workers compensation, minimum wage, and other areas. The simple reality is that RTW laws undermine the resources that help workers bargain for better wages and benefits.”
According to the authors, the briefing paper provides the most comprehensive study to date of the relationship between a state's right-to-work status and employee compensation. “Our model controls for 42 demographic, economic, geographic, and policy factors,” they wrote.
This email is for my friends outside of Indiana who are also faced with a potential RTW law in your state. By now, I'm sure you've seen the 6 new anti-RTW web sites we have launched. I wanted to pass along the reasoning for doing so and the contact information for the good union company that performed the work.
For FAR too many years the National Right to Work Committee has dominated this issue. They have dominated it in every possible way - direct snail mail communications, electronic media (and now social media), "research" reports, lobbying, direct campaign contributions, etc. They even provide free legal assistance to "beck" objectors in non-RTW states. I experienced their "free" legal assistance repeatedly during my time working at the NLRB.
In short, the NRTWC has dominated the public education around this issue for decades and they have done so basically unchallenged with few exceptions. Unfortunately, there simply has not been a sustained public education campaign at the national level on this issue.
There is not a void on this issue. If we do not engage in public education, the other side will (and has). We would like to create a national network of web sites, videos, etc around this issue. Let me rephrase that - we MUST create something to compete with the NRTWC on this issue. Through electronic and social media we can dominate this issue. It is possible. The 6 web sites that we now have up cost less than $10,000 and took less than 2 weeks to complete. This included the Legislative Action Center piece as well.
If you are interested in doing this in your state, I urge you to contact John Shane at Web Connectivity (this is a union company). I have no financial stake in this company nor do I receive any form of compensation from them. This is simply about creating a national/regional network to fight RTW. If we do not, I fear that additional RTW states will be a devastation from which we may not recover.
I have also copied John on this email so you have his email address as well.
Or, if you do not have access to funds for this type of campaign, contact me and I will assist with whatever you need.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me.