Social Security COLA Falls Short for Seniors

social securty 1Small cost-of-living increase triggers huge Medicare Part B premium hike for many retirees

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is calling on Congress to pass emergency legislation to prevent massive increases in Medicare Part B premiums for millions of retirees next year.

The government today announced a 0.3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for federal retirees and Social Security recipients. The COLA is based on the year-over-year change in the prices for goods and services purchased by hourly and clerical workers.

This small COLA has inadvertently triggered a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for the 30 percent of beneficiaries who do not currently receive Social Security benefits.

Premiums for Medicare Part B are expected to increase 23 percent next year, from $121 a month to $149 a month. A so-called “hold harmless” provision prevents Medicare Part B premiums from increasing by more than the dollar increase in an individual’s Social Security payment. But for the 16 million retirees who don’t receive Social Security, including 1.6 million federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System, the full increase must be paid unless Congress acts.

“Congress must act now to prevent a massive increase in Medicare Part B premiums for this group of retirees,” Cox said. “Although most seniors would be protected, this group will have to pay more solely because of the uniqueness of their pension system.”

Congress last year extended the hold harmless provision to cover all Medicare Part B beneficiaries when there is no cost-of-living adjustment. However, this provision does not apply when there is a small COLA, as there will be in 2017.

Even without the increase in Medicare Part B premiums, retirees will have to tighten their belts to account for next year’s miniscule cost-of-living adjustment. Retirees already are facing a 6.2% increase in their health insurance premiums next year.

“Prices for many items that seniors must purchase are rising faster than the overall inflation rate,” Cox said. “Forcing this group of retirees to shoulder such a huge cost burden will have a devastating impact on their already modest living standards.”

The Alliance for Retired Americans have been pushing to increase Social Security benefits and change the way cost of living is calculated.

“The Alliance for Retired Americans is deeply disappointed by the announcement today that there will be a miniscule 0.3% benefit increase for millions of Social Security beneficiaries in 2017,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “For the average retiree, that means just a $5.00 per month increase, not enough to keep up with the cost of their prescription medications. This follows a 0% COLA in 2016. Most retirees are going to continue to have a hard time paying for basic necessities.”

“That’s why Congress must expand earned Social Security benefits and change the formula used to calculate future COLAs to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E).  The CPI-E would base the calculation on what seniors actually spend their money on. That list includes items such as health care and housing, which account for most retirees’ spending,” Fiesta added. 

The AFL-CIO was “disappointed” with this COLA announcement.

“A weak increase that amounts to a mere $5.00 more a month for the average retired worker is a disappointment for the millions who rely on Social Security to stay afloat during retirement,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Protecting our seniors against inflation is one of the many obligations we have to retired Americans. The 2017 adjustment falls short of that goal because it fails to reflect seniors’ extraordinary expenses.”

 “The 2017 COLA not only fails to keep pace with seniors’ high health care and prescription drug costs, it also means millions of retirees, including many retired public employees, will be hit hard because the law fails to protect them against large Medicare Part B premium increases when inflation is low. State Medicaid budgets that cover Medicare premiums for low-income seniors similarly will be affected. We urge Congress to step in and limit the coming financial blow to thousands of vulnerable retirees and state budgets,” Trumka added.

NH Building Trades Announces Endorsement of Colin Van Ostern for Governor

Colin Van Ostern for Governor campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.  Copyright 2016 Rob Strong

Colin Van Ostern for Governor campaign event in Concord, New Hampshire on Wednesday, June 8, 2016.
Copyright 2016 Rob Strong

Manchester – The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council announced their endorsement of Colin Van Ostern for Governor today.                                                

“Colin is the leader working men and women need in the Governor’s office,” said Building Trades President Steve Burk. “We know Colin will fight to raise wages for working families and make sure our growing economy benefits all Granite State workers. Colin understands that union apprenticeship training programs are helping strengthen our workforce, and that union health insurance and pensions plans are helping give our citizens a stable foundation for success. The bottom line is, New Hampshire construction workers – both union and non-union – will do well with Colin as our Governor because Colin will make sure we rebuild our roads and bridges, bring passenger rail to New Hampshire, and finally pass a prevailing wage law to make sure our taxpayer dollars stay in the local economy and in the pockets of local workers. That’s why the New Hampshire Building Trades are all-in for Colin.”

