Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, November 21, 2004
by Bill Onasch,
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webmaster, kclabor.org

Retirement Years Can Be Golden–But For Whom?
We posted some good analytical articles in the Daily Labor News Digest over the past week about the privatization of Social Security–which Bush now claims is "mandated." The Bush scheme combines some of the worst features of the two principal examples of social security privatization–what Thatcher did in Britain and Pinochet imposed in Chile.

I admit my eyes start glazing over when dealing with numbers reckoned in trillions. Fortunately there are economists who can clearly explain what this scam means to working people.

"The proposal that President Bush is using as the basis for his plan phases in cuts over time. A worker who is 45 today can expect to see a cut in guaranteed benefits of around 15 percent. A worker who is age 35 can expect to see a cut in the guaranteed benefit of approximately 25 percent. A 15 year old who is just entering the work force can expect a benefit cut of close to 40 percent. For a 15 year old, this cut would mean a loss of close to $160,000 in Social Security benefits over the course of their retirement.

"Private accounts will allow workers to earn back only a small fraction of this amount. For example, a 15 year-old can expect to make back approximately $50,000 from the $160,000 cut with the earnings on a private account. If this worker retires when the market is in a slump, then it could make their loss even bigger."--Basic Facts on Social Security and Proposed Benefit Cuts/Privatization by Dean Baker and David Rosnick.

The authors also do a good job in defending present Social Security from slanderous attacks. For example, they defuse the panic talk of crisis by pointing out that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office rates Social Security to be stronger today than ever and estimates present funding will guarantee existing benefit levels at least through 2052.

They deflate attacks on agency bureaucracy as well. They note that 15 percent of all 401(k) plans income goes to administrative costs. The Bush plan claims they will hold administration down to five percent. Meanwhile the Social Security "bureaucracy" accounts for less than one percent of expenditures.

The only Social Security crisis is this threat of privatization. Along with health care, these are the two over-riding domestic issues for the American working class today. Previous generations had to fight like hell to get Social Security in the first place. We face an even bigger battle to preserve and expand it. Let’s get ready for it.

Bankruptcies Lead To CHAOS
CHAOS--Create Havoc Around Our System--was first used by Association of Flight Attendants organized flight attendants from Alaska Airlines to gain a fair contract. The tactic calls for flight attendants to strike one flight or dozens, in one city or the entire country. Over the years it’s occasional use has been effective.

At a recent meeting in Pittsburgh, the AFA-CWA board of directors unanimously approved a resolution to implement the union's CHAOS strike program when any carrier, with or without the approval of a bankruptcy court, unilaterally imposes new contract terms on flight attendants. The strike authorization vote process for flight attendants at US Airways, United, ATA and Hawaiian Airlines which have all filed for bankruptcy protection, will get underway shortly.

Unlike most unions, which are governed by Taft-Hartley, airline workers, operating under the Railway Labor Act, can conduct secondary sympathy strikes. Flight attendants at all airlines will be asked to support CHAOS actions at the bankrupt carriers.

With Election Over Congress Takes Care Of Business
There were winners and losers in the 388-billion dollar omnibus spending bill passed yesterday as the lame ducks summoned strength to fly home to join the turkeys.

Winners included partisans of theocratic rule. Imposition of a minority religious doctrine upon all women was further tightened by guaranteeing HMOs and insurance companies the right to deny coverage of abortion and related medical practices. Come to think of it, I guess the health care industry won a little on that one too.

I was pleased to learn that this "lean and clean package" included a quarter-million donation of taxpayer money to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Our quality of life was further enhanced with the authorization of a two-million dollar purchase of a presidential yacht for a navy museum.

Thankfully, the bipartisan supporters of the omnibus were able to save us money by cutting back on frills. For example, they lifted their pre-election objection to the Bush administration’s proposed change in eligibility requirements for college students applying for Pell grants. It’s estimated about 100,000 students will completely lose government aid.

Undoubtedly many of you received appeals from the AFL-CIO to contact your congressional representatives to urge them to take this latest last opportunity to overturn the new Bush imposed rules on calculating overtime. In face of a veto threat our "friends" in congress decided not to even try to close this barn door, even long after the horses had fled to parts unknown.

The House passed the omnibus measure 344 to 51, the Senate, 60 to 35.

Working During Strike Can Be A Good Thing
Despite the first strike in forty years about 200 union members at the Youngstown Vindicator are working hard to put out the paper. But they are not scabs. Instead of the bosses’ paper members of Local 34011 of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America are putting out their own alternative to a scab-produced rag. Following an example set by past newspaper strikes in Detroit and Seattle, the strikers are printing and distributing 50,000 copies of the Valley Voice. You can check out an online edition by clicking here. The main issues in contention are wages and health insurance.

Crass Seasonal Commercialism
No, I’m not going to rail against it; I’m trying to exploit it. A small, but important part of the operating budget for the KC Labor web site comes from commissions on sales made through shopping links on the site. If you are going to be buying gifts you can help us at the same time, especially with these two links:

Powells Books. The first unionized bookseller on the Internet.

Café Campesino. A Fair Trade coffee supplier that deals mainly with worker-farmer owned co-ops.

That’s all for this week.

Regards to all