Here’s a Jaw-Dropping Statistic on the Retirement Security of Black and Latino Workers

We’ve heard of the looming retirement security crisis, but this statistic is extremely sobering: The majority of black and Latino workers (62% and 69%, respectively) do not own assets in a retirement account. This is from a new report by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) released this week.

To make things worse, three out of four black households and four out of five Latino households ages 25 to 64 have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, compared to one out of two white households.

“Those are startling findings,” says Diane Oakley, executive director of NIRS. “The typical household of color has nothing saved in a retirement account.”

Oakley raises the point that tax incentives meant to bolster retirement savings more often than not fail to help black and Latino workers, who on average have less money available to save for retirement.

“One of the big issues here is a gap in access,” Oakley tells The Washington Post. “We have what is essentially a voluntary retirement system and what we know is when we look at minority households, their access to retirement plans on the job is much less than that for whites.”

In another study examining how the current retirement system is failing America’s workers, Economic Policy Institute’s Monique Morrissey and Natalie Sabadish argue these gaps in retirement security make the case all the more strongly to bolster Social Security benefits, not cut them:

The trends exhibited in these figures paint a picture of increasingly inadequate savings and retirement income for successive cohorts and growing disparities by income, race, ethnicity, education and marital status. Even women, who by some measures appear to be narrowing gaps with men (in large part because men are faring worse than they did before) are ill-served by an inefficient retirement system that shifts risk onto workers, including the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings. The existence of a retirement system that does not work for most workers underscores the importance of preserving and strengthening Social Security, defending defined-benefit pensions for workers who have them and seeking solutions for those who do not.

The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress to strengthen Social Security benefits and reject any proposed cuts, whether it’s the misguided “chained” CPI, means-testing or raising the retirement age. Read more on retirement security on the AFL-CIO website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

Thanks, Justin Timberlake

Thanks to a new union contract, dancers in Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour will be covered by a SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement where performer earnings count toward pension and health benefits eligibility. The deal also provides touring companies with improved budget flexibility through direct negotiations with performers.

SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard applauded Timberlake and the SAG-AFTRA dancers who worked to unionize the 20/20 Experience tour.

“This is a wonderful result for SAG-AFTRA members and Justin Timberlake. Justin was very open to signing the agreement and personally making sure the deal got done,” Howard said. “As a leading recording artist and actor, Justin’s support for his fellow SAG-AFTRA members in unionizing his tour was a key element in concluding this agreement. I thank him for taking the lead.”

This is the first time that member performers have successfully organized dancers employed on a specific tour under the SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement. The agreement was previously utilized to cover touring back-up singers for James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Blues Traveler, Josh Groban and Jefferson Starship.

Dana Wilson, a dancer for Timberlake, tweeted about the history-making agreement:

Lindsay Richardson, another dancer with Timberlake, posted her thoughts on Instagram:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

CEOs: ‘Retirement Security Is Great for Me, but Not for You’

blog_retirementplans

A new report from the Center for Effective Government and the Institute for Policy Studies shows that two groups of corporate CEOs pushing for cuts to Social Security benefits, such as the “chained” CPI, personally have massive retirement plans. They also have allowed massive deficits to grow in their employees’ pension funds. While these CEOs—members of the Business Roundtable and the Fix the Debt Coalition—sit on retirement funds most people couldn’t even dream of, they have hurt their own employees’ retirement security and are looking to do the same for people who don’t even work for them.

According to the report, more than 25% of Fix the Debt members are also members of the Business Roundtable, including more than half of the Business Roundtable’s executive council. Fix the Debt is made up of more than 135 CEOs and tries to paint itself as very dedicated to serving the public, with the goal of protecting Social Security. The Business Roundtable, which includes more than 200 CEOs, doesn’t even pretend that it cares about public interest.

Members of the Business Roundtable, the report shows, have retirement accounts more than 1,200 times greater than the median retirement savings of U.S. workers near retirement age. When they retire, the $14.5 million fund they average will give them monthly retirement payments of nearly $90,000. The average monthly payment for everyone else is about $70.

