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June 15, 2012
Posted On: Jun 08, 2012

 

One Day Longer
 
So we weren’t successful removing a governor that is directly tied to the rich and powerful. We tried and failed, this time. One thing I learned a long time ago is fame and popularity is fleeting. Walker will fall and we will be left standing. We were successful in Racine where John Lehman appears to have reclaimed his seat in the senate pending a recount. The soft middle of this state has been fooled by the crap the republicans were selling. In time they will come to realize that the issues and programs that are important to them will be under attack and then they will cry out. Hopefully somebody will be listening. All of us that are trade unionists understand that we will prevail. Unfortunately justice sometimes takes longer than we would like. Keep hope alive!
 
Walker’s $50 Million Doesn’t Sway Union Voters
 
We were up against Goliath, outspent 8 to 1, and although Gov. Walker’s millionaire and billionaire backers have bought this election – we made our voices heard.  Now, we show a nation that we will never stop fighting for the rights of working people. 

The coalitions, networks and grassroots tactics we have forged over the last 16 months will continue to provide the foundation for fighting back against corporate greed and power. 

An important distinction that many media outlets have failed to discuss is the difference between union households and union voters. 

The AFL-CIO conducted an exit poll of union members which showed that union members overwhelming voted for Tom Barrett.  Here are some of the results:

*    75% of union voters voted for Tom Barrett   
*    76% of union voters felt Scott Walker has divided the state, put wealthy and large corporations first
*    74% of union voters felt out of state spending influenced the election
*    84% of union voters felt out of state spending benefited Scott Walker

These are important figures to remember moving forward.  They show that union members understand the implications of Citizens United are well education on the issues important to working people and vote in their economic best interest. 

Union voters also showed that we are a force to be reckoned with, compromising 33% of all votes in Tuesday’s election.  And although Gov. Walker was the most well-funded politician in state history, we weren’t fooled by his millions. 

Going forward we are going to continue to advance an agenda for the 99%.  We are going to continue to organize, mobilize and make our voices heard in new and creative ways.  Tuesday’s recall election will be a spring board for a national discussion on Citizens United and the corporate takeover of American democracy.

Brothers and sisters, we all poured our hearts and souls into this election and while we did not recall Scott Walker, we reclaimed the State Senate and proved that working people will stand up and fight for our rights.
 
G.M. & Ford Pension buy outs
 salaried non bargaining unit retiree
 
General Motors Co. said Friday it will offer lump-sum pension buyouts to about 42,000 salaried retirees and offload its salaried retiree pensions to Prudential Insurance Co. of America — moves that will reduce its pension liability by $26 billion.
 
The announcement follows a similar offer from Ford Motor Co., which said Thursday it will offer pension buyouts to 98,000 qualifying white-collar retirees and former workers.
 
GM salaried retirees who are offered the lump-sum choice have until July 20 to make a decision. Payouts will come in September for those who take it. The lump sum payment will be based on factors including age, years of employment and current pension amount.
 
The Detroit-based automaker said it will spend $3.5 billion to $4.5 billion cash in the deal. That includes $1 billion cash used to fully fund the plan before transferring assets to Prudential, and another $3 billion to $3.5 billion to buy the annuity or contract from Prudential.
 
"We've made a big step forward," GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann said, adding it helps "toward our objective of de-risking our pension plans and will further strengthen our balance sheet and give us more financial flexibility going forward."
 
This is the latest effort by GM to reduce the world's largest pension obligations. The move will reduce GM's worldwide pension liabilities from $134 billion to $106 billion — and cut its salaried pension obligation from $36 billion to $10 billion.
 
GM will retain U.S. hourly pension plans with $71 billion in liabilities and $61 billion in assets. "Clearly, pension has continued to be a significant issue for General Motors," Ammann said. Ammann would not directly answer whether GM plans to make a similar offer to its U.S. hourly retirees. He declined to talk about discussions with the UAW about hourly pensions. "We're going to continue to look for opportunities down the road," he said.
 
UAW officials could not be reached for comment Friday.
 
GM will transfer $29 billion in assets from its salaried pension plans to Prudential in the move and said it "sets precedent for additional actions."The company expects to take special charges of between $2.5 billion to $3.5 billion in the second half of this year; the ongoing annual impact to its earnings will be a decrease of about $200 million, as a result of a drop in pension income.
 
Company officials also said the action is an important step toward regaining investment grade credit ratings.
Fitch Ratings said Friday that it views the moves as "incrementally positive to GM's credit profile," but it didn't change its ratings on the automaker. Fitch called the pension moves a "positive step in reducing the risk of future volatility in the company's cash pension obligations."
 
Moody's Investors Service also left GM's credit rating unchanged, saying the actions cancel each other out.
Bruce Clark, senior vice president at Moody's, said the deal comes at a cost for GM. When all is said and done, the company's total underfunded pension liability will be reduced by only $1 billion," he said in a statement.
Other analysts say the move will help GM in the long haul.
"We view this announcement favorably as it reduces GM's risk and improves their flexibility," wrote Joseph Spak, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC, in an investor note. "Moreover, we believe this sets a template to deal with the larger U.S. hourly worker pension obligation."
 
GM is offering buyouts to about 42,000 of its 118,000 salaried retirees and beneficiaries. Those eligible retired from GM on or after Oct. 1, 1997, and before Dec. 1, 2011. The automaker doesn't plan to offer lump sum buyouts to U.S. salaried workers who retired before 1997.
 
