Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Guaranteed Benefits to Disappear Under Bush Plan

A new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found the Bush administration’s proposal to privatize Social Security would eventually lead to the elimination of Social Security’s traditional guaranteed benefits.

The report, which looks at the combined effects of implementing private investment accounts and shifting to the price-indexing of Social Security benefits, found that a person born next year and average yearly earnings of about $56,000 over their career would not receive any guaranteed benefits upon retirement.

The CRS report stresses that, while the benefit cuts start small, they will lead to those benefits eventually withering away completely. Individuals with higher incomes would see their guaranteed benefits exhausted even earlier.

“Our kids and grandkids born now might not have any guaranteed Social Security benefit,” Rep. Charles Rangel, who requested the study, told the Associated Press.

Transportation Staff Meets with Secretary Mineta

The leadership of the IAM’s Transportation Department met with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta in Washington, D.C. on April 8 to discuss the state of the air and rail industries and its effect on IAM members.

“We shared our concerns for the airline industry, including worker pensions, high oil prices, unsustainable fare structures, and the enormous sacrifices our members are making to rescue this industry from poor management,” said Transportation GVP Robert Roach, Jr. “It is clear that the secretary has a good grasp of the problems affecting the industry and appreciation or the work our members do under extreme conditions.”

The IAM representatives also discussed the Amtrak funding crisis and the National Mediation Board’s failure to resolve the stalled five-year old rail negotiations between the IAM and the National Carriers’ Conference Committee. The Secretary indicated support for some type of Amtrak funding to provide much needed updating of the rail system’s infrastructure and address the rail carrier’s annual financial crisis.

“We discussed our suggestion that the Department of Transportation hold an airline summit to facilitate open discussions between airline management, labor and the government to address the countless problems plaguing the industry today,” said Roach. “Secretary Mineta made no commitments, but he is reviewing the IAM’s proposal.”

Jobs Numbers Revised Downward

Hammered by a reduction in manufacturing and retail jobs, the economy produced only 110,000 new jobs in March, the Labor Department reported on Friday. It was the smallest increase in jobs in eight months and was significantly lower than the 220,000 new jobs Wall Street economists had predicted.

The Labor Department also revised down February and January’s job totals by 27,000 jobs, adding to the already bleak jobs report.

The Labor Department also reported that the proportion of the population that is either employed or looking for a job remained at a 17-year low of 65.8 percent. The manufacturing sector lost 8,000 jobs in March, while the retail sector lost 9,700 jobs.

Legislation Targets China Currency Scam

Led by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation on April 7 that would define currency manipulation as a violation of existing U.S. trade laws and World Trade Organization rules.

The Chinese Currency Act of 2005 is aimed squarely at the Chinese yuan, undervalued by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese goods a huge advantage over North American goods on the world market. Besides creating a windfall for Chinese exports, the currency manipulation was a leading cause behind the record $162 billion U.S. trade deficit with China last year.

“It is time for bipartisan action to address the illegal actions of the Chinese government,” said AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Richard Trumka at a press conference to announce AFL-CIO support for the legislation. “Currency manipulation is illegal and it undermines America’s industrial base. We are frustrated and angry at the administration’s refusal to move aggressively on this issue.”

Lawmakers’ concerns over China’s currency scam and the enormous trade deficit goes beyond unfair advantages for China’s exports and the loss of nearly 3 U.S. million manufacturing jobs since 2001. The proposed legislation would also require the U.S. Secretary of Defense to identify products imported from China that have the potential to threaten homeland manufacturing operations that are vital to national security.

Scholarship Committee Selects Winners

A distinguished panel of four academics met at IAM Headquarters to select 16 winners from among 580 applicants in the 2005 IAM Scholarship Competition. The winners, from each IAM Territory in the U.S. and Canada, will receive a $4,000 scholarship to pursue a college degree or vocational and technical training. “The winners will be notified by mail,” said IAM Safety & Health Department Director Mike Flynn, whose department administers the popular program. “The scholarships are a great opportunity for IAM parents and a great way for members themselves to continue their own education.”

Applications for the 2006 Scholarship Competition will be available from August 2005 to February 2006. Information about the IAM Scholarship Competition can be found here. Applications will also be available in the Summer 2005 issue of the IAM Journal.

Last Call For Basic Editors Class

The deadline for sending in applications for the Communications Department’s last Basic Editors Class for 2005 is April 15, 2005. The class will be held at the William W. Winpisinger Education and Technology Center May 22 through May 27, 2005.

The course is designed for locals or districts who want to start a newsletter or have current newsletter editors who need training. Participants will learn the basics of newsletter production, including writing, layout and design and desktop publishing. For enrollment information, contact Pam Kinney immediately at 301-373-3300.