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With the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) set to descend on Dallas from July 30th to August 1st for its annual meeting, it’s the perfect time to take a look at one of the most powerful political forces most Americans have never heard of.

ALEC is basically a corporate front group that drafts conservative “model” legislation that Republican state legislatures adopt verbatim into law. From using voter ID laws to restrict voting rights, to relaxing consumer and environmental protections, to assaulting public-employee unions, to slashing retirees’ pensions, ALEC is at work across the country pushing an agenda that aims to maximize the profits of its corporate backers at the expense of workers, retirees, and the public at large. When the Koch brothers or executives at Exxon Mobil are looking to further their interests at the state level, they go through ALEC.

A former member of the group, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), describes ALEC as

a corporate-funded and dominated group that operates much like a dating service, only between legislators and special interests.
The model is pretty simple. ALEC uses corporate money to wine and dine politicians and flies them out for all-expense-paid conferences where they connect directly with their corporate patrons. In closed-door meetings ALEC politicians and corporate representatives draft “model” legislation designed to protect moneyed interests. When ALEC politicians head back to their home states, they bring exact copies of these bills in tow, pass them off as their own, and push aggressively to turn them into law.

Beyond the free trips, free food, and free drinks, ALEC gives corrupt politicians a direct channel to corporate dollars. By connecting state legislators with some of the biggest corporations in the world, ALEC lets these politicians line up potential donors and scope out future employers.

As word about ALEC’s agenda has spread, Americans across the country have started to stand up and say “Enough is enough.”

When ALEC is in Dallas from July 30th to August 1st for its annual meeting, workers and retirees will be out in force to put a spotlight on the shadowy group. The Dallas-Fort Worth area chapters of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans are working with North Texas Jobs with Justice and an anti-ALEC coalition to organize a number of upcoming events in order to draw attention to ALEC’s anti-retiree and anti-worker agenda, putting pressure on ALEC-linked politicians to cut ties with the corporate-backed organization.

Below is a clip of Gene Lantz, President of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, and Jim Rivers, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans board member/Fort Worth Chapter President, talking about ALEC's meeting in Dallas and why workers and retirees are fighting back against ALEC.

There are a number of ways to get involved:

Leading up to the start of ALEC’s conference on July 30th, there will be coalition meetings each Wednesday at 6:30 PM at 1408 N Washington Ave. Dallas, TX 75204.  

On July 26th a teach-In will be held from 10am to noon at 1408 N Washington Ave. Dallas, TX 75204.

The main protest and rally will be on July 30th with the protest beginning at 11am at Community Brewery at 1530 Inspiration Dr. Dallas, TX 75207. A panel discussion is scheduled to follow from 2pm to 4pm. Jobs With Justice Texas put out a flyer with information about the day's activities.


On Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) gave a speech at the National Press Club in which he laid out his sweeping proposal to confront the nation’s retirement security crisis through cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Widely viewed as a potential candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, his speech followed comments aired last Sunday in which he said that he felt he was qualified to be president.

He began the speech by laying out policy changes involving retirement savings plans and incentives for older workers to remain in the workforce. The core of Senator Rubio's  proposal for Social Security, however, is to raise the retirement age- a move that would force millions of Americans to work even longer to collect the benefits they have earned. Although Senator Rubio cited the “rise in life expectancy” as the rationale for this change, his proposal would disproportionately harm low-income and minority seniors who have not seen their life expectancies rise in step with other workers.

Senator Rubio also used to the speech to endorse Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) proposal to end the Medicare guarantee by privatizing the program and converting it to a voucher system. Under the proposed changes, Medicare would be replaced by a system in which seniors would be given a voucher redeemable towards the purchase of either private insurance or a modified Medicare plan. Since these vouchers would almost certainly fail to cover the full cost of coverage, seniors would be expected to make up the difference out of pocket. Adopting such a system would result in millions of seniors paying more for coverage.

