The Labor Wire – April 12, 2019

Some 31,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) are on strike at Stop & Shop supermarkets across New England, walking off the job to fight back against slashed health care benefits. Stand with our brothers and sisters today and sign UFCW’s petition demanding that executives agree to a fair contract that reflects the true value of their workers.

Message of the Day—Support Stop & Shop Workers

Thanks to the tireless labor of tens of thousands of working people, Stop & Shop is thriving. Its parent company, Ahold Delhaize, recorded profits of more than $2 billion last year. Over the past three years, its shareholders have pocketed $4 billion in stock buybacks.

Yet, Stop & Shop executives want even more—and they’re targeting the same workers who built that immense wealth. Going nearly two months without a contract, UFCW members have faced threats to their wages, health care, retirement and overall livelihoods.

Walking out of more than 240 stores throughout New England, working people are standing up for their most fundamental rights and dignities in the country’s largest private-sector work stoppage in years.

Stand with them in this fight: Sign UFCW’s petition—and don’t cross a picket line!

Quote of the Day

“We have your back. Stand strong, brothers and sisters. The entire labor movement is standing with you.” — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) to striking UFCW members

Take Action

Support Stop & Shop workers!

 

 

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Striking UFCW members need your help!

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

31,000 workers at Stop & Shop supermarkets across Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have gone on strike.

Management at Stop & Shop presented its “final offer” to workers, which included significant cuts to health care, massive increases (more than 100% in some cases) to workers’ health care premiums and replacing wage increases with so-called bonuses. This represents a massive step backward, with many workers facing reduced weekly earnings if they agree to this final offer.

On top of this, Stop & Shop’s parent company reported more than $2 billion in profits last year. This is not the time to ask for concessions. Rather, this is a time to invest in the workers who have made Stop & Shop so successful and profitable. They deserve and have earned a better life.

The workers, who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, need your help to win a fair contract. Here is how you can help:

  1. Sign the petition to Stop & Shop management to let them know you stand with UFCW members as they fight for a fair contract.
  2. Continue to shop union. UFCW members work at a number of other supermarkets across the region. If you can’t shop at a union store, please shop elsewhere, but do not cross the picket line at Stop & Shop.

Thank you for your support as these 31,000 workers go out on strike for fair wages, decent benefits and a secure retirement. I will continue to update you as the strike progresses.

In Solidarity,

Rich
—————-
Richard Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

The US Mail IS Not For Sale!

On January 9, a bipartisan coalition in the House of Representatives took action to help combat the proposal to privatize the Postal Service by introducing House Resolution 33. It was followed on March 7 by a similar bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate, which introduced Senate Resolution 99. Rallies will take place ain every major city throughout the United States Monday, April 15 for the APWU’s Tax Day of Action. Join with our Sisters and Brothers of the APWU, 2:00 – 4:00 PM, at the Main Post Office, Downtown Cincinnati, Ohio at 1623 Dalton Avenue, and remember, The US Mail IS Not For Sale!

 

It’s Equal Pay Day

It’s Equal Pay Day and I need your help.

Americans are working harder and longer than ever, but wages remain too low for millions of families to make ends meet. The lack of basic labor protections makes it nearly impossible for many workers to balance the demands of job and family.

At this very moment, we have the opportunity to advance legislation—more than 20 years in the making—that will help close the pay gap between women and men. We need you to take action to ensure that the U.S. Senate passes the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7).

Add your name in support now.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) in January, passed the House of Representatives last week and is headed for the Senate. First introduced by DeLauro in 1997, the bill would begin to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act by:

  • Increasing penalties for wage discrimination and assuring that employers determine wages through the factors of experience, training and education rather than sex.
  • Directing federal agencies to collect data on compensation discrimination and share it publicly.
  • Barring retaliation against women who seek information on pay disparity in their workplace.

I need you to take action and add your name in support. Please click here to add your name.

In Solidarity,

Liz
—-
Liz Shuler
Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO


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State of the Union (Podcast Mar 25, 2019)

My co-host Tim Schlittner and I wanted to be sure you got the chance to listen to our newest episode, an interview with Reps. Brendan Boyle (Pa.) and Marc Veasey (Texas) of the House Blue Collar Caucus.

We need your help to make “State of the Unions” a success. Make sure to share with your friends and colleagues, and subscribe so you’ll know when we release the next episode.

In Solidarity,

Julie
——-
Julie Greene
Mobilization Director, AFL-CIO
Co-Host, “State of the Unions” Podcast

Vote To Raise the Minimum Wage

We are closer than ever to a historic vote to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour nationwide.

For millions of working people across the country, working 40 hours or more per week is not enough to make ends meet. In fact, one in nine U.S. workers are paid wages that leave them in poverty, even when working full time and year-round.

A new bill in Congress will gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour. This is an easy and necessary way to lift millions of working people out of poverty and get our economy moving.

