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    Highlights for week ending June 2, 2001

Call to Action: Lobby for HR 1322

IBM is quickly reducing retiree health care benefits for both active employees and retirees. In 1999, IBM set up a Future Heath Account (FHA) for employees more than 5 years from retirement. This was a replacement for lifetime health care benefits. Once they retired, employees could use the FHA fund to buy insurance until it ran out; then they would be on their own. Many employees felt they lost more with this change than with the pension reductions. This year, IBM retirees who left IBM with promises of non-contributory health insurance for life have been asked to pay twice as much as active employees for their health insurance, even if most of their health care is being paid by Medicare.

Is it fair or ethical for IBM to break promises they made when they hired people? Should it be legal? If most other corporations that promised their employees lifetime health insurance are doing the same thing, does that make it OK? Should we expect government to come to the rescue of retirees abandoned by their life-long employers?

If you agree the answer to these questions is no, please contact your legislators in Congress and tell them that when corporations voluntarily make promises about retirement benefits, they need to be forced to keep them. Ask them to cosponsor HR 1322, the Emergency Retiree Health Benefits Protection Act of 2001, a bill proposed by Rep. Tierney from Massachusetts. Send them a copy of the article below, and ask them to help!

MSN Money Central: Broken retirement promises? You can fight back. Excerpt: "Many employers are paring benefits and changing other provisions in their retirement plans, spurring retirees to organize and ask Congress for help. A lot of retirees aren't happy. In fact, a growing number of them are, as the old movie said, mad as hell. And they're not just taking it quietly anymore."

"The issue is retirement benefits that many employers are trimming back or eliminating entirely to meet Wall Street demands for increasing profits. When retirement benefits are cut, retirees' plans and budgets can be thrown into disarray."

"The people who are angry aren't just retirees and current employees of small businesses, who tend to have less structured and less comprehensive retirement benefits Some of the country's biggest companies have been accused of breaking their promises to retirees, including General Electric, General Motors, IBM, Sears Roebuck, Textron, the old Bell Telephone companies, Walt Disney and other household names."

Read the entire article here...

  • Lee Conrad appeals to IBM retirees who are Republicans to call their representatives, and explains why...

  • The Industry Standard: Big Blue After Lou. This review of Lou Gerstner's tenure at IBM is largely favorable to IBM's CEO. The one comment of interest to those following the Cash Balance pension issue is this: "Critics have also attacked IBM's accounting. The company decreased contributions to its pension plan, in effect boosting earnings, raising concerns that the plan may someday be underfunded. IBM has repeatedly defended its accounting methods."

  • The American Benefits Council has released two interesting charts that illustrate the retirement savings effects on the recently-passed tax bill. Comments from Janet Krueger on the bill: The damaging language that was in the Senate version of the bill, relative to early retirement subsidies, did NOT make it into the compromise bill!!! If you made a call because of the Call to Action, THANKS! Instead of reducing the level of protection, companies will now be required to disclose, in understandable English, if they reduce future pension accruals via a plan amendment. Note that the treasury has been instructed to do a study on cash balance conversions, so that will be something new to watch for, and provide input into! I'll post when we know more.

  • Have you ever wondered what a newly hired IBM manufacturing line worker makes? Lee Conrad provides an answer that may surprise you.

  • A person on the Yahoo IBM Retiree board poses these questions: How can the 'Vapor profit' issue of profits from the retirements funds still be an issue? Most of those profits are based on stock gains. If IBM pension fund managers have been able to manage significant profits for the past 3 or 4 quarters I would like for them to assist me in my investments. The billions that were made a few quarters ago must surely have shown some losses."
  • har_philby contributes another "must read" posting, commenting on who in IBM follows the Yahoo! boards, the relative "fortune" of IBMers, stock options vs. pensions, band 7-10 employees being replaced by cheap overseas labor, and vapor profit.

  • NBC News: Benefits for retirees decline. "There is new evidence that the reality of a secure retirement is often very different from the dream, as fewer companies offer valuable health benefits to retirees." ... "The message for baby boomers is save all the money you can because you’re not going to have retiree medical coverage given to you at either no cost or low cost, says Darling."

  • Linda Guyer comments on the American culture of selfishness...very thought provoking. Excerpt: "American society has become more polarized between the well-off and the poor in the last few decades. The trend is increasingly toward "looking out for oneself" -- in fact I view it as extreme individualism. Those who are outstanding at what they do -- whether sports stars, programmers, or whatever -- are reaping greater and greater rewards; the average among us have stagnated; and those further down on the social scale -- poor, single mothers for instance, without job skills -- are worse and worse off."

  • The United Kingdom IBM C-Planner's Web has published its sixth newsletter.

"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
This site is designed to allow IBM Employees to communicate and share methods of protecting their rights through the establishment of an IBM Employees Labor Union. Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act states it is a violation for Employers to spy on union gatherings, or pretend to spy. For the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act, notice is given that this site and all of its content, messages, communications, or other content is considered to be a union gathering.