March 11, 2011

Wisconsin Lawmakers Take Away Collective Bargaining Rights of Public Workers

The Wisconsin state Assembly approved a bill ending collective bargaining rights for most of the state’s public employees on Thursday, as state legislators passed Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s explosive proposal, 53-42. Thousands of furious protesters had already streamed to the Capitol when Senate Republicans passed the measure on Wednesday. Democratic senators had gone to Illinois to deny the chamber the 20-member quorum required to take up bills that appropriate funds. However, the legislation was separated from the budget measure on Wednesday – the quorum requirement for other kinds of legislation is smaller – breaking a three-week stalemate. Once the bill was separated, the Republicans pushed the measure through the Senate in less than half an hour by a vote of 18-1, without any debate on the floor or a single Democrat in the room. Walker says he’ll sign the legislation as quickly as possible.

While blasting Walker and Wisconsin’s Republican legislators for their “absolute corruption of democracy” in passing an anti-labor bill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka “thanked” the governor for getting activists fired up. “We probably should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year Award,” Trumka said Thursday morning at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. “Wisconsin is the beginning — it’s pushing the start button” for pro-labor activism.” Trumka spoke for millions in the middle-class and Democrats who, according to The New York Times, “condemned the move as an attack on working families, a violation of open-meetings requirements (because most of them were not aware that the vote was to be held until shortly before it happened), and a virtual firebomb in a state already polarized and consumed with recall efforts, large-scale protests and fury from public workers.”

The AFL-CIO created a video that conveys the energy and solidarity of the workers in opposition:http://bit.ly/fRaX0A. To learn of ways in which retirees and progressive allies can take part in supporting public employees – and all workers under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states – go to http://bit.ly/hMeqRs. The AFL-CIO’s one-stop “States of Denial” microsite also offers many resources, such as a video playlist and an updated news feed: http://bit.ly/ecfLJJ. “Retirees have been mobilizing  all across the country to amplify the message of our public workers and voice their utter sense of being assaulted,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance.

Ohio’s House speaker now says he hopes a bill to limit public workers’ union rights in that state will be voted on next week. The Ohio state Senate passed that measure last week, and GovernorJohn Kasich (R) has said he would sign it if, as expected, it gets to his desk.

Cuts to Social Security Administration Would Affect Medicare as Well

The Obama administration has warned that the U.S. House Republicans’ plan to cut the federal budget for the rest of the current fiscal year would be disastrous for America’s seniors. The House GOP has passed legislation that would cut about $60 billion from various government programs, including $1.7 billion from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These proposed cuts have Social Security recipients and employees horrified, because it would lead to furloughs, layoffs, delays in distribution of benefits, and a backlog of applications. However, cutting SSA’s budget could also affect an area that many people have not considered: Medicare.  That is because SSA processes all new Medicare claims. According to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), “Furloughs at the Social Security Administration would lead to backlogs in processing new enrollments and gaps in coverage for nearly half a million new Medicare beneficiaries.”

“Attempting to reduce the deficit by reducing SSA’s budget would have a disastrous effect on thousands upon thousands of seniors,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. To see how the cuts would affect your state, go to http://bit.ly/ihFxtF.

Obama Administration Appeals Court Ruling That Struck Down Health Care Law

On Tuesday, the Obama administration appealed a U.S. judge’s January 31 ruling in Florida that struck down the landmark health care reform law as unconstitutional because it required Americans to buy health insurance or face a penalty. The case will next go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta. Eventually, the fight over the law is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. Health care reform is the signature of Obama’s domestic policy, and administration officials have said they would continue to implement the law, because halting it would cause irreparable harm.

March 23, 2011 will mark one year since President Obama signed the changes, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, into law. Since that time, many benefits for seniors, including discounts on prescription drugs and free preventive screenings, have already gone into effect. On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed the negative effects of Republican attempts to defund the law. CBO calculated that the Rehberg Amendment – the measure that calls for the defunding – adds $5.7 billion to the deficit.  It does so by increasing government spending, creating incorrect payments in Medicare, and delaying implementation of patient improvement initiatives, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Barbara Easterling Addresses Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corp.

Ms. Easterling spoke on Thursday at the Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation (EHDOC) 2011 board of directors meeting in Weston, Florida. She tied together several front-burner issues of the Alliance, including Social Security and Medicare, with the recent battles for collective bargaining rights.

September Convention Celebrates Ten Years of the Alliance

Help us mark our 10-year Anniversary at our upcoming Legislative Conference, Celebrating Our Past, Fighting for Your Future, on September 6 – 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C.! Take part in the discussion on the direction that our country should take concerning retirement security. Workshops will include, among others: Checking the Pulse: Medicare and Health Care Reform,and Making Progress Together: Opening Doors to New Coalition Partners. Any questions, please contact Joni Jones, Event Coordinator, at 202-637-5377.

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