Fewer than 20% of workers have some sort of pension retirement plan

The days of guaranteed retirement benefit in the form of a pension are long gone. As numbers out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics show – defined benefit retirement pension are on a drastic decline since 1981. That was the year when over 80% of full-time workers in the private sector participated in a pension plan. By 1997, that number had plummeted to just over 50%. And by 2011, looking at all workers in all private businesses in America, fewer than 20% of workers have some sort of pension retirement plan. This translates into economic insecurity for seniors – especially now that Republicans in the House are trying to turn Social Security and Medicare over to private sector profiteers. This also adds to the growing list of things that Corporate America is taking from their workers, in its quest for higher and higher profits. In recent months – we’ve seen employers promise to reduce hours to avoid providing health insurance, we’ve seen the right to free political speech taken away, guaranteed vacation time and maternity leave don’t exist – workplace safety laws are getting watered down – heck, they’ve even taken our money by flattening our wages during a time of increased productivity. In some states, they even want to take away our bathroom breaks! This is nothing short of theft. And pretty soon, we’ll be handing over the shirts on our backs, just so that our bosses can squeeze whatever profits they can out of them.
Thom Hartmann

You need to know this

      So-called Free Trade is destroying our national manufacturing base. According to a new report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, free trade relations with China, beginning in 2000, are responsible for cutting 30% of the manufacturing jobs we have in this nation. You can see this decline in the raw numbers. Around 2001, there were 17 million manufacturing jobs in America. Today – that’s dropped off drastically to 11.5 million. And according to the Economic Policy Institute – nearly 3 million of those lost manufacturing jobs went directly to China since 2001. Thanks to so-called Free Trade, our policymakers are exporting those crucial blue-collar jobs that sustained a prosperous middle class, from the end of World War 2 all the way until the 1980’s. And without those jobs, Americans are forced into the minimum wage service sector, asking, “Would you like Fries with that?” or greeting people at the door saying, “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” This is exactly what the transnational billionaires who push for these trade agreements want. And until we drop out of these so-called free trade agreements, and once again begin protecting domestic manufacturing with tariffs or VAT taxes – the middle class will continue to shrink – and America will look more and more like a collapsed nation that’s exported all of its wealth to the rest of the world.
Thom Hartmann

The Soul of America

Despite such terminology as “fiscal cliff” and “debt ceiling,” the great debate taking place in Washington now has relatively little to do with financial issues. It is all about ideology. It is all about economic winners and losers in American society. It is all about the power of Big Money. It is all about the soul of America.

In America today, we have the most unequal distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth, and more inequality than at any time period since 1928. The top 1 percent owns 42 percent of the financial wealth of the nation, while, incredibly, the bottom 60 percent own only 2.3 percent. One family, the Walton family of Wal-Mart, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans. In terms of income distribution in 2010, the last study done on this issue, the top 1 percent earned 93 percent of all new income while the bottom 99 percent shared the remaining 7 percent.

Read on………………

People of Faith Should Back Strong Gun Violence Prevention Measures

The White House is considering proposals to reduce gun violence that go far beyond “simply reinstating an expired ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition,” according to the Washington Post. People of faith should back these efforts and work with President Obama to make our neighborhoods, schools, malls, streets and houses of worship safer.

The proposals under consideration by a task force led by Vice President Biden would, according to the paper, “require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.” These are all positive steps.

People of faith have long been advocates for sensible gun control measures that prevent violence and protect individual liberties. The National Council of Churches adopted a resolution in 2010 re-affirming the church’s long standing view on gun control, while acknowledging that not all Christians are of the same mind of this difficult issue that has pitted concepts of personal freedom against public safety.

The resolution noted, in part:

It is difficult to imagine that the One whose own Passion models the redemptive power of non-violence would look favorably on the violence of contemporary U.S. society. Present-day violence is made far worse than it otherwise would be by the prevalence of weapons on our streets.

And that many Christians believe it to be “idolatry to trust in guns to make us secure, since that usually leads to mutual escalation while distracting us from the One whose love alone gives us security.”

Christians are not alone in calling for measures to protect our society. The Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism has issued an action alert, which states:

The recent tragedy in Newtown, CT is a tragic reminder that over 30,000 Americans die each year as a result of gun violence. The number and severity of violent shootings in recent years can only be described as an epidemic. We are inspired by a Jewish tradition that emphasizes the sanctity of human life, and commands us to turn weapons of destruction into tools for the greater good of society. It is imperative that President Obama and Congress take action to advance sensible gun control laws, including taking assault weapons off of our streets and improving our system of background checks.

No longer can we do nothing or simply do what seems possible.

The national officers of the United Church of Christ were correct when they said after Sandy Hook:

As we grieve we are aware that this kind of tragedy happens over and over again in this country where for some the gun has become God. We must renew our efforts to control guns and thereby prevent violent tragedies such as this. We must learn how to place our trust in God, not in arms. We must turn swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks.

We need boldness from our leaders now. Too many Americans die each day, and so many of them are children. The evidence of our times must be changed, as William Sloane Coffin once argued, so that our reality changes. Even the most modest reform proposals will face push back from the NRA and their allies on Capitol Hill. Yet this is a campaign that can be won. In the end, I believe that the NRA will find out that the Rev. Canon Gary R. Hall, Dean of the National Cathedral, was correct when he said: “I believe the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.”

Rev. Chuck Currie

UPS Threatens Retiree Healthcare Hike

UPS management is flexing its muscles in bargaining. In late December they sent a notice threatening thousands of Teamster retirees in the company healthcare plan with drastic payment hikes.

UPS Teamsters need a pension increase, not a retiree healthcare hike.

Teamster retirees in the company health plan pay $50/month for individual or family coverage. But UPS is threatening to raise premiums to $247.50/month for individuals, $495 for spouse or dependent coverage, or $742.50 for family coverage.

These rates apply only to Teamster retirees in the Company plan. Many full-time UPS Teamster retirees are in Teamster plans.

The company plan cannot hike retiree healthcare costs until the contract expires in August. So why is the company sending out a notice now? It’s a bargaining tactic, plain and simple.

As part of contract negotiations, the International Union and UPS will bargain over how much Teamster retirees in the company Health Plan will pay toward their healthcare.

The company doesn’t really expect to impose the costs in its memo. By sending out a notice with inflated rates, the company is trying to soften up retirees and our negotiators to accept higher monthly premiums.

Management may want to hike monthly premiums to match what Teamster retirees in the Central States Health Plan pay: $200/month for individual coverage and $400 for spouse coverage. Central States has stated these rates will not go up over the life of the next contract.

UPS has pushed to get Teamsters into a company health plan, and they save millions because on average UPS has a younger work force than other Teamster companies. Now management wants to get the savings and also stick it to the retirees.

UPS made more than $4 billion in profits last year. They don’t need to nickel and dime the Teamsters, including retirees, who built this company.

UPS Teamsters need a pension increase, not a retiree healthcare hike.

Click here to download a bulletin for UPS Teamsters.

Click here to read the company notice threatening retiree healthcare hikes.