Three weeks ago, lawmakers in the House brought that bill one step closer to a floor vote. Now, we’ve got to keep the momentum going.

We are counting on you to call your congressperson today. Help us get this bill passed! When you click to call, you’ll automatically be connected with your representative.

This is our chance to make a $15 per hour minimum wage a reality for ALL workers. Tell your congressperson that raising the wage is a win-win for workers and the economy. Raising the wage will mean our neighbors can worry less about where their next meal comes from or how to pay for rent. And it will improve the local economy and help small businesses.

Call the House and tell your congressperson to co-sponsor the Raise the Wage Act and vote yes when it comes to a floor vote.

Thank you for standing up for workers.

In Solidarity,

Rich
—————-
Richard Trumka
President, AFL-CIO

Salt in the wound

Some people say that Trump isn’t lifting a finger to help laid-off Ohio workers, but that’s not quite true — Trump is lifting exactly one finger, and he’s using it to tweet.

In the last few days, Trump has tweeted multiple times about Lordstown’s GM plant closing. But what did those tweets accomplish? Nothing. Not a single worker went back to their job and not a single family gained certainty about their next paycheck. But that’s part of the pattern with President Trump — insist that he can solve the problem, do nothing to solve it, then tweet about why someone else deserves the blame for his own failures.

Working families deserve better than Trump’s broken promises and empty tweets. And since the president won’t protect workers and their families, Congress must. Sign our petition and fight back.

Ohio’s laid-off workers have lost more than a paycheck, more than the health insurance their kids rely upon — they’ve also lost a piece of their identities and the sense of dignity that comes with a job well done.

Ohio families don’t have time to waste on a president who insists on rubbing salt into the wound, one tweet at a time. Sign my petition and stand up for the people Trump has forgotten.

With gratitude,

Sherrod

WWW.SHERRODBROWN.COM

Paid for by Friends of Sherrod Brown

Contributions or gifts to Friends of Sherrod Brown are not tax deductible.

Six guys on a roof…

I was 20 minutes late to my appointment this afternoon, interpreting between a Honduran guy with no documents who almost lost a fingertip at work a couple of months ago and an experienced Workers Comp lawyer maybe a decade away from retirement. In the building trades, if you’re not at least a half hour early, you’re late.  Lucky I just work on the fringes of the trades, and in this case was working for free.  The local worker center was foregoing any interpreting fee in the interest of helping people get compensation when they get hurt on the job, even if they don’t speak English, even if they’re working without documents. I’m on salary, paid by hardworking union members’ dues, so I have no excuse, but no one was

The lawyer thinks the system is fixed against workers generally, and increasingly so under Ohio’s rightward drift the last few years.  I’m pretty sure he’s a Democrat, but he thinks Strickland was terrible for workers, that he didn’t do anything as the legislature took away protections.  The Honduran, however, was going to be compensated, once a few obstacles were surmounted.  The doctor’s records were late in appearing, for one.  A functionary at BWC was going to cancel the case, but agreed to deny the claim instead, upon which the lawyer would appeal, and it would all go before a judge.  That would have had to happen anyway, even if the doctor’s office had been on the stick, because the second obstacle was that the employer was denying that the worker was an employee — instead he was listed as an independent contractor.  “It’s bullshit,” said the lawyer.  “Six guys on a roof, and they’re all independent contractors?  Bullshit.”

Not uncommon, however, especially when it comes to undocumented immigrants in the construction trades.  Does the worker own his own tools or does a supervisor provide them?  Does the worker decide when and where and how to do the work?  If the answers are no, yes, no, no, and no, the worker is likely legally an employee, even if the employer is 1099ing him.

Know what else is common with undocumented immigrants?  Lots of overtime hours with no overtime pay.  This worker got on the job at 8 and worked till the boss said to quit, sometimes for 70 hours a week, at $13 an hour.  The Mexican guy who got him the job would say that he had no right to overtime because he didn’t have any documents.  Not true, under Ohio law.  If someone works more than 40 hours in a week and they’re not in some exempt status like salaried workers, you owe that person time and a half for every hour above 40, whether they were born here or fooled you with a social security number they bought from some connected fellow immigrant.  The federal Department of Labor or the Ohio Department of Commerce will take the case and not ask a single thing about immigration status.  Otherwise we might find ourselves in a situation where employers routinely rob wages from their workers, and no one wants that.

The Mexican guy also told him that he wouldn’t get Worker’s Comp, it would be thrown out because he’s here illegally and doesn’t have any rights.  Not true.  His medical bills are now being paid through Worker’s Comp, and he’ll get some compensation for the time he’s been unable to work.

The other reason the Mexican guy said he’d lose his case was that the owner had better lawyers.  The Worker’s Comp attorney laughed when I translated this.  “He could hire Johnnie Cochran and F. Lee Bailey from the grave, and that wouldn’t change the fact that this guy’s an employee who got hurt on the job.”