While many of the Business Roundtable CEOs don’t even offer their employees pension plans, those who do aren’t exactly managing those funds well. The report found that 10 of the CEOs who do offer pensions plans have funds that run deficits between $4.9 billion and $22.6 billion. CEOs like those in the Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt are major players in the country’s growing retirement security crisis:

Over the past several decades, chief executives have slashed retirement benefits for their employees. Traditional defined-benefit corporate pensions covered 38% of private-sector workers in the early 1990s, compared with just 18% today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The number of companies providing traditional pension plans has dropped from just over 112,000 in 1985 to 22,697 in 2013.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , ,

Warren: There IS a Retirement Crisis

Contrary to what The Washington Post and the billionaires who are trying to cut Social Security by pitting young people against seniors say, the nation does face a retirement crisis and Social Security doesn’t need to be cut. It must be—and can be—strengthened, said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a powerful speech on the Senate floor Monday.

Just 18% of private-sector workers have traditional defined pension plans, and even with some employers providing 401(k) plans, she said that nearly half of workers lack access to those limited plans. More than 44 million workers have no retirement assistance from their employers.

With tens of millions of people more financially stressed as they approach retirement, with more and more people left out of the private retirement security system and with the economic security of our families unraveling, Social Security is rapidly becoming the only lifeline that millions of seniors have to keep their heads above water.

But instead of taking on the retirement crisis, instead of strengthening Social Security, Warren said, “some in Washington are actually fighting to cut benefits.”

So long as these problems continue to exist and so long as we are in the midst of a real and growing retirement crisis—a crisis that is shaking the foundations of what was once a vibrant and secure middle class—the absolute last thing we should be doing is talking about cutting back on Social Security.  The absolute last thing we should do in 2013— at the very moment that Social Security has become the principal lifeline for millions of our seniors—is allow the program to begin to be dismantled inch by inch.

Cutting Social Security would mean cutting benefits for the two-thirds of seniors who rely on it for the majority of their income, said Warren. It would also affect the 14 million whose Social Security benefits keep them out of poverty.

While those calling to cut Social Security hid their intentions behind the claim that their “chained” CPI proposal is just a more accurate way to calculate the cost-of-living increases for seniors, Warren said:

“Chained” CPI? It’s just a fancy way of saying cut benefits…[instead] with some modest adjustments, we can keep the system solvent for many more years—and could even increase benefits.

Warren also slammed a recent Washington Post editorial that mocked the idea of a looming retirement crisis.

No retirement crisis? Tell that to the millions of Americans who are facing retirement without a pension. Tell that to the millions of Americans who have nothing to fall back on except Social Security. There is a $6.6 trillion gap between what Americans under 65 are currently saving and what they will need to maintain their current standard of living when they hit retirement. $6.6 trillion, and that assumes Social Security benefits aren’t cut. Make no mistake: There is a crisis.

She also said the call to cut Social Security “has an uglier side.” The Post editorial and groups pushing Social Security cuts, like billionaire Peter Peterson’s “Fix the Debt” organization, are trying to drive a wedge between younger people and seniors by framing the debate as a choice between “more children in poverty versus more seniors in poverty.”

The suggestion that we have become a country where those living in poverty fight each other for a handful of crumbs tossed off the tables of the very wealthy is fundamentally wrong. This is about our values, and our values tell us that we don’t build a future by first deciding who among our most vulnerable will be left to starve.

Warren told the senators, “We don’t build a future for our children by cutting basic retirement benefits for their grandparents,” but instead:

We build a future for our kids by strengthening our economy, by investing in education and infrastructure and research, by rebuilding a strong and robust middle class in which every kid gets a chance and the most vulnerable have a strong safety net.

See her full speech in the video above and read the full text here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , ,

Time’s Running Out for Congress to Act on Vital Issues

With the end of the legislative session looming, here’s a look at some of the key working family issues still on the congressional agenda.

Budget

The Republican shutdown of the government in October cost the economy 120,000 jobs and just under $24 billion. The agreement to end the shutdown funded the government through Jan. 15, but at the sequestration levels that have strangled job growth and slowed the economy, and included a debt ceiling increase through Feb. 7.

The deal also called for a House–Senate budget conference committee to try to reach a longer term budget agreement by Dec. 13. House Republicans are continuing their demands to cut Social security, Medicare and Medicaid, along with tax breaks for corporations.

The AFL-CIO is calling for the repeal of the sequester, which could create nearly 800,000 jobs, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Also lawmakers must oppose any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits, including means-testing or reducing annual cost-of-living increases by moving to the so-called “chained CPI.” Social Security benefits should be improved, not cut; working people and retirees need more economic security, not less.

Instead of further austerity measures, Congress should invest in jobs and education by raising revenue from Wall Street and the wealthiest 1%. Repealing tax subsidies for sending jobs overseas, for example, would generate $583 billion over 10 years.