GM will buy a group annuity contract from Prudential Retirement, and Prudential will pay and administer future benefit payments to most of the remaining U.S. salaried retirees. As a result, GM won't be responsible for any current salaried pension retirees after the deal closes by year's end. The Detroit-based company also will establish a new pension plan for active salaried employees and terminate its current salaried pension plan.
GM's pensions grew worldwide from $22.2 billion underfunded to $25.4 billion. U.S. pension underfunding increased from $11.5 billion to $13.3 billion. The company has the world's largest pension plans with nearly $110 billion in assets.
 
In February, GM said as part of its strategy to "de-risk" its pension plans; it anticipated a more conservative growth in its investments. GM earned 8 percent on pension investments in 2011 and expects to earn 6.5 percent for its hourly pension plan and 5.7 percent for the salary pension plan.
 
GM said earlier it is freezing its salaried pension plan, which will mean salaried workers will stop accruing additional pension benefits after Sept. 30. Active plan participants will receive additional contributions to its 401(k)-style plan and an extra week of vacation. That change affects 19,000 salaried employees hired before 2001 who still receive traditional pensions, which provide retirees with a fixed amount of money each month for the rest of their lives.
 
As part of its new contract with the UAW reached last year, it barred new hourly workers from receiving defined benefit pensions. But the UAW said GM sought cuts in hourly pensions for older workers. The UAW rejected it. GM froze its cash balance pension plan for entry-level employees on Jan. 2, and expects to terminate it in June. Participants in the plan and all employees hired after October 2007 will participate in a defined contribution plan, GM said.
 
No Pension buys outs at Chrysler
 
The chief executive of Chrysler Group LLC said there was "no need" for the No. 3 U.S. automaker to follow its larger U.S. rivals in offering white-collar pension buyouts.
 
"There's no need for us to do it," CEO Sergio Marchionne said of the buyouts during a visit to a Fiat dealership in Austin on Monday. He did not expand on his comments. A growing concern for decades as U.S. automakers lost market share to foreign-based automakers in their home country, pension costs became an albatross for the U.S. industry with the sector's downturn five years ago.
 
Chrysler ended 2011 with a nearly $32 billion pension obligation and its pension plans were underfunded by $6.5 billion, according to its annual filing. The company's market value was around $7.5 billion at the end of 2011. Chrysler has just over 130,000 retirees. About 30,000 are former employees who were paid an annual salary while the rest are retired hourly workers represented by the United Auto Workers union.
 
Marchionne, who is also CEO of Italian automaker Fiat SpA (MIL:F), has been at the helm of Chrysler since the U.S. automaker emerged from the brink of collapse before its U.S.-funded bankruptcy in 2009. At that time, analysts said Chrysler would hold Fiat back, but in the last three years; the U.S. automaker has been Fiat's main source of strength as Europe's auto market weakens. Chrysler sales in the United States have jumped about 30 percent while the overall U.S. auto market has risen 13.4 percent during the first five months of the year.
Fiat has delayed the launch of its Bravo and Grande Punto cars to 2014. By contrast, Marchionne has not slowed spending on vehicle development in the United States.
 
"I have not slowed down one single dollar of spending in the United States," Marchionne said. "As a matter of fact, I've probably accelerated it in the last six months."
 
A sharp slowdown in jobs growth last month raised fears on Wall Street that the U.S. economic recovery may be foundering. Marchionne said the pace of the economy is slow, but there would not be an economic contraction. "If I have any concerns about the U.S. it's the potential impact coming from Europe, but it's not from internal issues," Marchionne said.
 
Myths about Canada’s Health Care System
 
Myth #2: Doctors in Canada are flocking to the United States to practice.
 
Every time I talk about health care policy with physicians, one inevitably tells me of the doctor he or she knows who ran away from Canada to practice in the United States. Evidently, there’s a general perception that practicing medicine in the United States is much more satisfying than in Canada.
Problem is, it’s just not so.
 
The Canadian Institute for Health Information has been tracking doctors’ destinations since 1992. Since then, 60 percent to 70 percent of the physicians who emigrate have headed south of the border. In the mid-1990s, the number of Canadian doctors leaving for the United States spiked at about 400 to 500 a year. But in recent years this number has declined, with only 169 physicians leaving for the States in 2003, 138 in 2004 and 122 both in 2005 and 2006. These numbers represent less than 0.5 percent of all doctors working in Canada.
 
So when emigration “spiked,” 400 to 500 doctors were leaving Canada for the United States. There are more than 800,000 physicians in the United States right now, so I’m skeptical that every doctor knows one of those émigrés. In 2004, net emigration became net immigration. Let me say that again. More doctors were moving into Canada than were moving out.
 
Myth #3: Canada rations health care; that’s why hip replacements and cataract surgeries happen faster in the United States.
 
When people want to demonize Canada’s health care system — and other single-payer systems, for that matter — they always end up going after rationing, and often hip replacements in particular.
 
Take Republican Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri, for example. A couple of years ago he took to the House floor to tell his colleagues: “I just hit 62, and I was just reading that in Canada [if] I got a bad hip I wouldn’t be able to get that hip replacement that [Rep. Dan Lungren] got, because I’m too old! I’m an old geezer now and it’s not worth a government bureaucrat to pay me to get my hip fixed.”
 
This has been debunked so often, it’s tiring. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, for example, concluded: “At least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year [2008] ... were on patients age 65 or older.” And more than 1,500 of those, it turned out, were on patients over 85. The bottom line: Canada doesn’t deny hip replacements to older people

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