Tony Fransetta, President of the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, responded to the proposal by saying,

Senator Rubio is once again politically posturing himself while ignoring the real needs of Florida retirees and working families. I am insulted that he is pitting older generations against younger ones and trying to convince my grandkids to settle for less than what they deserve, which is a secure retirement that they earn through their work.
There is a sharp contrast between Sen. Rubio's proposal and the vision offered by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Linda Sanchez, who introduced the Strengthening Social Act. Rather than trying to improve Social Security by forcing Americans to work longer, their proposal would enhance benefit calculations, provide a more accurate method for calculating cost of living adjustments, and see all workers, including the very wealthy, pay their fair share into the system. Their proposal would actually provide a modest increase in benefits and extend the life of the Social Security Trust fund.  

Sen. Rubio claims his proposals are designed to improve the nation's retirement security crisis, but in reality they would only make things worse. If his ideas are adopted, Americans will be forced to work for years longer and see more of their hard-earned retirement income going to cover out of pocket medical costs.

Photos by Chris Todd.
Danny Glover: Mississippi was the battleground for the civil rights movement and now the global workers' rights movement.
“Tell Nissan: Labor rights are civil rights”

Last Friday, rapper Common performed a concert at Jackson State University in support of the workers at Nissan’s Canton, Mississippi plant. He was joined by actor Danny Glover, local performance artists, Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan (MAFFAN) members, Nissan workers, and student supporters from Mississippi Student Justice Alliance (MSJA) and Concerned Students for a Better Nissan (CSBN). Puff Daddy/Sean "Diddy" Combs lent his support to employees working for a union at Nissan's plant in Mississippi via video message.

The event was an expression of support for Nissan auto workers in Canton, Mississippi, who are fighting for a fair union election and a voice in their workplace at Nissan in coordination with the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).

Many at the plant have tried to push for a vote to join UAW for the last several years, but Nissan has fought unionization. A vote would be particularly significant on the heels of the failed vote at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant, where union activists have appealed the result, arguing that workers were unfairly intimidated into voting against joining.  If successful, the vote will offer UAW another opportunity to represent its first foreign-owned plant in the South, and provide a launching pad for UAW.

Danny Glover, who is also a humanitarian and activist, said,

“Of all the worker struggles around the world, the Nissan workers of Mississippi stand out to me. For a place that’s one of the most important battle grounds of the civil rights movement to now be the center of the global workers’ rights movement is significant. I am committed to the campaign to win the right to organize for Nissan workers."
Workers and retirees in and out of the auto industry are following these events.

Retired UAW member and president of the Nevada Alliance for Retired Americans, Scott Watts said,

"As a UAW retiree, I know what it means to be able to collectively bargain for working conditions, wages and benefits, including a pension. Nissan workers will have a chance very soon to vote for union recognition at the plant which will mean, if successful, they will sit down with the corporation to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. I wish them a very successful election and collective bargaining agreement."
He continued,
"The ability to bargain collectively in many ways means the difference between leading a middle class life or falling below that, between having some semblance of economic security in your working years and in retirement or not. It also allows workers to contribute their valuable voice when it comes to safety issues on the job. This is so important. It's what we want for today's Nissan workers. If and when the Nissan workers are coerced or intimidated, we will speak out and take collective action to support them."
UAW retiree and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans president, Tony Fransetta said,
"Nissan and other Japanese automakers cooperate with unions in Japan, but Nissan has fought the ability of  their American plants to come together to form a union tooth and nail, denying the American workers the same rights that Japanese and other foreign workers have. They try to put an American face on the Nissan company while denying the American workers equal rights for a voice at work."
He added,
"American workers should not be treated as less than workers in Japan, Brazil or other foreign countries."
More info on concert & issue here and here.

Further means testing Medicare harms the middle class

Today, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) joined the Medicare Rights Center, Social Security Works and the Alliance for Retired Americans on a press conference call to release 150,000 petition signatures against further means testing Medicare and discuss the myriad reasons why further means testing is wrong.

The tone of the call was set in the opening remarks, with the comment that there are some issues in which citizens are ahead of policy makers, and where “the American people become leaders” and that preserving Medicare is one of those issues. Congresswoman Schakowsky  discussed the policy objectives at play, both of those who wish to cut benefits through items like chained CPI, increased means testing, and other cost sharing vehicles and those like herself, who “have seen seniors at the end of the month lining up at food pantries, even in wealthier suburbs.”  Schakowsky noted, “At least one in five seniors are already cutting back on health care because they can’t afford it.” She also pushed for congressional action for Medicare being giving the ability to negotiate drug prices, saying that it was a far superior fiscal policy than other proposals, like means testing Medicare.

