IBM RETIREES GAIN BERNIE SANDERS CO-SPONSORSHIP OF HR1322.
Congressman Bernie Sanders has
introduced 1 bill (HR 1677) to protect workers pensions and cosponsored
another (HR1322) that would require companies like IBM to honor the
commitments made to employees regarding health and retirement benefits.
We encourage you to send this to all the IBMers you know and ask them to
contact their Congressional representatives (in NC Dole and Burr) and ask
them to support those bills. This is the only way IBM can be forced to do
what they promised.
RETIREE HEALTH BENEFITS
I was proud to meet with over 200
IBM retirees and employees who expressed their concerns about letters they
received from IBM informing them of cutbacks IBM was making to their
health benefits. Specifically, one IBM retiree told me that on their
monthly health care premiums were going to skyrocket from $116 per month
to $410 per month. Others told me that they were facing significant
increases in their health care premiums as well.
Under current law, companies that
offer health benefits to employees and retirees can cutback or even
eliminate these benefits for whatever reason at anytime - a policy which I
think is unacceptable.
That is why I am a proud co-sponsor
of H.R. 1322 to prohibit companies from reneging on the promises they made
regarding earned health care benefits. Specifically, this bill, in most
instances would prohibit companies from cutting back or eliminating
retiree health benefits and to require companies to restore any health
benefits they took away from retirees. This legislation currently has 95
IBM is not the only company cutting
back on health benefits. Other large companies in this country are also
reneging on retiree health benefits as well including: General Electric,
General Motors, Sears Roebuck, the old Bell Telephone companies, Walt
Disney, Polaroid, and J. P. Morgan & Company.
According to recent estimates, 5 to
10 million retirees throughout the country have either had their health
benefits reduced or eliminated over the last 12 years. And, President
Bush's disastrous Medicare Reform law is already providing incentives for
IBM and other companies to drop the prescription drug coverage of up to
2.7 million retirees making a bad situation much, much worse.
As you know, IBM used to provide
free health insurance for their retirees for life. Now, IBM has turned
their retiree health benefits program into a "cash balance" health
benefits plan in which retirees are responsible for paying more and more
of their health care costs.
Many of you know full well what
happened when IBM slashed the pension benefits of workers by as much as
50% through an age discriminatory cash balance pension plan.
Vermont IBMers, and IBMers
throughout the country fought back, forcing IBM to change its cash balance
pension plan and increasing the retirement benefits of some 35,000
employees in the process.
And, IBM employees won a lawsuit
against this age discriminatory cash balance pension plan in a federal
district court and have won a partial settlement worth $320 million. IBM
has said that it will still appeal the issue of age discrimination in this
court ruling, but if the IBMers win they will receive up to $1.7 billion.
As a result of IBMers open rebellion
against cash balance pension plans, employees at other companies started
fighting against their cash balance pension plans as well, leading Verizon
to make changes to its cash balance pension plan and saving the retirement
benefits of some 20,000 employees.
Now, IBM retirees and employees are
in the unfortunate position of waging another battle on health benefits.
I wish you didn't have to do this.
But, IBMers have already shown, that working together, you can win
concessions from IBM. You can win in the courts. And, you can win in
Unfortunately, Tom Watson's IBM is
not Lou Gerstner's or Sam Palmisano's IBM.
At the same time IBM was reneging on
the promises on pension and retiree health benefits, at the same time IBM
was laying off thousands of IBMers in Essex Junction and throughout this
country, while agreeing to train 100,000 software specialists in China
over the next 3 years, it helped one man become one of the richest people
in the U.S. worth $600 million, according to Forbes Magazine. And, that
person is the former CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner. Even though, IBM gave Mr.
Gerstner over $260 million in stock options, and annual bonuses of$8
million during his final years as IBM's CEO, apparently they were so
concerned about his financial well-being during his retirement years, that
IBM made sure that Gerstner will be receiving an annual pension benefit
worth over $1 million for the rest of his life.
Of course, Mr. Gerstner is not alone
when it comes to corporate greed. Today, the average CEO makes more than
500 times the salary of a typical worker. Jack Welch, the former CEO of
General Electric, has an estimated fortune of $900 million at the same
time that he was responsible for laying-off tens of thousands of employees
and exporting their jobs to Mexico and China.
And Sam Palmisano, IBM's current CEO
received $25.4 million in compensation including $18.4 million in stock
option grants that could rise to over $46 million in future years.
At the very least, these CEOs have a
responsibility to keep the retirement promises that were made to employees
and retirees when they first started working at the company.
I am currently co-sponsoring the
legislation HR 1322 referenced in the letter.
I have also introduced HR 1677, a
bill to protect workers pensions and numerous amendments against cash
(ORIGINAL SIGNED BY Congressman
Congressman Bernie Sanders
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Copyright 2006 – National Retiree Legislative Network
Oct 11, 07