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    Highlights for week ending September 9, 2000

Thanks for viewing this weeks IBM Employee Issues Highlights. As was the case last week, this week's most important issue is the retirement reform legislation now going through Congress. The legislation started with House bill HR 1102, and has passed by the House. It is now in the Senate, having been passed unanimously by the Senate Finance Committee. Many of the provisions in the bill are positive, but unfortunately, there are very damaging provisions in the bill that would legalize what IBM and other companies have done with cash balance pensions...severely cutting retirement benefits. Should this legislation pass in its current form, the class action law suit against IBM for its pensions changes in 1995, and class action lawsuits against other companies will be thrown out of court. All protection for early retirement (where early retirement is "before age 65") may be eliminated.

Following a meeting with representatives from the Alliance@IBM/CWA and the IBM Employees Benefits Action Coalition, Senator U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) announced that he intends to offer an amendment to improve pension provisions contained in pending pension legislation.

What follows is the statement Sen. Harkin issued on Sept. 7:

"Unfortunately, the Committee reported cash balance pension plan provision does little to eliminate the abuses workers face when their employees switch to cash balance plans. Instead, it appears to provide a haven for employers who want to disregard existing legal employee protections.

"One of the largest concerns is the erosion of benefits for older workers. The employer calculates the value of the benefit accrued under the worker's older plan. When that benefit is higher than the value calculated under many new 'cash balance' plans, the employer does not put anything into the employee's account until the level in the account matches the lower amount required under the new plan. The result is that many workers have nothing added to their pensions for years - some for as many as five years or even longer. This is called a 'wearaway' of benefits, a waiting period while the higher benefits under the old plan are reduced the lower level of the new plan. The Committee's proposal fails to protect most workers from this benefit 'wear away'.

"The Committee's bill also allows employers to violate a number of existing worker protections. For example, it appears to eliminate important age discrimination protections. In doing so, it seems to invalidate a number of age discrimination lawsuits. It appears to undercut the current EEOC study of this issue. And it appears to overturn the 11th Circuit ruling in Lyons v. Georgia-Pacific Corporation that requires corporations to provide protections for lump sum determinations for employees.

"It is my intention to offer an amendment on the Senate floor that offers meaningful protection for workers rather than changing the law to eliminate their existing rights."

Unfortunately, corporate America, the pension industry, and the investment industry are very powerful voices against the interests of average Americans. We must keep the pressure on our Senators to support Senator Harkin's amendment. Please do what you can by calling your senators, faxing them, writing them, or at the very least...e-mailing them to let them know you're against pension theft. Here's how:

  1. Sign an online petition that's available on the Chicago Sun-Times Web site. Note that you'll need to register on the site to do so, but registration is easy. See http://www.e-thepeople.com/affiliates/suntimes/index.cfm?PC=PETFV1&PETID=429958

  2. Call, e-mail, fax, or snail mail Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the Senate Minority Leader. Write to him at this address: Senator Daschle, United States Senate, 509 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510. Call his Washington office at 202.224.2321. Fax him at 202.224.7895. Send e-mail to him at http://www.senate.gov/~daschle/webform.htm, or tom_daschle@daschle.senate.gov

  3. Call, e-mail, fax, or snail mail your senators. Go to http://www.congress.org/ and enter your zip code to get a list of your representatives with their e-mail and snail mail addresses, and their telephone and fax numbers. (When you see your senators, click on their "info" link). You can send e-mail from this site if you wish. However you contact your senators, be sure to ask them to support Senator Harkin's amendment.

Now back to our regularly scheduled notices:

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
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