Charlie Hogan, AFSCME retiree and Alliance for Retired Americans member, echoed Rep. Schakowsky’s call to put aside Medicare cuts, saying that “Austerity will not work, we cannot cut our way out.” As a union activist, he suggested that solutions can come from the American people. He said, “there is good common sense out here”, and if we could “find a way to make the table bigger” we could make great progress towards ensuring the strength of Medicare and Social Security.

Stacy Sanders of the Medicare Rights Center, articulated why means testing is ineffectual and dangerous. She laid out a list of three reasons why:

-Medicare is already means tested;
-Means testing means higher health care costs for the middle class; and
-More means testing would undermine the universality and integrity of Medicare
Dr. Ben Veghte, Research Director for Social Security Works, pointed out that the average senior's Social Security benefits are equivalent to a minimum wage income, about $15,000/year. He also said, “Indirectly, Social Security benefits have been cut  by rising out-of-pocket health care costs over the last two decades. Today, out-of-pocket health care costs eat up over a third of the Social Security check of the average senior.” He added, “Our health care system is currently twice as expensive as most other Western countries’, there are a number of proposals that would reduce health care costs, not just shift costs onto seniors,” and further means testing Medicare is “bad public policy in all respects.”

Overall, the message of the call was clear: Cuts to Medicare's earned benefits  are not an option; we must keep fighting for the right for today's and tomorrow's seniors to retire with dignity.  

Means testing Medicare harms middle class, not the wealthy. The 150,000 signatures encouraging President Obama to drop the idea of means testing Medicare released today is just a small sampling of the American public who insist we must keep Medicare strong, keep its promise and not cut it.


Below is an Alliance for Retired Americans video featuring long-term care expert and registered Republican Margaret Niederer explaining why she feels strongly that GOP front-runner and millionaire Bruce Rauner is "wrong for seniors and wrong for the state of Illinois." She is one of many seniors and Illinois residents who hope that Rauner doesn't make it out as the GOP primary pick tomorrow.

Niederer doesn't buy Rauner's defense that he did not know what was happening at his company. She has encountered many nursing home organizations who manage to shift blame and ultimately avoid taking accountability for their actions. Niederer also noted that a couple proven instances of abuse and neglect usually indicate many more. If this is the way that Rauner's business works, Niederer does not feel his plan to run the state of Illinois like his business is a good one.

The theme of profit over people plays out time and again. It will be a problem if Rauner wins this primary and even ends up in the Illinois Governor's seat. Corporate interests and the bottom line at any cost must not take precedence over the people of Illinois.

L-R: Charlie Hogan, Scott Marshall, Drunita Steward and Mary Edmonds
Senior citizens braved sub-zero temperatures in Chicago last week to protest Bruce Rauner, GOP front-runner for Illinois Governor. Outside the Republican Gubernatorial debate, they voiced their concern about Bruce Rauner's ties to dangerous nursing homes; they expressed strong concerns about his putting profits before people.

Recent news and ads raised alarm bells for Illinois residents, detailing issues of abuse and neglect in Florida nursing homes by a company that Bruce Rauner helped found and on whose Board of Directors he sat.

Charlie Hogan, a 73-year-old AFSCME retiree, took public transportation to the protest outside ABC studios in downtown Chicago. He said:

“Rauner needs to know that the seniors are on to him and we’re spreading the word. Today I’m sending an email to everyone I have an address for to tell them about the role of his corporation with the nursing homes.

We have to redefine what citizenship means these days. It used to be you stayed informed, you read the paper. Since Citizens United, it’s changed the nature of how we’re represented.” He said “We have to teach ourselves, we’re gonna have to teach our children and grandchildren to fight back. And we have to find new ways to do it."

Scott Marshall, a United Steelworkers/SOAR retiree, said:
"For all of us, particularly in the retiree movement, this guy is just scary.

