Posts Tagged With: benefits


DSC07218 (Copy)The Mountain Melody Women’s Chorus gave two free concerts for donations to the Butte Fire. This one held at the Outer Aisle, right at the end of my road, where one can have a glass of wine, a salad and a bowl of soup, too.

DSC07213 (Copy)A pianist and two flautists add a lovely dimension too this chorus.

DSC07212 (Copy)Everyone sings, but the director emphasizes voices giving individuals a chance to shine.  Marta Johnson not only sings, but she is a talented artist along with equally talented artist, husband, Kevin.

DSC07214 (Copy)A solo excerpt by Jennifer Labrado,  a strong voice. I’m hoping I’ve remembered her last name.

DSC07215 (Copy)Lizz Armstrong in red, and a woman I do not know adjusting the mic, waiting for their moment to perform a duet interlude. Both are sopranos, with strong, uplifting voices.

DSC07219 (Copy)Everyone does their part. The gentleman in silhouette announced each number.

The joyful sounds of Christmas make glad the heart and to help others is an extra comfort when so many are unable to find a Christmas tree in their burned woods, nor a place to put it.

Merry Christmas


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Eighty years of  Social Security is a big deal. Before Social Security half of America’s seniors lived in poverty — and without it, many more of them would today. And on top of being the primary means of retirement income for thousands of  vulnerable seniors, it serves as a critical safety net, providing necessary funds to disabled workers, children and veterans. Earlier this year, the GOP set up an impending showdown in 2016 that pits current and future retirees against people with disabilities — and could result in benefit cuts of as much as 20%.

Why attack something workers pay into, for their benefit? Why attack the most successful insurance program for Americans, a program that benefits every level of society.  The smart thing to do is find a solution to save social security.

The danger that Social Security faces is real. When you have a chance, tell members of congress and all presidential candidates, that it is time to work at protecting and expanding social security benefits for our children and grandchildren so they can age without facing living on the streets or in their cars.

I, for one, will ask the chosen presidential candidates, when they face off before presidential elections, what they intend to do about preserving social security? Hopefully the moderator will allow that question to be publicly asked.

AFSCME, along with the caring voices of  Alliance for Retired Americans, American Family Voices, Caring Across Generations, Center for Community Change Action, Courage Campaign, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, Economic Policy Institute, Left Action, National People’s Action, Pension Rights Center, People Demanding Action, People For the American Way, Progressive Democrats of America, Social Security Works, and Working Families is asking that people make sure our politicians remember just how many of us have benefited from Social Security — and how many more will, if we have the political will to ask the wealthiest few to pay their fair share. I ask that you remember what Warren Buffet pointed out, that his secretary, a member of the working middle class, pays more taxes than people like him, the ultra rich. Click on the link below to sign a petition to support Social Security.

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Recent news about Volkswagen in Tennessee voting against organizing with the United Auto Workers Union surprised me. Union membership has fallen dramatically and Union Bashing is a favorite activity of the Republican Party, and corporate interests in general. I name the GOP because they traditionally support corporate America over labor, and especially unions. I don’t know if there was intimidation involved or not, but it worries me that young people, who have difficulty finding meaningful work to support a family, seem to have no remembrance of what Unions have meant to working people.  My surprise was augmented by watching the Triangle Fire on PBS, about the horrible working conditions women, men, boys, and young girls faced to simply feed themselves and pay for slum shelter.

[At the paper office, Bank Alley, 4 P.M.]  Location_ Syracuse, New York (State)

Corporate America thought it was their right to pay whatever they wanted while they collected millions in profits. Millions in the 1800’s was mucho big bucks.  No safety standards or any regulation of the thousands of factory workers who produced clothing, jewelry, pots, pans, you name it, existed. New York was the center of the garment industry.tff-sidewalk

The Triangle Fire, where 145 girls perished in a shirtwaist factory, kind of woke up the nation to the idea that working people should have some protections. The girls worked 7 days a week for 14 hours a day. They were not allowed to get up and get a drink of water, nor use the bathroom until lunch time, which they ate at their sewing machines. If they didn’t sew fast enough the boss would chastise them.  If they made a mistake,  it came off their meager pay. When fire broke out,  the door to the street was kept locked so no one could sneak out for a moment, and they were trapped on the ninth floor. The bosses got out on the first packed, slow elevator. New York City FD ladders could only reached seven stories high. Those that got out on the fire escape, (some escaped,)  until the fire escape fell to the ground under the weight.