Not too many people want a system in which employers cut corners on safety because they know they won’t be responsible when workers get hurt, either.

 

Paul Breidenbach

Labor-Community Mobilization Coordinator

 

Teen Vogue labor columnist and Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) council member Kim Kelly on “State Of The Unions”

“State of the Unions” co-hosts Julie Greene and Tim Schlittner wanted to be sure you got the chance to listen to their newest episode, an interview with Teen Vogue labor columnist and Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) council member Kim Kelly.

Listen to the new episode here.

We had the opportunity to discuss so many things with Kim. From her Teen Vogue column and forming a union at Vice Media to growing up in rural New Jersey and her desire for young people to challenge capitalism in today’s economy.

We need your help to make “State of the Unions” a success. Make sure to share with your friends and colleagues, and subscribe so you’ll know when we release the next episode.

In Solidarity,

Julie
——-
Julie Greene
Mobilization Director, AFL-CIO
Co-Host, “State of the Unions” Podcast

President Stretches Truth to its Breaking Point in Medicare Op-Ed

President Stretches Truth to its Breaking Point in Medicare Op-Ed

“Medicare for All” would Reduce Health Care Costs Overall

Statement from Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, in response to Donald Trump’s Wednesday USA Today op-ed:

 

“President Trump’s op-ed published in USA Today is factually incorrect on multiple levels. While attacking the idea of Medicare for All, he falsely claims that Democrats are to blame for cuts to this important program. In fact, Medicare’s solvency was extended and benefits were expanded as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

 “The reality is that this administration and a Republican-controlled Congress are taking aim at Medicare to cover the whopping deficits created by the 2017 Tax Scam. White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow on September 17, 2018 plainly stated that so-called “entitlement” spending, code for Medicare and Social Security, would be cut in 2019.

 “The President also claims that he would protect patients with pre-existing conditions and work to lower health insurance premiums. In fact, he has done the opposite. Rather than opposing the lawsuit brought by  GOP attorneys general seeking to end those protections specified in the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration declined to defend the law in court. Health insurance premiums are on the rise, and credible experts agree that sabotaging the ACA directly adds to the cost increases. Seniors receive annual wellness exams and preventive screenings for diseases such as colorectal cancer, diabetes and many others without co-pays or deductibles, and prescription drug discounts, because of the ACA.

 “The claim that Medicare for All will hurt seniors is simply untrue. Current versions of the Medicare for All bills include important new benefits for seniors, such as vision, dental and hearing coverage. They would also lower the cost of premiums and deductibles, lessening the financial burden that health care can bring to older Americans.

 “President Trump has not defended or protected Medicare. Older Americans have good reason to be concerned about the future of Medicare if his advisers have their way, not if Medicare for All is enacted.”


###                                                             

Contact: David Blank, 202-637-5275 or dblank@retiredamericans.org

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“We Have Never Depended on any Politician or Judge to Decide our Fate…”

Dear Sister, Brothers and Friends of Labor,

Yesterday, Republican appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court abandoned decades of common-sense precedent and issued a 5-4 opinion (Janus v. AFSCME Council 31) outlawing “fair share” fees in state and local government. The billionaires and corporate special interests that have manipulated our system of justice have succeeded in getting the highest court in the land to do their bidding.

Let me be perfectly clear, we have never depended on any politician or judge to decide our fate and we aren’t about to start now.

This decision comes just as public support for labor unions has risen to its highest level in years and workers are recommitting to unions with new organizing drives and growing ranks in important sectors of our economy right here in Ohio. In fact, just last year 262,000 more workers across the country organized and joined a union.

Until it is overturned, this decision will be a political stain on what is intended to be the most honorable, independent body in the world. But more importantly it will further empower the corporate elites in their efforts to thwart the aspirations of millions of working people standing together for a better life.

The labor movement, however, remains undeterred.

We applaud U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown who was quick to denounce the ruling saying, “The decision by this anti-worker Supreme Court is an attack on workers’ freedom to advocate for themselves.” Brown’s opponent however, Jim Renacci, made no excuses for being on the wrong side of workers by applauding the decision saying it is “a victory for the First Amendment.”

This case was part of a multipronged attack, being spearheaded this time by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a front group funded by corporate billionaires, including the notorious Koch brothers. Taking away the freedom of working people to join together in union is the primary goal, and eliminating fair share fees for public employees is the latest tactic.

Richard Corday, Ohio AFL-CIO endorsed candidate for Governor, saw through the dark web of corporations and wealthy donors who want to take away the freedoms of working people by sharply criticizing the decision while adding, “Unions bring a collective voice for fairness in the workplace, which has helped create Ohio’s middle class.” Cordray’s opponent, Mike DeWine, was apparently in hiding and did not comment.

We have faced similar attacks in Ohio and ultimately prevailed.