“I’m honored to earn the support of the hardworking men and women of the New Hampshire Building Trades,” said Colin Van Ostern, Democratic nominee for Governor. “We need to do more to build an economy where anyone who works hard can get a good paying job and we’ll do that by investing in job and skills training, raising New Hampshire’s lowest in the nation minimum wage, and fighting back against attempts to make New Hampshire a so-called ‘right to work’ state, stripping hardworking people of the right to collectively bargain. New Hampshire needs a Governor who will stand up for people, not for partisan special interests.”

The New Hampshire Building Trades is an organization of 16 New Hampshire labor unions, representing more than 2,000 New Hampshire workers in the construction industry.


VeriGreedy Verizon Announces Massive Layoffs And Call Center Closings

2000px-verizon_logo-svg_Statement by CWA President Chris Shelton on Verizon Wireless Layoffs and Call Center Closings

“The bad news for Verizon Wireless workers is getting worse.

Verizon has announced it is closing a total of seven call centers, in addition to laying off 3,200 retail store workers nationwide. These are non-union represented jobs, with the exception of six Verizon Wireless stores in Brooklyn, NY and one in Everett, Mass., where CWA members won first contracts this year. 

Earlier this year, CWA won the return of work from overseas that had been performed by CWA members on the wireline side of the company. However, Verizon Wireless work will continue to be shifted offshore.

Verizon is closing seven call centers affecting more than 3,000 workers in Henrietta and Orangeburg, NY; Bangor, Maine; Lincoln, Nebraska; Wallingford and Meriden, Conn., and Rancho Cordova, Calif. At least 2,600 workers will lose their jobs.

We share the outrage of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose office called the shutdowns and layoffs an ‘egregious example of corporate abuse’ and we agree with the governor that ‘Verizon’s negligence is astounding.’

Now Verizon will be able to send even more work to the Philippines, where it already operates call centers, and to other overseas locations. This is exactly what customers, communities and our country don’t need.  The company is trying to sidestep this issue, but our union uncovered the offshoring of Verizon call center work to the Philippines – and the substandard treatment of Filipino workers – early this year. 

Verizon likes to brag about being the nation’s biggest wireless carrier. It’s time for Verizon to step up and provide the quality service that customers want, by keeping good jobs in our communities.

CWA has been working with Verizon Wireless workers at call centers and retail stores, to help workers get the union voice and representation they want and so clearly need. With strong allies that include elected leaders and consumers, we will keep up the fight against ‘very greedy’ Verizon.”

Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire back Corriveau for County Attorney

MANCHESTER – Today the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire announce their endorsement of Garth Corriveau (D – Manchester) for Hillsborough County Attorney. Corriveau previously served as an Alderman for the City of Manchester, and is challenging Dennis Hogan on the November ballot.

“Garth Corriveau is a proven leader when it comes to strengthening public safety in Manchester,” said Jeff Duval, President of Manchester’s IAFF Local 856. “Had Dennis Hogan done his job as County Attorney effectively, Manchester would have had a drug court over a year ago. Instead, our firefighters continue to respond to far too many repeat heroin and opioid overdoses. We can count on Garth Corriveau to be a vocal advocate for strong public safety as our new County Attorney.”

“Nashua firefighters serve our communities tirelessly in the midst of the heroin/opioid epidemic,” said John McAllister, President of Nashua Professional Fire Fighters IAFF Local 789. “Garth’s strong record on public safety issues proves he will work actively with us and all subject matter experts to meet this huge challenge. It is time for new leadership in this fight and we are proud to endorse Garth Corriveau for Hillsborough County Attorney.”

The opioid epidemic is a critical issue facing New Hampshire families of all stripes, and has garnered significant attention from candidates for office from presidential and federal races on down, as state and local officials maintain a focus on saving lives.

