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Pensions are a scam

"Look, I'll pay you less today and for the rest of your life in exchange for 30 years from now giving you a decent retirement pension. Except I have no idea if our company will be solvent in five years, let alone thirty, and even then I can not pay into the retirement fund and just declare bankruptcy when it comes time to start paying out." This is why we have Social Security. As coal industry declines, what will happen to all those retired miners?
But there’s another aspect to the decline of coal that’s getting less attention — namely, what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of currently retired coal miners who still rely on these companies for pensions and health benefits? Many of these retirees, after all, have crippling ailments after years of working in the mines. And many of the union benefits they’ve amassed over the decades are now at risk of vanishing. There are a few big issues here: First, the United Mineworkers of America’s pension plan, which was established in 1974 and covers more than 100,000 retired miners, is seriously underfunded. That’s partly because of losses from the recent financial crisis and partly because contributions are dwindling — as time passes, there are fewer and fewer mining companies left to chip in to the multi-employer plan. Second, a controversial bankruptcy case is putting thousands of retirees’ health benefits at risk. Back in 2007 and 2008, two of the largest U.S. mining companies, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, spun off the majority of their unionized mines and retirees into a brand-new company, Patriot Coal. A few years later, Patriot fell victim to plummeting coal prices and declared bankruptcy. Some 12,000 retired miners and their dependents now face the loss of some or all of their health benefits.

March 06, 2013

Grand Rapids cuts teachers' pay to poverty levels

Grand Rapids teachers say paycheck cuts qualify them for food stamps | MLive.com
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Tina Ratliff never expected her teaching career would qualify her for public assistance. The second-grade teacher at Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Burton Elementary was among nearly 150 teachers summoned by their union’s crisis team to pressure school officials Monday, March 4 to settle a pending contract and do something about applying a state law limiting what school districts and other public employers pay for employee health insurance premiums. Since Feb. 15 when the district began deducting back health insurance premiums over what it’s allowed to pay under the state’s Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act of 2011, Ratliff said morale among teachers has suffered dramatically and a sort of depression has set in. Some are losing $300 per pay check. “I am a five-year teacher who brings home $555.39 for two weeks and who currently qualifies for a Bridge Card,” Ratliff told the school board Monday to loud applause from her colleagues. “How is this possible?" Some two dozen teachers told similar stories during nearly an hour of often emotional testimonials. Some told of renting rooms in order to keep their homes while others said they simply can no longer pay their bills. “You can see it in people’s eyes and in the way they hold themselves,” Ratliff said after Monday’s meeting. “We don’t know what to do.

March 04, 2013

Corporate Profits Have Risen Almost 20 Times Faster Than Workers' Incomes

Corporate Profits Have Risen Almost 20 Times Faster Than Workers' Incomes Since 2008 | ThinkProgress
Corporate profits hit record highs in the second half of 2012, but that prosperity hasn’t led to the creation of jobs, since America’s biggest firms are sitting on stocks of cash instead of investing them back into the economy. At the same time, wages hit record lows, and corporate earnings are rising nearly 20 times faster than disposable incomes, the New York Times reports: As a percentage of national income, corporate profits stood at 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012, the largest share at any time since 1950, while the portion of income that went to employees was 61.7 percent, near its lowest point since 1966. In recent years, the shift has accelerated during the slow recovery that followed the financial crisis and ensuing recession of 2008 and 2009, said Dean Maki, chief United States economist at Barclays. Corporate earnings have risen at an annualized rate of 20.1 percent since the end of 2008, he said, but disposable income inched ahead by 1.4 percent annually over the same period, after adjusting for inflation.