Immigration Reform

In June, the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that included a path to citizenship. In October, a House bill (H.R. 15) modeled on the Senate measure was introduced with Republican co-sponsors. Congressional observers believe there are at least two dozen other Republican legislators who would support the bill if it came to a vote.

But this week, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) broke his promise to hold a House vote on immigration reform legislation. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Boehner’s action “unconscionable” and said:

The AFL-CIO will not give up this fight until comprehensive immigration reform is passed in the Congress. If Boehner’s House Republicans continue to block the way, we intend to make it clear that the Republican Party will pay a price at the ballot box for ignoring America’s growing immigrant community.

Workplace Discrimination

Earlier this month, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (64–32) the historic Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013 (ENDA). The bill would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Currently, 29 states allow workers to be fired for being gay and 33 allow workers to be fired for being transgender.

But even though the Senate version passed with bipartisan support and the House ENDA bill includes Republican co-sponsors, Boehner again caved to the extremist tea party wing and said he would not allow a vote on the bill.

Minimum Wage

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Shortly after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Senate is expected to take up a bill (S. 460) to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years and index it to inflation. It also would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, which is currently $2.13 per hour, to 70% of the regular minimum wage.

Among workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase, 88% are adults older than 20; 55% percent are women; and their earnings account for half of their family’s entire income.

Even though 80% percent of the public, including 62% of Republican voters, support increasing the minimum wage, according to a recent poll conducted by Hart Research, Boehner likely will block any House vote.

Unemployment Insurance

If Congress doesn’t extend the current extended federal unemployment insurance (UI) program by the end of the year, 1.3 million jobless workers will be cut off from UI the week of Dec. 28. Nearly 1.9 million more would lose the extended UI during the first half of 2014 as their state benefits run out. The current program, last extended in January 2013, provides up to 47 weeks of federal benefits in states with the highest unemployment rates on top of the normal 26 weeks that most states provide.

With the economy still 2 million jobs in the hole after the Great Recession and with 37% of the unemployed out of work for more than six months, inaction would be disastrous.

Retirement Security

Last month the House passed a bill (H.R. 2374) that would delay and could ultimately thwart the U.S. Department of Labor’s effort to protect workers’ retirement security. The Labor Department wants to close loopholes and update the rule that protects workers from deceptive or abusive practices when they seek investment advice about their retirement savings.

In a letter to House members, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director William Samuel says, “The intent behind this bill is to delay the commission rule and thereby also block [the Labor Department] from carrying out its statutorily required responsibilities.” He adds:

This bill affects all workers who are trying to save for their retirement. The primary way most working people invest in the capital markets is with their retirement savings—frequently their biggest financial asset. They are counting on making the most of their money when they seek investment advice; they are counting on that advice being free from conflicts of interest. That is what is at stake here.

So far the bill has no Senate sponsor.

Nominations

Earlier this year with Senate Democrats on the verge of changing Senate rules to block filibusters on executive branch nominees, Senate Republicans relented on their obstruction tactics that have blocked votes on several of President Barack Obama’s nominees.

But after eight Republicans crossed party lines to end a filibuster against Richard Griffin, the former National Labor Relations Board member nominated by Obama to serve as the NLRB’s general counsel, the nomination process once again ground to a halt.

On Oct. 31, Republicans blocked an up or down vote on Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), the first African American to be nominated to chair the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Watt is also the first sitting member of Congress to be rejected by the Senate since 1843.

Republicans also have vowed to block all three of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. On Oct. 31, Republicans prevented an up or down vote on the nomination of Patricia Millett, and on Nov. 12, they voted to continue the filibuster against the nomination of Nina Pillard. Republican leadership is also expected to block the nomination of the third Obama nominee, Robert Wilkins, who is currently sitting on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The District of Columbia Circuit is considered the most important court beneath the U.S. Supreme Court because most cases dealing with federal regulations and federal enforcement agencies can be appealed there, including decisions and regulations issued by the National Labor Relations Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Smallest-Ever Social Security COLA Still too Big for ‘Chained’ CPI Backers

Next year, the millions of Social Security recipients will see the smallest cost-of-living adjustment ever—just 1.5% or about $19 a month. If the politicians—and their billionaire friends who don’t want to pay the same taxes workers do—who are pressing hard for the “chained” CPI benefit cut had their way, the adjustment would be even smaller than 2014’s historic low.

Edward F. Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says, “I hope this news about next year’s Social Security COLA will cause politicians in Washington to reconsider their support for the ‘chained’ CPI.”