Powered by our members and carried by the expressed support of a vast majority of Ohioans, labor unions will continue to fight to sustain our families, improve our workplaces and make our communities stronger regardless of the court’s ruling.

In solidarity,

Tim
————-
Tim Burga, President

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Keynote Speaker at 48th Annual COPE Dinner

The 2018 Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE Dinner is sizing up to be a momentous event with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the eldest child of the late U.S. Senator and Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy as special guest and Keynote Speaker. Another featured guest will be Betty Sutton, former U.S. Representative for Ohio’s 13th congressional district and Richard Cordray’s running mate in the 2018 Ohio Governor’s race. We will also be sharing a video message prepared especially for us from U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. And finally, lending her immense vocal talents to our evening is twice EMMY nominated, award winning Jazz vocalist Kathy Wade. The 2018 event, “Out of the Shadows and Into the Light…A Celebration of Inclusion and Empowerment!” is an acknowledgment and recognition for the many courageous champions answering the call to fight for and defend hard-working families in 2018. It will be epic!

We are very excited to have Kathleen Kennedy Townsend as our Keynote Speaker. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is Director, Retirement Security at the Economic Policy Institute. She Founded the Center for Retirement Security at Georgetown University where she is a Research Professor.

She has served with distinction in both the private and public arenas.    She was Maryland’s first woman Lt Governor, and  served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

Prior to serving at the Department of Justice, Ms. Townsend led the fight to make Maryland the first—and only—state to make service a high school graduation requirement.

She has been appointed Special Advisor at the Department of State. She is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, has taught foreign policy at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland and has been a visiting Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  In the mid-1980s, she founded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

She Chaired the Institute of Human Virology founded by Dr. Robert Gallo, which treats over 700,000 patients in Africa as part of the PEPFAR program, has chaired the Robert Kennedy Memorial and has been on the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

She has served on a number of boards including the Export-Import Bank, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Wilderness Society, the Points of Light Foundation, the National Catholic Reporter and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Baltimore Urban League the Center for American Progress, Lightbridge Corporation  and New Tower Trust. Ms. Townsend is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue. She is the Vice-Chair of the Future of Science conference held in Venice Italy.

An honors graduate of Harvard University, Ms. Townsend received her law degree from the University of New Mexico where she was a member of the law review. She has received fourteen honorary degrees. Ms. Townsend’s book, Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Mixed God with Politics and Lost Their Way has been published by Warner Books in March 2007. 

About The Cincinnati AFL-CIO COpe Dinner 

The COPE Dinner is an important fundraiser for the Committee on Political Education. COPE sponsors voter registration, voter education, candidate screenings and endorsements, Meet-the Candidates Night, sample ballots, Chronicler, and Get-Out-the-Vote activities. 

Contributions to the Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE are not deductible for income tax purposes. Tickets may be purchased individually, out of general funds or out of political action accounts.

To make your reservation, Please make checks payable to Cincinnati AFL-CIO COPE and send along with your registration to Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, 1385 Tennessee Avenue – 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45229. For further information contact Brian Griffin, Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council Director of Communication at info@cincinnatiaflcio.0436361.netsolhost.com.

What Makes You Eligible for Medicare

What Makes You Eligible for Medicare

By RetireMEDiQ

To be eligible for Medicare, there are certain requirements you must meet. You qualify for full Medicare benefits if:

  • You are 65 or older
  • You are a permanent legal resident who has lived in the United States at least five years or are a US Citizen; and
  • You (or your spouse) are eligible for Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits; or
  •  You (or your spouse) are a government employee or retiree who has not paid into Social Security but has paid Medicare payroll taxes while working.

Are There Exceptions to These Requirements?

In some cases, you may be eligible to apply for full Medicare coverage under the age of 65. To qualify for early Medicare coverage, you must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • You’ve been entitled to Social Security disability benefits for at least 24 consecutive (or non-consecutive) months; or
  • You receive a disability pension from the Railroad Retirement Board and meet certain conditions; or
  • You have Lou Gehrig’s disease, which qualifies you immediately
  • You have permanent kidney failure that requires regular dialysis or a kidney transplant — and you or your spouse has paid Social Security taxes for a certain length of time, depending on your age.

Be Aware of Special Circumstances

You already have Medicaid. If you have Medicaid, you can also enroll in Medicare if you meet the eligibility requirements for both programs (sometimes referred to as dual eligibility). If you have both Medicare and Medicaid, Medicare will act as your primary insurance and Medicaid will be secondary. Through Medicaid, you may be eligible to receive financial assistance for your prescription drug costs and possibly even your Part B premiums.

You live outside of the US or in Puerto Rico. If you live outside the US, even if you are a US citizen, Medicare will likely not provide coverage to you. If you live in Puerto Rico and are receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits, you can receive Medicare benefits. You will automatically be enrolled in Part A, but you will probably have to manually enroll in Part B, if you wish to receive it.