Corriveau remarked, “It is an honor and privilege to receive the endorsements of our Manchester, Nashua and state fire fighters at a time when we need their bravery most. Our first responders and public safety professionals are on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and they deserve new, decisive leadership that supports their life saving efforts. As the new Hillsborough County Attorney, I will stand proudly with them every day as we work together to tackle this devastating epidemic.”

The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, headquartered in Concord, NH, is a state association chartered by the 43 Locals of the International Association of Fire Fighters in the Granite State, which represents approximately 2,000 active and retired firefighters and paramedics.

Fire Fighters Back Congresswoman Annie Kuster For Re-Election


CONCORD, NH – The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire and members from across the Second Congressional District gathered at the Broadway Fire Station in Concord to announce their endorsement of Annie Kuster’s re-election to Congress. Congresswoman Kuster is seeking her third term representing New Hampshire’s Second District.

“The public counts on firefighters and paramedics to arrive on scene in a moment’s notice and deliver for those in need,” said David Lang, President of the PFFNH. “Over her two terms serving in Washington, Annie Kuster time and again delivers for the working people of New Hampshire. Bringing people together and producing results, Annie Kuster holds true to New Hampshire values. We look forward to helping Annie return to Washington, D.C. and continue working on behalf of working families.”

“Firefighters put their lives on the line every day to protect our communities and keep our families safe,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Whether responding to fires, vehicle emergencies, or medical incidents, we can count on these brave men and women to act with courage and professionalism. They are also tremendous partners in my work to combat the heroin epidemic and find solutions to address this crisis. I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, and I thank them for their tireless work on behalf of all Granite Staters. I know New Hampshire firefighters always have our backs and they know that I will always have theirs.”

The Professional Fire Fighters of New Hampshire, headquartered in Concord, NH, is a state association chartered by the 43 Locals of the International Association of Fire Fighters in the Granite State, which represents approximately 2,000 active and retired firefighters and paramedics

Patriot Retirees’ Health Care Benefits to End Dec. 31 Without Congressional Action

UMWA United Mine Workers Logo[TRIANGLE, VA.]  The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) today released a letter that was sent by the Patriot Voluntary Employee Beneficial Association (Patriot VEBA) to some 12,500 of its beneficiaries informing them that the Patriot VEBA will run out of money to pay health care benefits on Dec. 31, 2016 (letter attached).

“These workers put their lives and their health on the line every day for 25, 35, even 45 years, providing the fuel that energized our nation and made it the most powerful country on Earth,” UMWA International President Cecil Roberts said. “They earned every penny of these benefits and now, through no fault of their own, they are on the brink of losing them.”

“America made them a promise 70 years ago: ‘You mine the coal that makes our country strong, and we will see to it that you have retirement benefits in your old age,’” Roberts said. “That promise has been kept by Congresses and administrations led by Republicans and Democrats from that day to this one. This Congress and this administration have a responsibility to do so once again.

“This is a life or death matter for thousands in the coalfields,” Roberts said. “They are counting on our government to fulfill its moral obligation and pass legislation this year that will save their lives.”

The legislation, S. 1714 in the Senate and H.R. 2403 in the House, would preserve these retirees’ health care and pension benefits using an existing appropriation already set aside for coal miners’ retirement benefits. The Senate Finance Committee last month approved S. 1714 by a bi-partisan 18-8 vote.

S. 1714 was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va) and has 22 co-sponsors in the Senate, evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. H.R. 2403 was introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) and has 87 co-sponsors, 47 Republicans and 40 Democrats. 

The affected retirees are those who worked at mines operated by Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy or Arch Coal and were represented by the UMWA. Patriot was created by a spin-off of Peabody’s unionized mines in 2007, and in 2008 it acquired mines that had been operated by Arch Coal.

Patriot entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2012, emerging on January 1, 2014. As part of the bankruptcy Judges’s order, Patriot was relieved of its obligation to pay retiree health care benefits. However, the UMWA negotiated payments from Patriot and Peabody to fund the VEBA for several years. Arch later agreed to contribute funding for the VEBA as well.