The shirtwaist factories in NYC went on strike. The policemen who girls for striking, arrested them for striking, and falsely arrested them as prostitutes, were now faced with picking up the bodies of girls they had hassled before the strike was settled. The Triangle, did not go union like most of the other shirt waist factories, but Triangle did reduce hours and paid more money. No safety regulations applied to any of them.

I have a Free Riders Card which states:

I am opposed to all unions. Therefore, I am opposed to all the benefits unions have won through the years: paid vacations, sick leave, seniority rights, wage increases, pension and insurance plans, safety laws, workers compensation, Social Security, overtime, unemployment benefits and job security.  I authorize my employer to withhold the amount of the union-won benefits from my paycheck and donate it to charity.

Unions are still needed. In the early 1970’s, when the protestors on the streets of Berkeley, were screaming at the cops and calling them PIGS, they were secretly smiling because Sheriff Houchins went to the Board of Supervisors to plead for overtime pay for Deputy Sheriffs,  a first for the Department. The department later unionized and won modern benefits unavailable to them previously.

In the 1960’s, just before retirement, the company my father worked for, took many measures to get him to quit so he couldn’t collect his pension, including midnight phone calls to my mother, tacks under his tires, etc.  My Dad walked into the administration office with both of his Sons-in-law, dressed in suits and ties carrying briefcases. He asked them to make a formal statement in front of them, never revealing they were not lawyers. The company quit their harassment and he got his pension.

Do we really learn from the past?

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As a consequence of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reckless ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, massive corporations, billionaires and other interest groups can launder their political spending through the Chamber and dark money groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, concealing the spenders from any accountability to the voting public.

Proposition 32 was carefully worded so the general public is likely to believe it does away with this unfair persuasion in California. It is, instead, another measure to widen the gap between working Americans and corporate interests.

Corporations can still give money to superpacs.  Real estate trusts, insurance companies and hedge funds are all exempt. But under 32, the Unions cannot use their members dues for contributions nor can corporations. But, therein is the rub. Corporations don’t use their stock holders permission or money because they don’t pay dues. Corporations use their profits.

They want the public to think 32 is in the best interest of the public but it is an all out attempt to destroy the unions voice in the political process and destroy unionism in America.

Bill Moyers, on his recent program, talked about the great benefits all Amercans enjoy because of Labor Unions. They gave us a minimum wage, safety regulations, reasonable hours, job security, medical insurance plans, retirement programs, workmen’s compensation, enforced free speech on the job and the right to organize for their own benefit. Unions taught workers to negotiate for better wages. They fought for public education, social security, job protection, time clocks and time cards, overtime pay and paid vacation time.  Unions encouraged blacks to join unions so they could get a fair shot in the workplace. Those victories came at a huge price to the men and women who fought those early battles.

At one time, a boss could walk out on the floor of a factory, fire you on the spot, without giving you a reason, and put his nephew in your job. He could fire you if he didn’t like your political leanings and he could command your vote by threatening you with losing your job if a certain candidate did not win.  The boss withheld wages if he chose to do so for punishment if he didn’t like the way you wore your hair. You fed your family on your wages and God help you if you looked the wrong way at your all-powerful boss. There was no time to adjust, or compensation, or accountability when you were fired. The boss could make or destroy you depending on whether he liked you or not.

Walter Reuther was once a household name. Mitt Romeny’s father called him the most dangerous man in Detroit. Why?  Because he organized United Automobile Workers at General Motors. He changed the men from wage slaves to middle class workers who participated in the benefits of their work in America . A working man could increase is skills and earn more wages. He could be promoted and rise in his classification.  Unions gave rise to the middle class. During the war, Reuther refused to take action against companies while our country was in crisis. Corporate America may not have liked Unions, but they discovered that workers with money in hand could buy the products they were making.  Unions brought social justice to America.

Don’t let Proposition 32 fool YOU.

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Yesterday, I wrote disparaging comments about our elected officials claiming they get retirement for life and free medical care. And, I bought into that same email information that they do not pay into social security like the rest of us do. A reader, Jim, pointed out to me in a message following yesterday’s blog, that my information was wrong. He pointed me to an article by Phil Scott published in the respected AARP Newsletter about congressional salaries and benefits. Like so many of you, when money rules over good sense, I get cynical and hastily toss off bad news like a righteous knight bent on correcting wrongs.
To correct this error, Scott’s article follows. It just isn’t as bad as I believed it to be, and I should have checked.