You have or plan to get COBRA. If you are trying to decide between getting COBRA or Medicare, we understand how confusing this decision process can be. We strongly encourage you to contact one of our Benefit Advisors to discuss your situation and get their expert advice on what to do. If you already have COBRA and aren’t sure what to do when you turn 65, it may make most sense for you to plan to enroll in Medicare during your Initial Enrollment Period. We encourage you to contact one of our Benefit Advisors to discuss the details of your situation and receive personalized advice on what is the ideal choice for you.

How other benefits (Social Security, Railroad Retirement Board, Veterans Affairs, TRICARE, etc.) could impact your Medicare benefits. If you receive retirement benefits from another source, Medicare may or may not work with those benefits. We encourage you to contact one of our Benefit Advisors to find out more about how Medicare may work with your benefits and what the right steps are for you.

How to know if you will pay for Part A or receive it premium free. Part A includes a monthly premium, however most people do not have to pay this. You can get “premium-free” Part A if you or your spouse paid Medicare taxes while working for at least 10 years (40 quarters). If you do not qualify for premium-free Part A, the monthly premium in 2018 is $422.

When you do/don’t need to enroll in Medicare Part A and/or Part B. Many retirees find that they automatically receive Medicare Part A and Part B benefits when they first become eligible for Medicare at age 65. However, there are some instances where you may have to manually sign up for Medicare benefits or even manually delay them to avoid penalties.You may receive Medicare Part A and/or Part B benefits automatically if:

  • You are already receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board benefits.
  • You are under 65 and have a disability.
  • You have ALS (also called Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Expert tip: If you are automatically enrolled, you will receive your red, white & blue Medicare card in the mail 3 months before you turn 65 or during your 25th month of disability.

You may need to manually enroll in Part A or Part B if:

  • You aren’t receiving Social Security or Railroad Retirement Board Benefits (due to employment or other circumstances)
  •  You qualify for Medicare due to End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD)

We strongly encourage you to contact one of our advisors to discuss your situation and ensure you know what to expect for your Medicare Part A and Part B eligibility. If you miss your chance to enroll in these benefits, or if you plan to continue working and fail to delay them, you could incur penalties that add unnecessary expense and stay with you for life.

How Medicare works with your employer insurance. When you have Medicare coverage as well as employer coverage, your plans are subject to “coordination of benefits” rules. Various factors contribute to who pays first for your medical expense, like the size of your employer. For more information, visit Medicare.gov for specific scenarios or call us to talk about your specific situation with one of our expert advisors.

How Can I Be Sure That I am Eligible?

If you want to do a quick check on your eligibility and see what your premium might cost, Medicare.gov offers a calculator.

A note from our Benefit Advisors: We know this is confusing! If you have questions, we are here to provide answers. Call us at 1-877-291-4110 or www.retiremediq.com/aflcio.

How are Social Security and Medicare Related?

By RetireMEDiQ 

Because of the close relationship between Medicare and Social Security, people often get these two programs confused. Although there are connections between Medicare and Social Security, they are actually two separate government programs. Working with Medicare on a daily basis gives us perspective on the relationship between Social Security and Medicare that we want to share with you! 

Medicare vs. Social Security 

Medicare: government-funded health coverage for people over the age of 65, those with certain chronic disabilities and individuals with End Stage Renal Disease. 

Social Security: a government pension for people over the age of 62 and those with chronic disabilities. 

How Are Medicare and Social Security Related? 

Many recipients of Medicare are also eligible to receive Social Security benefits and vice versa. In addition to eligibility, there are a few other ways that Medicare and Social Security overlap. 

Enrollment: Both programs run initial enrollment through the Social Security Administration. When you first enroll in a Medicare plan or if you need to defer your Medicare coverage (for example, to go back onto an employer plan), you would do so through the Social Security Administration. 

Premiums: Social Security pension amounts are factored into annual Medicare premium increases. The most common payment method for the Part B premium is through automatic deductions from a Social Security pension. 

Eligibility: If an individual collects Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits, they become eligible for and are automatically enrolled in Medicare. Similarly, if a person is collecting Social Security when they turn 65, they are automatically enrolled onto Medicare (they have the option to defer Medicare if they have other coverage). 

Additional Assistance: Medicare offers multiple levels of assistance to those on Medicare. These programs help cover expenses such as premiums and prescription costs. Applicants must contact the Social Security Administration in order to apply. 

If you have any questions regarding the relationship between Medicare and Social Security, please contact us at 1-877-291-4110 or www.retiremediq.com/aflcio

COPE 2018 Special Guest Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is Director of the Retirement Security at the Economic Policy Institute. She Founded the Center for Retirement Security at Georgetown University where she is a Research Professor.

She has served with distinction in both the private and public arenas. She was Maryland’s first woman Lt Governor, and served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States.