How can anyone look at an increase of around 1.5% and think ‘That’s too big?’ Clearly, these politicians need to spend more time talking to seniors who are struggling. Next year’s increase will be 1.5%. Imagine if it were even less. Then imagine if that smaller increase were to be compounded over time. That is the ‘chained’ CPI.

The “chained” CPI proposal would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and prevent benefits from keeping up with inflation. At age 75, a senior’s benefits would be cut by about $650 per year (on average). At age 85, those benefits would be cut by about $1,150 per year, and at age 95, by about $1,600 per year. For more on what the “chained” CPI would do, go to the Alliance “chained” CPI fact sheet.

Earlier this month, 51 Republican members of the House, led by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) signed a letter to Speaker John Boehner supporting COLA cuts, among other unspecified proposed Social Security benefit cuts, as part of the ransom demand to lift the debt ceiling.

On the other hand, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) have introduced the Strengthening Social Security Act (S. 567 and H.R. 3118). The legislation would measure inflation not with the “chained” CPI, but with a more accurate measure of inflation for seniors (the CPI-E). It also would improve Social Security’s solvency by lifting the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax, so that all of America’s workers pay the same rate.

AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers recently told Salon that the AFL-CIO opposes any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The labor movement is going to fight to the death to stop cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Not ‘unreasonable cuts.’ Not ‘cuts without tax increases.’ Cuts period. We’re against all of them, we will fight them ferociously, and we will give no cover to any Democrat who supports them

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

Raising the Medicare Eligibility Age Will Hurt Many, Help Nobody

AFL-CIO’s Damon Silvers went on CNBC last week to make it clear that the labor movement won’t give political cover to any elected official, Republican or Democrat, who seeks cuts to  Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security.

But sometimes “cuts” hide in the form of other changes to earned benefits. Silvers gave the example of “Chained CPI,” which cuts Social Security by changing how benefits are calculated. “Chained CPI is the vampire of American politics,” Silvers told the Washington Post. “It keep  being shot through the heart and it keeps reviving.”

Here’s another vampire idea that needs to die: raising the Medicare eligibility age to 67.

The argument typically goes like this: with modern medicine, people are living longer than they did when Medicare set the retirement age at 65, so why not raise the eligibility age to keep up with the times? After all, we need to save money!

This argument conveniently ignores what happens to the millions of 65 and 66 year olds who would no longer be able to access coverage through Medicare, which they have paid into throughout their entire lives.

Many of these seniors with low enough incomes will be pushed into Medicaid, shifting costs onto that other program. Some will have incomes high enough to be ineligible for Medicaid but low enough to qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance on the health exchanges on the Affordable Care Act.

But many more seniors will lose coverage altogether, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, because while their incomes make them ineligible for Medicaid or subsidies, health insurance companies will consider them to be extremely expensive. “Because exchange plans could charge the oldest workers three times as much as the youngest, unsubsidized premiums could reach $10,000 to $12,000 (in 2014 terms) for 65- and 66-year-old individuals and twice that for couples.” Even if every state implemented ACA completely, that’s about 200,000 more uninsured seniors, according to Matt Stoller of the Roosevelt Institute.

So for increased pressure on Medicaid and more seniors unable to buy coverage at all, how much money do we save? The Congressional Budget Office has updated numbers on that front: the net savings would amount to less than $3 billion a year, a paltry sum in the context of the federal budget.

Thursday, the CBO said the overall savings wouldn’t amount to as much as it had previously estimated. Instead of saving the federal government about $113 billion over a decade, CBO now figures it’s more like $19 billion over eight years starting in 2016.

Joan McCarter wants this idea to be finally laid to rest:

It will keep people working longer, and that means it will cost their employers—and everyone with private insurance—more in insurance premiums to cover this older, sicker population. The thing is, people still need health care when they’re 65. There isn’t a magic two years between 65 and 67 when everyone is healthy and doesn’t need to go to the doctor.

If we are serious about raising revenue and dealing with our fiscal health, we ought to stop looking at seniors – who have earned Social Security and Medicare by paying into it through a lifetime of paychecks – and start looking at the complex web of tax avoidance schemes of the very billionaires and large corporations that are pushing these cuts to begin with.