And, yesterday, I couldn’t remember granddaddy Bush’s name, and the website from which the information came seemed to have disappeared or I couldn’t find it. The Bush’s and Nixon’s were distant cousins and I got this message on Facebook from William:
William wrote: “Prescott Bush was vice president of Brown Brothers Harriman bank when it was siezed under the “Trading With The Enemy” act. That is why Bush hated Roosevelt so thoroughly. That is a large part of why the Republicans are still trying to undo the Roosevelt legacy. Following World War II, the Republicans established a “Committee of 400″ to start seeking candidates to run against New Deal Democrats. Prescott Bush was the chairman of the committee that selected Richard Nixon to run against Jerry Voorhis in 1946. The Dulles brothers law firm represented Brown Brothers Harriman bank in their case against the government to retrieve their siezed assets. I served in an intelligence division of Strategic Air Command under the Eisenhower/Nixon administration. Nixon was Ike’s vice president. John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State. Allen Dulles was director of the CIA. Prescott Bush was Ike’s golfing partner, all around political advisor, and ‘handler.’ That gang had Ike surrounded on duty and off duty.”

I thank you both, Jim and Wililam  for refreshing my information.

Read Phil Scotts article below:

Tales of extravagant congressional pensions abound on websites and in e-mail chains.

Not exactly true. Congressional retirement and health care benefits are far less lavish than critics claim.
For the most part, benefits for Congress are similar to those of any federal employee, although there are differences.
Nearly all Congress members are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System. The FERS retirement plan has three parts:
Social Security. Members of Congress have Social Security taxes withheld from their pay like other workers, and are eligible for retirement benefits beginning at age 62.

Before 1984, members of Congress were covered by the old Civil Service Retirement System and were not required to pay into Social Security — nor could they get a Social Security benefit. But at present, all members of Congress must pay into Social Security, including nearly 50 currently serving members who were first elected before 1984.

A pension benefit. People on the federal payroll, including members of Congress, receive a traditional “defined benefit” pension, something that is available to only a small percentage of private-sector workers.

According to the Congressional Research Service, in October 2006 the average annual pension for a retired member of Congress who served under FERS was $35,952, compared with the current $174,000 salary for active members.

(Members of Congress won’t be affected by President Obama’s proposal for a pay freeze for federal employees — Congress sets its own pay scales separately, and in 2009 and 2010 voted to forgo its usually automatic annual pay increases.)

A member who leaves office before serving five years because of an election defeat or resignation is not eligible for a pension. And any member who is convicted of a crime such as bribery, fraud, racketeering or perjury for acts committed after September 2007 is ineligible.

But, on grounds that working in Congress means uncertain job security, elected members and their staffs receive a larger retirement benefit from FERS for each year of service than other federal employees. They also become eligible for a retirement annuity at a younger age and with fewer years of service.

In return, they contribute a higher percentage of their pay to participate in FERS — 1.3 percent instead of 0.8 percent for most workers. As in the private sector, the bulk of the retirement benefit’s cost is picked up by the employer, in this case, the U.S. government.

Members of Congress can begin drawing their full pension at age 62 if they have completed five years of service, at age 50 with 20 years’ service, or at any age with 25 years’ service. They can collect a reduced pension with 10 years of service at ages 55 to 57, depending on their birth year.

The Thrift Savings Plan. This is a “defined contribution” plan available to all federal employees and similar to the 401(k) plans common in the private sector. There’s a difference: Whether or not the employee chooses to save anything, the government contributes 1 percent of base pay to the savings plan.

Members of Congress participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program along with about 8 million federal workers, retirees and their dependents. They are subject to the same rules and receive the same coverage. Compared with health plans offered by private employers, the FEHBP offers more choices — in fact, “the widest selection of health plans in the country,” according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Congress members are also eligible for Medicare, and pay the same 1.45 percent tax on their salary as do other workers.

A few extras

Congress members do receive some medical benefits beyond those available to regular federal workers.

For an annual payment of $503, members can receive routine care from the Office of the Attending Physician, which has facilities in the Capitol. ABC News reported last year that these services include physicals and other examinations, on-site X-rays and lab work, physical therapy and referrals to medical specialists.

In addition, current members (but not their dependents) can receive medical and emergency dental care at military hospitals and clinics. Inpatient care is covered by FEHBP insurance, but outpatient care is free if it’s performed at facilities in the national capital region, such as Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland or Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the District of Columbia.

This benefit is likely the source of persistent online rumors that all medical care is free for Congress members.
Phil Scott is a New York-based journalist.

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