Prior to serving at the Department of Justice, Ms. Townsend led the fight to make Maryland the first—and only—state to make service a high school graduation requirement.

She has been appointed Special Advisor at the Department of State. She is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, has taught foreign policy at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Maryland and has been a visiting Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. In the mid-1980s, she founded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.

She Chaired the Institute of Human Virology founded by Dr. Robert Gallo, which treats over 700,000 patients in Africa as part of the PEPFAR program, has chaired the Robert Kennedy Memorial and has been on the Board of Directors of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

She has served on a number of boards including the Export-Import Bank, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), the Wilderness Society, the Points of Light Foundation, the National Catholic Reporter and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Baltimore Urban League the Center for American Progress, Lightbridge Corporation and New Tower Trust. Ms. Townsend is also a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Inter-American Dialogue. She is the Vice-Chair of the Future of Science conference held in Venice Italy.

An honors graduate of Harvard University, Ms. Townsend received her law degree from the University of New Mexico where she was a member of the law review. She has received fourteen honorary degrees. Ms. Townsend’s book, Failing America’s Faithful: How Today’s Churches Mixed God with Politics and Lost Their Way has been published by Warner Books in March 2007.

The Future of the VA is at Stake

Pending legislation on Capitol Hill could lead to a total dismantling and privatization of the health care system our veterans want and need.

We need you to pick up the phone and call your lawmaker at 833-480-1637 and tell them you strongly oppose to the VA MISSION Act (S. 2372), which is moving through Congress and could lead to the privatization of the VA.

The federal union, AFGE, has proposed 7 changes that would protect the future of the VA health care system – including keeping essential primary care services within the VA. Yet none of these changes were made in Congress. Every dollar spent on privatized care deprives our veterans of the specialized care offered in our VAs – specialized care that saves their lives and helps veterans heal faster.

The VA MISSION Act (S. 2372)

• The legislation gives a VA Secretary the authority to privatize and dismantle broad swaths of the VA health care system;
• The legislation gives the next VA Secretary broad authority to dismantle the VA at a time when the VA faces intense political pressure to pursue privatization;
• The legislation will devastate communities by closures of vibrant VA medical centers;
• The legislation will lead to privatization at the expense of full-staffing and resources needed for VA’s in-house operations.

We need you to pick up the phone and call your lawmaker at 833-480-1637 and tell them you strongly oppose the VA MISSION Act (S. 2372), which is moving through Congress and could lead to the privatization of the VA.

In Solidarity,

Tim
—————-
Tim Burga, President
Ohio AFL-CIO

How Higher Education Is Eating Its Young

Part I in a series
By: John Zurick
Founder/President, Zurick Artificial Intelligence, LLC

 

It was my privilege recently to attend a lecture/demonstration in Florida by naturalist, Otter John. Included in the menagerie of his wild companions was a three-year-old alligator, who leveled icy eyes at his captive audience as Otter John paraded him around the meeting room, offering each of us a close-up stare-down. “There are over one-and-a-quarter-million alligators living in Florida,” Otter John reported as he held the three-foot gator out as if it were a cuddly toddler. “There would be considerably more of these cute little gators,” he continued, “except that more are eaten before reaching full size than survive…by bigger gators.” Alligators eat their young! Who knew?!

I lay awake that night thinking how much alligators eating their young is like higher education in America. In fact, in some ways, it might be better to be a young alligator victim than a higher education victim. A young alligator’s end comes quickly. The capture and drowning are sudden. The bigger gator makes a mighty chomp, wrestles the youngster to the bottom of a body of water in the famous gator “death roll,” chomps mightily on the little one a couple more times and it’s over for the precious devils.

Higher education, on the other hand, drowns its victims slowly, in debt and despair, over lifetimes. The trap is set long before college with the false promise, often referred to as, The American Dream, i.e. America is the land of opportunity. And college is your ticket to financial and social upward mobility. Implicit in this promise is the notion that anyone who goes to college can realize their dreams of a sustainable, purposeful, fulfilling life. In the post-World War II GI Bill era, this promise actually delivered. Higher education was accessible and affordable, with exponential returns on a student’s investments of time and money. Not so now.

Finish high school with moderate-to-high academic achievement and you can find multiple colleges that will take you. Or finish high school with low passing grades, or get your GED, and there’s still a school for you. If you can’t find a bona fide college, community college or university that accepts you, no worries. A glut of for-profit schools will take just about anybody. Can’t afford to pay for college? (Few people can these days.) Not a problem. Fill out a couple forms. And with your acceptance, your school will send you a financial aid plan showing you how to cover the costs, including how to cover some, most, or all of the costs with loans. It’s a bait and switch for all but the most privileged and savvy applicants. For most borrowers, and at far too many schools, student loan debt is their ticket on a train running backwards to financial and social subordination.