Tags: , , , ,

10 Important Initiatives Coming Out of the AFL-CIO National Convention

The AFL-CIO quadrennial 2013 convention in Los Angeles was a flurry of exciting activity that promises to remake the labor movement in the United States and build a movement for all working people to deal with the new challenges and political landscape working families must navigate. While there were many important discussions and plans made at the convention that will be expanded on in the coming months and years, here are 10 important initiatives that came out of the resolutions passed by the convention delegates that you should know about:

1. Opening Up and Broadening the Labor Movement: The delegates recognized the need to expand the labor movement to be more broad and inclusive and to recognize all working families, whose rights have been under assault. No fewer than six resolutions were passed to expand the labor movement and partner with allies in new ways. The first invites every worker in America to join the labor movement, either through affiliate unions or through Working America. Another one provides for supporting political campaigns that protect and expand workers’ rights to organize. A third related resolution calls for expanded efforts to help workersorganize around the globe. Other areas of renewed focus would be on organizing in the southern United States, in building lasting community partnerships with organizations that share our values and expanding and protecting voting rights so working families have a say in choosing those who pass laws that affect their rights.

2. Economics for Shared Prosperity: The convention delegates approved several resolutions that call for new ways of thinking and talking about the economy, moving away from the conservative, pro-corporate way of discussing the economy. The first initiative calls for an economics of shared prosperity, which focuses on creating living wage jobs for all who seek them, providing workers a voice on the job, health care for everyone, aging with dignity, jobs that support families and high-quality education for all children. The AFL-CIO also has committed to creating a curriculum and training program to teach working families how to talk about the economy in more accurate terms that don’t let pro-corporate interests drive the conversation. The federation also supports policies that will fix the parts of the economy that are having the biggest negative impact on working families. This resolution called for legislation that would create good jobs, improve economic security for all of America’s workers and make the tax system more fair through requiring Wall Street and the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share. Another resolution supported by the delegates focuses on the need to raise wages if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy, and lays out a broad agenda of efforts at the federal, state and local levels that aim to raise wages and labor standards for everyone who works in America.

3. A Road Map to Citizenship for Aspiring Americans: At the convention, the AFL-CIO recommitted to its ongoing support for and leadership in creating an immigration system that protects U.S. workers, reduces the exploitation of immigrant workers, reduces employers’ incentives to hire undocumented workers, keeps families together, creates a road map for aspiring Americans and contributes to shared prosperity for all.

4. Embracing and Including the Diverse Workforce: The AFL-CIO embraced diversity at its convention as never before, with people of color and women representing 46% of delegates. An inclusion conference held before the convention kicked off ways to work more closely with communities of color, young workers and the LGBT community. In addition to the resolution on the road map to citizenship for aspiring Americans and the resolutions on expanding the labor movement, the delegates passed resolutions on:

  • Working women: focusing on equal pay for equal work; respect for the balance among work, family and community; forging and expanding partnerships with allies; and increasing equality and building women’s leadership within the labor movement.
  • Young workers: including recognizing the importance of young workers in the current and future economy; expanding young worker programs to all levels of the federation; and giving young workers a seat on the AFL-CIO General Board.

Delegates also voted to add gender identity and gender expression to the federation’s constitutional equality section.

5. Retirement Security for All: With seemingly endless attacks in recent years on retirement security, the AFL-CIO calls for strengthening and improving Social Security benefits, much stronger protections for private and public pension laws and other legislative improvements to laws that protect working families in their retirement years. Any proposal to cut Medicare or Social Security to fund lower taxes for corporations and the 1% is immoral and unacceptable.

6. A New Approach to Trade and Globalization: The convention also passed a resolution calling for improvement in international trade deals, with a focus on protecting workers’ rights around the world, environmental protection, preventing corporations from interfering with national sovereignty and public interest regulations and making it clear that the AFL-CIO would oppose trade deals that don’t live up to these ideals.

7. Opposing Mass Incarceration for Profit: The AFL-CIO recognizes that the private prison industry, which pushes for laws that increase incarceration rates so they can pad their profits, creates negative incentives for state and local governments to lock up more people, even when crime rates are low. Such policies also harm communities, are unsafe for both inmates and prison employees and have a strongly disproportionate effect on people of color.

8. Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education: As a key component of any strategy of improving the lives of working families, the AFL-CIO supports a broad range of educational reforms that ensure that all children have the opportunity to attend safe, high-quality schools. The delegates also condemned the attacks on public education by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D).

9. Implementing the Affordable Care Act: The convention delegates passed a resolution that supports the responsible implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the protection of workers’ rights in any health care changes made by government or private corporations, and continues to support the ultimate goal of a single-payer system.

