January 25, 2001
TO: ALL GENERAL CHAIRMEN
LOCAL AND DISTRICT CHAIRPERSONS
ALL GRASSROOTS COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
On December 10, 2000, a letter from a TCU member appeared in the Tulsa World newspaper, concerning Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles’ efforts to kill our Railroad Retirement bill. The letter reads as follows:
"Most people outside the railroad industry do not know that railroad employees are not covered by Social Security. Rather, they are covered by the Railroad Retirement Act which Congress made law in the 1930s. Although railroad retirement is financed by the railroads and their employees and gets no money from the government, any changes in railroad retirement must be approved by Congress.
Early this year representatives from the railroad industry, railroad unions and a group representing retired railroaders worked out a bill to present to Congress that would, among other things, provide for a more adequate annuity for the widows of retired railroad employees. Again, this bill would not have cost the government a cent, as the railroad industry guaranteed to absorb any cost shortfalls.
The Bill, HR-4844, passed the House 391 to 25, and 83 senators signed a letter of support. Sounds like a sure thing to become law, right? Using obscure Senate rules, four Republican senators — Don Nickles, Phil Gramm, Pete Dominici and Trent Lott — prevented the bill from ever coming to a vote in the Senate, and blocked every attempt to attach the bill to other bills that were going to the president.
Thanks to Sen. Nickles, when I die my wife can do her best to survive in abject poverty. It is doubtful that his wife will ever face the same fate."
Subsequently, on December 24, Senator Nickles responded to that TCU member in that same newspaper (to see copy click here). As a result, a number of TCU members have written to me requesting TCU’s position. Apparently, Senator Nickles’ letter was given wide circulation not only in the State of Oklahoma but also in other parts of the country.
The issues he raises in his letter cannot be left unanswered. For that reason, the Rail Employees for Improved Pensions (REIP) Coalition has written to the Editor of the Tulsa World rebutting Senator Nickles’ letter (to see copy click here). As you will note, a comprehensive reply has been made.
Simply stated, Senator Nickles is dead set on killing our bill. His main opposition has been the reduction of our retirement age with full benefits from age 62 to 60. Like Senator Gramm, Senator Nickles also lobbied his fellow Senators to vote against our bill contending that it would be politically harmful for them to reduce retirement age for railroaders after voting to increase the Social Security retirement age for million of workers. As in the case with Senator Gramm, it is also doubtful that we will ever be successful in getting Senator Nickles’ support for passage of our bill. Nonetheless, we will continue working for their support.