 Patriot was split up into separate companies as a result of a second bankruptcy in 2015, and Peabody and Arch filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2016.

“There is a ready solution to this critical problem,” Roberts said. “It is a simple solution, it is paid for and it is bi-partisan. When Congress returns to Washington in November, one of its first acts must be to pass this legislation and give these senior citizens the peace of mind that the benefits they paid for in sweat, toil and blood will be there when they need them.”

The Nashua Labor Coalition Releases List Of Endorsed Candidates In The 2016 Election

Nashua Labor Coalition LogosToday, the Nashua Labor Coalition, a group of union members and community activists who live or work in the Nashua area, announced their list of endorsed candidates for the 2016 elections.  

Deb Howes, a public school teacher and chair of the Nashua Labor Coalition released the following statement:

“The upcoming election is vitally important to the working people of New Hampshire and will have a significant impact on the City of Nashua. We are proud to announce our list of endorsed candidates that will keep Nashua moving in the right direction.”

“In the race for Governor, the choice could not be clearer.  When FairPoint Communications workers were on strike, Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern took a stand for workers by blocking a proposed state contract with FairPoint until the strike was resolved.  His efforts helped get FairPoint to reopen negotiations which resulted in a fair contract, ending the strike and getting striking workers back to work.”   

“As a teacher, I am particularly impressed by Van Ostern’s plan to expand full-day Kindergarten state-wide so that every child can get the same great start to their education, regardless of which city or town they live in.” 

“Throughout Nashua hard working people are struggling to make ends meet in low wage jobs.  Colin Van Ostern is committed to increasing the minimum wage and making the New Hampshire Health Partnership Program that provides healthcare to 50,000 Granite Staters, permanent.” 

“The Nashua Labor Coalition also endorsed Dan Weeks for Executive Council.  Weeks is a tireless advocate for working people and is committed to bringing rail service to Southern New Hampshire. Expanding rail service to Nashua would boost our local economy and lead to hundreds of new jobs.”   

“In order to move Nashua forward we need to elect State Senators who are putting the needs of working people first.  We recommend reelecting  Senator Bette Lasky and  returning Peggy Gilmour to her rightful seat in the Senate.  Both have a long history of fighting for working people by opposing attacks on collective bargaining, protecting our public employee pension system, and voting against so-called right to work legislation.”

“In the legislative assault against working people our State Representatives are our first line of defense.  We have compiled a list of State Rep candidates who will stand up for working people in the New Hampshire House.” 

“Your right to vote is a cherished gift, not to be taken lightly.  It is important that everyone exercises their right to vote and make your voice heard.”

The Nashua Labor Coalition is a chapter of NH AFL-CIO. It includes Nashua Area Affiliated and Non-Affiliated Unions, as well as community organizations.

Full list of endorsements available here. nashua-candidates-election-2016a

NH Building and Construction Trades Endorse Senator Watters

Image from 2014 of Senator David Watters (D-Dover)

Image from 2014 of Senator David Watters (D-Dover)

Today New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades President Steve Burk announced the labor federation’s endorsement of Senator David Watters. Senator Watters is currently the only card-carrying member of a union in the New Hampshire State Senate, and stands to be the senior member of the important Senate Transportation Committee, if reelected.

“The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council is proud to endorse David Watters in his race for State Senate,” said President Burk. “David is a tireless advocate for working men and women, and New Hampshire’s working families are better off with David in the Senate. David supports raising wages for New Hampshire workers, ensuring all workers have access to health insurance and pensions, and making sure New Hampshire taxpayer dollars stay in the local economy and in the pockets of local workers. David has demonstrated his dedication to working men and women countless times in the Senate, and Granite State workers have no greater ally in the legislature. We look forward to working with David to pass a Prevailing Wage law – a bill David has sponsored in previous sessions – to protect New Hampshire construction workers and taxpayers, and to working together to grow our economy and create more good local jobs.”

The New Hampshire Building Trades is an organization of 16 New Hampshire labor unions, representing more than 2,000 New Hampshire workers in the construction industry.