When he talks about running the state like a business, that’s just scary as hell because we know what kind of business he does. ... It’s not just the nursing home thing although that is horrible. He’s a hedge fund guy; these guys are basically gamblers that don’t give a damn as long as it turns a profit."

They'll be at the University of Chicago's Logan Center for the Arts tomorrow at 4pm in advance of the 6pm debate.
Recently, Texas Alliance for Retired Americans activists joined a downtown Dallas demonstration in favor of increasing the minimum wage.

Doesn't seem like older Americans would care?

Raising the minimum wage means workers would contribute more into the Social Security system and receive more in return. Not to mention, it would improve our economy and assist in balancing gross income inequality in America.

Most workers making the minimum wage are adults, including senior citizens (ie: most minimum wage jobs are not held by teenagers who are earning extra cash; they are disproportionately women). More and more, seniors are delaying retirement or are going back to work because their retirement income is not enough. It's not easy for anyone to get a decent-paying job these days.

Gene Lantz also said, "We are standing up for our children and grandchildren. The more money our children make, the more solvent Social Security and other benefits will be, too. We seniors want to see a successful America, and we wouldn't be doing that if we ignored the younger folks."

KDFW / Al Dia


The chained CPI will harm Wisconsin veterans and Social Security beneficiaries. If you don't believe it, read a short new report here. National version.

Yesterday, outside Congressman Reid Ribble’s office in downtown Appleton, WI, veterans joined area residents, and numerous state and national organizations in delivering over 120,000 petition signatures and sending a strong message: “No chained CPI benefit cuts.” Photos here.

The Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans, Social Security Works, the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council, the Northeast Labor Retiree Club, Marinette Central Labor Council, Fox Valley Labor Council, Progressives United, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, and others were involved.

Rep. Ribble recently authored a letter, signed by 50 Republican Representatives, urging House Speaker Boehner to include Social Security cuts in current fiscal discussions regardless of the fact Social Security does not contribute to the federal deficit. Ribble is an outspoken advocate for raising the retirement age, adjusting the cost-of-living adjustment formula, means-testing Social Security benefits and other benefit cuts.

The stingier cost of living adjustment (COLA) formula, known as the chained CPI, would significantly cut the benefits of all current and future Social Security beneficiaries, four in ten of whom are retired and disabled veterans. Veterans would be hurt most of all, given that other benefits veterans receive – in addition to their Social Security benefits – would also be cut by the chained CPI.

Bernie Faust, Wisconsin Alliance for Retired Americans Board Member and Tin Can Sailors Vice President said,

“As a Korean War Veteran I am concerned that Congressman Ribble would even consider depriving a veteran of any benefit when they sacrificed so much defending our country.”

Tony Vanderbloemen, President of the Northeast Labor Retiree Club and a Vietnam War Veteran said,

“Veterans fought to defend our country. Congressman Reid Ribble is fighting to cut our Social Security and other earned benefit programs.  We must not balance the budget on the backs of American soldiers who already sacrificed for us in Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other wars, nor the widows, widowers and children who have lost their family members.”
Click here to support expanding benefits, not cutting them!

Today in Youngstown, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown announced his co-sponsorship of the Strengthen Social Security Act of 2013.

Norm Wernet, President of the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans said,

"Through trying times, Social Security has been the one saving grace, delivering guaranteed benefits to seniors, people with disabilities, and families of deceased workers. The benefits are modest but they are important to over 2.2 million Ohioans – that’s one in five. ... This is good legislation that strengthens our Social Security while improving the economic and retirement security of millions of Americans."
The bill would:

Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: The bill would change the method by which the Social Security Administration (SSA) calculates Social Security benefits. This change will boost benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month, but is targeted to help those in the low and middle of the income distribution, for whom Social Security has become an ever greater share of their retirement income.

Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: the bill would change the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). Currently, the annual adjustment is tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) in order to account for inflation. The CPI-W is based on a basket of goods that does not adequately track the purchases of seniors. For example, unlike younger working age Americans, retirees spend significantly more on medical care, whose costs have been rising much more quickly in recent years. As a result, to ensure that benefits better reflect cost increases facing seniors, future COLAs will be based on the CPI for the Elderly (CPI-E). The CPI-E is an experimental index that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has been keeping since 1982. Making this change to Social Security is expected to result in higher COLAs, ensuring that seniors are able to better keep up with the rising costs of essential items, like prescription drugs.

Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: Social Security is not in crisis, but does face a long-term deficit. According to the most recent Social Security Trustees report, the Trust Fund will be able to pay full benefits through 2033, or another 20 years. To help extend the life of the trust fund, and decrease the 75 year actuarial deficit, the legislation would phase out the current taxable cap of $113,700 and instead ask the wealthiest Americans to contribute to the program the same share of their income as the middle class.

It's great Sherrod Brown has joined Tom Harkin (D-IA), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Mark Begich (D-AK) in sponsoring this legislation. Encourage others to support it here.


There's a lot of uninspiring news when it comes to our federal budget. A glimmer of hope struck when the Senate appointed conferees to the next budget conference and included Vermont's Bernie Sanders, a Senate Budget Committee member and founder of the Defending Social Security Caucus. Sanders has long been a voice of reason on the issue of Social Security (which some Republicans insist on including in a budget deal despite the fact that it's never contributed to the federal deficit) as well as bolstering the middle class.

You can stand with Sen. Sanders and a broad coalition of thousands of fellow progressives now and demand that Congress and the President oppose any grand bargain that cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits.

"Instead of talking about cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, we must end the absurdity of corporations not paying a nickel in federal income taxes. ... We cannot cut programs that working families depend on." -Bernie Sanders

Author: Bruce Bostick

What do you call a proposal that breaks promises to city workers, destroys their families’ hard-earned retirement security, lowers the city’s tax base, harms our fragile economy, and actually requires the city of Cincinnati to pay out more in retiree funds?
The tiny group of wealthy financiers and Tea Party supporters sponsoring this proposal calls it “Cincinnatians for Pension Reform” (CPR). But unlike the medical procedure of the same name, this one would kill its patient.

Similar measures have been passed in Knoxville, Tennessee, and San Jose and San Diego, California, in the last two years. Attempts were made in Los Angeles and Tucson, but the measures in those cities were knocked off the ballot when opposition coalitions brought legal challenges. In each case, the measure’s wording comes from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the group that generates “model bills” to rewrite state and local laws in a corporate-friendly fashion.

If you said, “Cincinnatians would never push something this bad,” you are right on the money.

The 7,000 signatures filed last month to get the proposal on the November 5 ballot were gathered by out-of-town petitioners; a California company, Arno Petition Consultants, was paid nearly $70,000 to bring them in.

Paul Jacob of the Virginia-based Tea Party group Liberty Initiative Fund has put more than $81,000 into CPR thus far. The conservative California-based National Taxpayers Union has put in another $52,000. Liberty Initiative has funded similar anti-retiree measures in other cities.

To give an idea of the thinking behind CPR, Jacob has said that Social Security is “fraudulent,” “a Ponzi scheme,” and “a system based on swindle.”

So, on one side we have out-of-state financiers who want to kill Social Security, out-of-town petitioners paid by a California company, and the Tea Party. Who is on the other side?

Just about everyone else.

The opposition to CPR is both nonpartisan and bipartisan. The Faith Alliance, a coalition of many different churches and communities of faith, has taken a strong stand against CPR. Both major Cincinnati mayoral candidates oppose it, and the city council voted against it unanimously. Public and private unions and the Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans are working to defeat it.

Continue Reading

Well, it's not like we didn't see it coming.

But it was still disappointing this week when Wisconsin Congressman Reid Ribble submitted to Speaker Boehner urging him to ensure several significant cuts to Social Security benefits before the debt ceiling is raised and our government re-opened [].

They want to:
-Raise the retirement age
-Slash annual cost of living adjustments through a new formula, the chained CPI
-Means-test Social Security recipients

It was not seniors, veterans, children, workers, people with disabilities who tanked our economy, and they should not be scapegoated into paying for it. Social Security is too important to be used as ransom in this manufactured budget crisis. It is not right.

You can click here to tell your Representative to support a clean Continuing Resolution to re-open the federal government without cuts to our programs like Social Security and Medicare.

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