Today three out of four students borrow to meet their higher education costs. Those who rack up the most debt, are often the best off, relatively. Their debt is higher because they are in 2 the overall 50% of two-year and four-year students who stay in school and finish their degrees on time. The other 50% of today’s college students leave school before their two years or four years are up. The students who drop out find themselves with debt and in a workforce that offers no advantage for people whose resumes read, “some college.”

The borrowers with degrees have a reasonable chance of finding salaried jobs that pay a living wage. Yet over 70% of borrowers with degrees and fulltime jobs are burdened by their debt.

Numerous studies confirm that tens-of-millions of borrowers with degrees are having trouble making ends meet. They are having trouble affording a car. They are delaying buying a house. They are even having difficulties meeting the daily necessities of food, clothing and shelter. They are delaying saving money, getting married and starting a family. They are unable to afford to work within their intended career paths. They are unable to afford to work in the public sector.

Graduate degrees are unaffordable. And they are not able to start new businesses. These are the borrowers with the jobs made possible by finishing their degrees. The borrowers who drop out before finishing their degrees have less debt. But with no degree beyond a high school diploma, their employment opportunities are severely limited, and the burden of their debt is onerous. Multiple hourly wage jobs are required to make their loan payments, If they have children or other dependents, their student loan debt can be crushing.

The facts are stunning.

  • Tuition has been rising at twice the rate of inflation for over twenty years.
  • Total student loan debt is $1.5 trillion: an increase of more than 150% over that past ten years; totaling 60% more than all credit card debt in America; second only to home mortgage debt.
  • Number of student loan borrowers with outstanding loans: 44,500,000…one in every four American adults, two-thirds of all Millennials.
  • Average debt upon graduation: $37,000.
  • Number of non-borrowers who are helping a family member or friend make payments: 8,360,000.
  • Amount of student loans in default: $268 billion…more than the $208 billion in sub-prime mortgage defaults in 2007 at the collapse of the housing market.
  • Average new student loan defaults per day: 3,000; one-third of borrowers in default owed less than $10,000.
  • Borrowers with loans in deferment: 16,700,000.
  • More people per capita over the age of 25 are living at home with their parents than at any time over the past 135 years.

The truth is personal and painful. The pursuit of higher education has become a scourge on millions of Americans. Lifelong consequences are triggered by decisions too often made blithely. Hopeful young people take on debt, not knowing the cost, believing higher education is a surefire path to easy repayment and a life of prosperity.

When payments come due and reality sets in, most borrowers turn first to their loan servicers, the companies that send out the bills, collect the payments, and address borrowers’ questions/concerns/cries for help. With over 44 million borrowers, 75 million loans, 3,000 loan defaults per day, and an opaque web of loan structures, repayment plans, deferral and forbearance options, as well as variable penalties for delinquencies and defaults, at any given time thousands of borrowers are looking for help. The demand on the servicers and collection agencies for repayment strategies and problem-solving is beyond their capacity to meet effectively.

Borrower options for self-guided, internet-based problem solving are limited, often user unfriendly, and frequently predatory. The backstop to the demand for borrower support is a loan servicer or collection agency telephone call center. Wait times prevail. Telephone agent knowledge is limited, and in many cases, biased to favor the financial interests of the servicers and collection agencies the agents represent. Borrowers can be led into “solutions” that generate higher fee payments to the servicers or debt collectors, but send the borrowers into a vortex of initial low payments and higher interest rates that multiply rather than pay down the debt.

How painful is the truth? Working two minimum wage jobs with two kids at home, no degree, defaulted student loans, no credit, garnished wages, tax refunds withheld by the IRS, no idea what to do next… Living at home with your parents because you can’t afford your own housing… Waiting tables on weekends because your salaried day job doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet… Married, over 30, and unable to afford starting a family… Owing student debt twice the amount of your annual salary… Believing that going to college was the biggest mistake you will ever make. The truth is your spirit drowning in debt.

Higher education in America is in an existential crisis.

Overall, higher education costs more and more and is worth less and less. Required humanities curricula no longer qualify graduates for jobs they can happily live on. Tuition increases are out of control. Federal and state governments regularly cut education funding, as if it’s a discretionary use of taxpayer dollars. Alumni donors are funding basketball arenas, and fitness centers with climbing walls and hot tubs, rather than scientific research and academic enrichment. Fortunes are being made by shareholders in for-profit colleges that overpromise, overcharge, and under deliver; they produce the lowest graduation rates and highest default rates in continuing education; and, they derive most of their revenues from federally funded student loans.

This is the truth we all need to acknowledge. Once the world’s model of progressive learning, free thinking and democratic access, higher education in America has become a dysfunctional $1.5 billion industrial complex funded primarily by student debt. The weight of it all is biting the hands that feed it. It’s eating its young.