“I am delighted for the support of my sisters and brothers in the Building and Construction Trades,” said Senator Watters. “Every worker deserves a safe worksite, a stable paycheck, and a secure retirement. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle next session to build bridges. Keeping our skilled workers busy will continue to be one of my top priorities next session.”

Steelworkers Blast Trump Over Use Of Cheap Chinese Steel

Union Launches Awareness and Education Campaign: Trump Betrayed USW Members, Families and Communities for Cheap Chinese Steel and Aluminum 

The United Steelworkers (USW) today launched an awareness campaign to educate union members after Kurt Eichenwald’s investigative report for Newsweek exposed Donald Trump’s use of Chinese steel and aluminum for several recent, high-profile construction projects.

In light of the report, which outlines how Trump purchased the steel and aluminum from China using shell companies in the British Virgin Islands to cover his tracks, USW International President Leo W. Gerard called the Republican candidate’s statements about foreign trade and the need to create and maintain jobs in America’s manufacturing sector “hypocritical” and “fundamentally dishonest.” 

“Trump desperately tries to appeal to Midwestern working class voters with promises to stand up for American workers and bring manufacturing jobs back to Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Gerard said, “but he sold out those very workers, their families and communities to save a few dollars on cheap building materials from Shanghai and Guang-Dong.”

“With 13,000 people laid off in the steel industry and another 6,000 out of work in Aluminum, Trump personally profited from his scheme to cheat American companies and workers out of hundreds of millions of dollars in sales that went to China instead,” Gerard said. “How can he make America great if he refuses to make anything in America?”

Hundreds of USW activists and volunteers are already spreading the message that Trump cannot be trusted to protect American jobs. The union also will continue to educate its members about the GOP candidate’s anti-union, anti-worker record – from supporting so-called “right-to-work” legislation to the way he’s refused to negotiate employees at his hotels and casinos.

The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.

NH Building Trades Announces NH Executive Council and State Senate Endorsements

Manchester – The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council announced its slate of endorsed candidates in New Hampshire’s Executive Council and State Senate races today (see list below). 

Building Trades President Steve Burk issued the following statement:

“The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council is proud to endorse a slate of great candidates for Executive Council and State Senate,” said President Burk. “Every one of these candidates is a tireless advocate for working men and women, and New Hampshire’s working families will be better off with these candidates in office. Each of these candidates supports raising wages for New Hampshire workers, ensuring all workers have access to health insurance and pensions, and making sure New Hampshire taxpayer dollars stay in the local economy and in the pockets of local workers. We look forward to working with these future State Senators to pass a Prevailing Wage law to protect New Hampshire construction workers and taxpayers, and with these future Executive Councilors to ensure that New Hampshire’s purchasing power is a tool for growing our economy and raising wages.” 

The New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council endorses the following candidates in the 2016 General Election:

Executive Council

  • Mike Cryans (Executive Council District 1)
  • Andru Volinksy (Executive Council District 2)
  • Beth Roth (Executive Council District 3)
  • Chris Pappas (Executive Council District 4)
  • Dan Weeks (Executive Council District 5) 

State Senate

  • Jeff Woodburn (Senate District 1)
  • Charlie Chandler (Senate District 2)
  • David Watters (Senate District 4)
  • Martha Hennessey (Senate District 5)
  • Joe Casey (Senate District 6)
  • Andrew Hosmer (Senate District 7)
  • John Garvey (Senate District 8)
  • Lee Nyquist (Senate District 9)
  • Peggy Gilmour (Senate District 12)
  • Bette Lasky (Senate District 13)
  • Dan Feltes (Senate District 15)
  • Scott McGilvray (Senate District 16)
  • Donna Soucy (Senate District 18)
  • Lou D’Allesandro (Senate District 20)
  • Alexis Simpson (Senate District 23)
  • Tom Sherman (Senate District 24)

The New Hampshire Building Trades is an organization of 16 New Hampshire labor unions, representing more than 2,000 New Hampshire workers in the construction industry.

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