LaborNet - Internet Board
Global online communication since 1991 for a democratic, independent labor movement
Home | Current Blog | News Archive | Video | Resources | Back Links | About LaborNet

image image

Pensions, Spiking And Concession Bargaining
Source Steve Zeltzer
Date 12/08/17/13:23
30 minutes into program
Audio - Pensions, Spiking And Concession Bargaining

THIS WEEK IS the 75th anniversary of social security and it is under frontal attack by the Republicans. It is also being undermined by president Obama and the Democratic party leadership who refuse to push to remove the cap on social security taxes for higher income individuals.

President Obama has also cut the taxes going into the Social Security fund thereby undermining the fund. Supposedly this was done to help the economy but it is an open attack on the social security fund.

Social Security was established at the same time of the sitdown movement in the US, when hundreds of thousands of workers were occupying their factories in GM and others throughout the Midwest and the tens of thousands of unemployed workers were marching for jobs and a living wages. It was called the sit-down movement and this is what forced concessions from the government and the bosses including the establishment of social security. It came about because of struggle on the streets and the jobs.

The majority of elderly at the time were facing poverty, destitution and even starvation. It was an important gain for all working people and yet it is now threatened with destruction.

The open effort to privatize social security and public pensions continues and the privatizers want this money to be pushed into the stock market where they can steal it.

In California, Governor Brown is also demanding that CALPERS, which is the pension plan for most state workers require new workers to go into 401k plans that would push privatization of the state pension plan and undercut the defined pension benefit system.

He also wants to raise the retirement age to 67 and the Republican party has publicly welcomed his so called “reform” plans for pensions in California.

Presently, the leaders of SEIU 1000 which represents more than 90,000 state employees and SEIU 1021 which represents more than 50,000 workers in Northern California are meeting with the governor and according to reports are already agreeing to make concessions on California pension plans. These top officials without a vote from their members have said that they will agree to raise the retirement age for workers to 65 and allow increased costs for pensions by employee in order to get a “deal” with the labor supported governor.

Have these union officials bought into the capitalist ideology that workers must share the cost for this crisis and public worker pensions are too high, is one question that needs to be asked?

At the same time, there are serious attacks on public pension plans that are the direct result of corruption and malfeasance by top politicians.

In Sacramento, SEIU 1000 member Scott Thomson who worked at the California State Teacher Retirement System discovered that many school principles, superintendents and community college executives were spiking their pensions by transferring into higher paid positions right before their retirement. This technique undermines the pension plans with millions of dollars of additional costs that come out of the pension plan.

Thomson understood that this was a threat to all retired teachers. He became a whistleblower and told state regulators that there were serious problems with spiking in the system.

Administrators were getting pay increases of 25 to 45% per year just before their retirement allowing for an escalating number of pensions over $100,000 a year. Of course, who gets attacked as a result of this but the regular working teacher who is lucky to make $25,000 a year after 30 years.

This is also used by those seeking to pit the public and unorganized workers against public workers attacking teachers and public workers for rich pensions. This corporate fed lie is just that, but unfortunately the public unions have not had a political education campaign to counter this false propaganda.

In the case of Scott Thomson, his whistle blowing was not welcomed, and the management of the State Teachers Retirement System instead of rectifying these manipulation of the pension system and going after the administrators and superintendents went after Thomson.

He was retaliated against and eventually fired by the managers of the agency for doing his job. This is not unusual however for whistleblowers in public agencies but is a regular occurrence.

When Scott Thomson went to his union SEIU 1000, The president Yvonne Walker refused to defend Thomson with a legal defense and also refused to take up a political campaign to expose this systemic corruption in the pension system.

The same union official Walker wanted to raise her salary by $25,000 a year within SEIU 1000, but was forced to drop her proposed salary increase after an angry reaction from members who have taken one hit after another on wages, benefits and conditions.

Now we apparently have the situation where these same officials are negotiating more give-backs on public worker pensions.

Maybe its time for public workers to ask when are their unions going to stand up against the political propaganda attacks on public workers, and the corruption cover-up by top officials and politicians that these same unions are giving millions of dollars to these same politicians without a vote of the rank and file members.

Isn’t it time to start fighting concession bargaining being pushed by these officials and also organize to defend the many Scott Thomson’s who are fighting against those who are harming public pensions and the public.

This is Steve Zeltzer with Work Week Radio.

[View the list]