If It’s Pushed By the Republicans, It’s Not Good For The Working Man

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Why Unions Are the Seeds of Democracy
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Scott Walker has struck another blow against democracy.
On Monday, the Republican Wisconsin governor signed into law a bill that made Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work-for-less state. For Badger State workers, this is nothing short of a disaster. Contrary to what you might hear on Fox So-Called News or read in The Wall Street Journal, right-to-work-for-less laws are not a recipe for economic success.
In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, “8 of the 10 worst states in terms of quality of life are [right-to-work] states.” And that’s not even the worst of it.
Studies also show that workers in right-to-work-for-less states make less money, get skimpier health benefits, and are more likely to die on the job than workers in Union Security states. Republicans, of course, like to argue that all this doesn’t matter because right-to-work-for-less states have lower unemployment rates.
But that claim doesn’t really hold up to much scrutiny.
So whatever way you look at it, right-to-work-for-less laws like Wisconsin’s are a raw deal, both for workers and the states they live in. They also pose a mortal threat to a democratic workplace, and that’s arguably a much bigger problem. That’s because the real purpose of right-to-work-for-less-laws isn’t to lower wages or gut health benefits – although those are some nice side benefits as far as corporate America is concerned.
No, the real purpose of right-to-work-for-less laws is to totally gut the negotiating power of unions, the most important check we have against concentrated wealth and power.

Can They Grab Your Pension?

Clawbacks become more common as plans discover they overpaid recipients

by Carole Fleck, AARP Bulletin, March 2015
Millions Could See Cuts

Tucked into the massive budget bill passed by Congress in December was a provision permitting certain financially troubled multiemployer pension plans to cut existing benefits potentially to hundreds of thousands of retirees who are under age 80.

Shifting burden

That 11th-hour provision toppled 40 years of protections for retirees already receiving benefits and may alter the course of the U.S. retirement system, retirement advocates say. “Congress has placed the burden of rescuing underfunded multiemployer plans on the people who can least afford it — retirees and surviving spouses who rely on their pensions for food, medication and other necessities,” says Karen Friedman, executive vice president at the Pension Rights Center in Washington, which fought against the legislation along with AARP and other groups.

Multiemployer plans — there are about 1,400 in the U.S. — are group pensions that several companies within a single or related industry pay into, mostly to cover union workers. But shrinking union membership, market declines and other issues have put some 150 to 200 plans — covering about 1.5 million people — in peril.

Out of money

Those plans could run out of money within 20 years, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which insures private pensions up to certain limits when employer plans go bankrupt. Retirees won’t see immediate cuts to their pensions because it’s a complex process to modify benefits.

Vote on cuts

For example, plans with at least 10,000 workers and retirees must permit all participants to vote on cuts before they’re implemented. Even if a majority oppose it, the Treasury secretary could override the vote and uphold trustees’ decisions to reduce payouts, in order to prevent insolvency. Under the provision, retirees ages 75 to 79 likely will see smaller cuts than those 74 and under. Pensioners in single-employer plans won’t be affected.