March 18, 2011

What’s next for Wisconsin’s Public Workers

Governor Scott Walker (R) has signed into law the highly controversial bill to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers in Wisconsin. The signing comes after weeks of protests at the Wisconsin state capitol. Officials from Dane County have filed for an emergency injunction to prevent the law from taking effect, and Democrats have vowed to fight the law on the grounds that the vote took place unlawfully and violated the state’s constitution. Democrats and labor leaders have also promised that they will lead the repeal effort to remove Republican lawmakers and the Governor from office. “We are dismayed at the Wisconsin lawmakers’ attack on collective bargaining rights for their state employees. This fight is not over, and we will support our brothers and sisters with every tool at our disposal,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Health Care Reform Reaches its Anniversary

March 23rd marks the one year anniversary of the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Since being signed into law by President Obama, the PPACA has had a tremendous impact on the lives of seniors around the country.  As of Jan. 1, Medicare beneficiaries are no longer on the hook for a deductible, co-insurance, or co-payment for many of the program’s preventive services, and more than 150,000 seniors in the past two months alone have received a free annual wellness visit . To commemorate the anniversary, the Alliance will host several events around the country. Check your email on Monday for more information.

Social Security and Medicare under Attack in the Senate, House

Twenty-two Republican senators are threatening to vote against raising the debt ceiling later this year unless the president concedes to cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. However, another group of Senators plans to introduce legislation that would separate Social Security from the wider talks on reducing the federal deficit. That initiative has been backed by Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Barbara Boxer (CA), Sherrod Brown (OH), and Barbara Mikulski (MD), as well as Bernie Sanders (I-VT). On Tuesday, 125 members of the House Democratic Caucus sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, advising him that a $1.7 billion cut to the budget of the Social Security Administration would have a disastrous effect on beneficiaries. Also in the House, Rep. Mark Critz (D-PA) introduced an amendment to the stopgap measure to fund the federal government that would prohibit funds in the legislation from being used to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits; privatize Social Security; eliminate guaranteed health coverage for seniors; or establish a Medicare voucher plan that limits payments to beneficiaries. However, the motion failed, 190 to 239. For a tally of the vote, go tohttp://1.usa.gov/giiSHj.

Retirees Protest Budget Cuts Made at both the State and Federal Level

Retiree activists around the country are outraged as more reports of the ways in which budget cuts will affect seniors are released. In Texas, lawmakers are considering a reduction in Medicaid reimbursements that would result in the closing of 850 of the state’s 1,000 nursing homes. In New York, lawmakers have made plans to close 105 of the state’s 256 senior centers. In Wisconsin, Governor Walker (R) has called for ending the state’s SeniorCare prescription drug program. This would force tens of thousands of seniors to enroll in private plans through Medicare Part D, which will be more expensive. Some retiree activists are not taking these attacks lightly. On Tuesday, Florida Alliance members mobilized and joined a “Defend the Dream” protest in West Palm Beach. The event was one of several around the country showing support for public workers, protesting budget cuts, and making Congress aware that Americans will hold lawmakers responsible for their votes. At the Tuesday event, Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance, called on state lawmakers to address what he said were $26 billion in tax breaks for special interest groups.

Brace Yourselves: Paul Ryan to Release His Budget

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the Chairman of the House Budget Committee, has again promised that he will lead the charge and propose drastic cuts and fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare. Last year, he released his widely criticized “Roadmap for America’s Future,” which called for privatizing Social Security for younger employees, raising the retirement age to 70, reducing benefits for middle and high income seniors, and replacing Medicare with a voucher program. Although Ryan has yet to disclose specific details about the budget he will release in April, it is expected that he will stick close to the plan he outlined in his roadmap.

Ad Wins a Silver Pollie Award

An ad by Protecting America’s Retirees, an independent project of the Alliance, during the 2010 midterm elections has won a Silver Pollie Award in the Democratic Independent Expenditure category. Pollies are awarded by the American Association of Political Consultants, and recognize outstanding and original concepts within political advertising.  The winning ad shows how a Republican takeover of Congress could lead to an increase in the Social Security retirement age.  Entitled “Work,” the ad – on-line at http://www.youtube.com/paretirees – shows, among others, a firefighter, a construction worker, and a lifeguard struggling on the job in their later years, and was featured on cable television in the districts of the following Members of Congress: Raúl Grijalva (AZ); Bruce Braley (IA); John Boccieri (OH); Chris Carney (PA); and Mark Critz (PA). The ad also aired in Western Pennsylvania in support of Rep. Joe Sestak, who ran for U.S. Senate.

“We Are One” Events Celebrate the Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

April 4, 2011 marks the 33rd anniversary of the strike of the Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King stood in solidarity with the striking workers as they fought for their right to bargain collectively and form a union with AFSCME. King spoke before the striking sanitation workers and gave what would be his final speech; on April 4, 1968, he was assassinated. On April 1-4, 2011, the AFL-CIO and the Alliance will commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King by hosting “We Are One,” a weekend of events to show solidarity for unions members.  The events support working people in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other states where collective bargaining rights are under attack. “We ask that you stand in solidarity by attending a ‘We Are One’ event in your area,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. For information about events near you, go to http://bit.ly/eAXblT.

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