Coming next: Part II, Saving Continuing Education

John Zurick is a social enterprise builder. Zurick Artificial Intelligence, LLC is the developer of PrestoSolvo® Student Loan Solutions  

“Labor has fueled the fire in me…” – The Movement Through the Eyes of a Student Intern

As a new communications intern with the Cincinnati Labor Council and Interfaith Worker Center, I have been thrown right into deciphering and understanding the labor movement. Not only have I gained some knowledge and started to understand labor’s background, but I’ve realized I have so much more to learn about the history, politics, and social aspects that have shaped the AFL-CIO.

I am a Communications and Public Relations student at Xavier University with minors in Gender and Diversity Studies and Peace and Justice Studies. My intent is to use my communications education to work for and with those that have traditionally been marginalized in society, which is why I have chosen my specific minors. As I enter my last year of undergrad I have started to reflect on my time in college, where I want to go next, and how I have been shaped by my upbringing and work experiences.

I was not raised with any awareness as to what unions were and what they provided for the U.S. As a result, I have come into the AFL-CIO with a blank slate, an open mind, and a heart that holds a passion for social justice. My interest in justice was sparked when I came to Xavier and saw the difference I had the potential to make in the community around me. My interest is now being stretched and challenged by this internship in a way that I am very grateful of.

I have done a fair amount of research on unions and put pieces of the puzzle together as I witness the movement first hand. Despite the hours of research I have sifted through, I have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the complexity of unions, labor, and the politics that surround them. Intrigued by the complexity, I decided that there was far too much to delve into with just one or two posts.

Politics, human rights, immigration, gender and diversity, and history all play major roles in the way we understand the workforce in America today. I am going to dive deeper into each of these topics, which will include segments written about Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Vietnam War, legislation that has shaped the modern day workforce, and the polarized divide that political parties are facing right now.

While doing this, I am going to provide my perspective as a young woman readying herself to enter the workforce. Though I am still unsure of what path I want to carve for myself, I do know that working at the Labor Council and Worker Center has fueled the fire burning in me to help, speak, and stand for and with others. I want to focus on the future, not only my future, but the shared tomorrow that is at stake if we do not critically look back on the past to learn from the successes and mistakes on all sides. I hope to provide a fresh perspective to past and present issues as well as an outlook for the future of unions.

“A Better Tomorrow… Changing the World and Brightening the Future”

You can learn anything from any opportunity that comes your way in life. Everyday that I come to the Cincinnati Labor Council and Interfaith Workers Center that’s exactly what I do, learn. As a new communications intern alongside Kate George, I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone and engulf myself into the world of Labor and begin to understand the history of it, why it matters, and what it is going to take to keep laborers and unions strong and going on for years to come. I couldn’t name a better place to start than where I am right now.

I am a Communications major at Xavier University with a focus in Broadcast Journalism. My goal with my studies is to bring certain topics and stories from behind the shadows and into the light and labor would surely be something to do that with. Although this internship is my first real leap into the world of unions, and labors I am no stranger to the topic at all.

My mother works at a manufacturing company where she is an active member of the Local 390 union. I’ve heard countless stories first hand from her about how important it is that employees know their rights when it comes to their work, and how the union plays a big part in that. Now more than ever I understand exactly what she means by this and my interest has been sparked. As I’ve been doing research about the history of labor and unions and where we are now in the present, more than ever do people need to be educated on the importance of not only joining the unions, but being aware of what the union is doing for working people such as us millennials, everyday. I’ve recently finished up my first year of Undergrad and as I prepare to move forward in my education and in my life I want to incorporate everything I’ve been learning here into all of my future endeavors and strive to make a difference that will have a lasting impact.

One thing that I am a huge advocate for is the use of social media. Maybe it’s because of how simple it is to use, or maybe it is because it’s been around me for most of my life. Either way it its a great tool to spread the word about anything you are passionate about and want others to know about as well. Here at the CLC and CIWC we’ve been encouraged to dive into projects head first and use the tools around us, such as social media, to help bring awareness about issues we care about and connect others and that is what I love the most.

Coming into the AFL-CIO I didn’t know what to expect, but I am very grateful for how open they’ve allowed us to be with the labor movement. They’ve allowed us to formulate our own ideas and talk about what really matters and stands out to us and its just been a great environment to learn and grow in. In a few years I’ll be graduating from college and preparing to officially enter the workforce and I hope that it is a fair and equal opportunity environment. The workforce is changing everyday and we have the power to make sure that it is changing for the better for future generations to come.

 Although I am not completely sure about everything I want to do in life, I know that working here has opened my eyes and has truly made me want to stand together in solidarity with everyone. I can really say that this internship has made me whole-heartedly want to continue to strive to have the best interest for everyone at heart. I especially want to focus on making a better tomorrow for the many young African American citizens who want to take a shot at changing the world and brightening the future for themselves and for our neighbors. We must work together to move forward and right the wrongs of the past and continue to educate everyone on these social justice topics because separate we cant accomplish much but together we can conquer all.

* Markeshia Jackson, Xavier Communications Intern.