10. State Federation, Central Labor Council and Affiliate Accountability: Because of the importance of effective state federations, central labor councils (CLCs) and affiliates in fighting back against right-wing attacks in the states and the possibilities for expansion of workers’ rights at the state level, the AFL-CIO is moving forward on several initiatives to maximize efforts in the states. The first is to require state federations and large CLCs to hire qualified campaign managers and develop and implement strategic plans that include community engagement programs. The second is to create a special committee that will develop and monitor the performance of state federations, CLCs and affiliate unions. Each year, 10 states will undergo a thorough peer review and the findings and recommendations of the review will be reported.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

1 Victory on Local Pensions, 5 Battles to Watch

Pension battles are heating up in cities across the nation as conservatives and Republicans are pushing to strip public workers of their retirement plans, often with little or nothing offered as a replacement. The primary argument, although a false one, is that these pensions are “too expensive” and that during times of fiscal woes, cities can’t afford them. In reality, these plans are often little more than veiled attempts to abandon commitments to workers and shift spending to more conservative priorities.

Working families had a victory in Tucson, Ariz., this month when a judge threw an initiative off the November ballot after it was determined that many of the required signatures gathered to put the question before the voters were improperly gathered. The initiative would’ve eliminated the city’s pension plan and replaced it with a 401(k)-style plan.

While there was a victory for working families in Arizona, pension plans in numerous other cities aren’t quite as safe. Here are five cities to watch as pension plans become a more prominent target of conservatives:

1. Cincinnati: A group of mostly out-of-state tea party activists, including the Liberty Initiative Fund from Virginia, succeeded in gathering enough signatures to put an initiative on the Nov. 13 ballot that is very similar to the one that just failed in Tucson. The plan, if passed, would eliminate the city’s pension fund for any future hires, replacing it with 401(k)-style private funds directed by individual employees, effectively privatizing the pension system. Many of the city employees who would be in the new plans are not eligible for Social Security and would have no safety net to fall back on if the stock market did poorly or they failed to successfully manage their new accounts.

2. Jacksonville, Fla.:  The Pew Charitable Trust is partnering with the John & Laura Arnold Foundation and is expected to promote what is called a “cash balance” plan to replace the city’s current pension plan. If the plan mirrors what Pew proposed in Kentucky, it would amount to a significant reduction in retirement savings for future retirees, who would get a set cash amount based on years of service. This measure has not been officially proposed yet.

3. Memphis, Tenn.: The mayor’s office is proposing a series of pension changes that the local Fire Fighters (IAFF) call a barrage of attacks on workers. The proposed changes include setting a minimum age to receive retirement benefits, reducing benefits for employees who take early retirement and using a salary average to determine pension benefits.

4. Phoenix: Citizens for Pension Reform is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would switch the city’s pension plan from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan and capping potential benefits for current employees. The switch, similar to the proposals in other cities, would amount to a benefit cut.

5. Tulsa, Okla.: The mayor is also suggesting making the change from a defined-benefit plan to a defined-contribution plan. The change would affect only new employees and would not include firefighters or police, who are enrolled in a state-managed retirement system.

Photo via Arizona AFL-CIO on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

GOP ‘Ideas’ Man Eric Cantor Offers Up Two Paths To Destroy the Economy

On Sunday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said that Republicans would be open to restoring some of the funding lost in the job-killing sequester if new cuts to social safety net lifelines were put in place.  In effect, Cantor is suggesting replacing one policy that hurts the economy and suppresses job growth with another policy that does the exact same thing.

“What we need to have happen is leadership on the part of this president and the White House to come to the table finally and say we’re going to fix the underlying problem that’s driving our deficit,” Cantor told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We know that is the entitlement programs and the unfunded liability that they are leaving on this generation and the next.”

Actually, Cantor is completely wrong about Social Security and Medicare causing the deficit. The current deficit is caused primarily by the Great Recession, but also by the Bush tax cuts and two wars that were never paid for. From the Economic Policy Institute:

chart

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

chart2

The deficit is already more or less stabilized for the next decade. In future decades, projected deficits are driven almost entirely by health care costs, but this is a problem of both the private and public sectors.  Medicare and Medicaid have lower costs than private insurance and have done a better jobs of controlling costs over the past 40 years.

Cantor offers a false choice that would do little to cut the deficit or boost the economy or job growth and would harm our most vulnerable citizens.  Republicans are still focused on the wrong “crisis.”  While the evidence is quite clear that what the U.S. needs most is more jobs and investment in infrastructure, Cantor and his fellow Republican “leaders” are focused on deficit reduction that economists have said isn’t necessary, and, in fact, is a drag on the economy and job creation.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , ,