Today's Fair Shots - June 13, 2017
1-Deceased Correctional Officer, Gone in Line of Duty, 'Touched a Lot of People's Hearts'
2-AFL-CIO Says Labor Will Support a NAFTA That Offers Shared Prosperity and 'Never Forget' If Treaty Further Rigs Rules
3-Abbott Signs State Budget, But Vetoes $120 Million, Including Funds for Colonias
4-American-Statesman: Abbott Focus on Weakening Cities Is 'Anti-Texan'
5-Labor Scores Electoral Wins in San Antonio, Including New Mayor
6-Report: Social Security Makes Cold Calls to Give Seniors Questionable Financial Advice
1) The Texas AFL-CIO extends our heartfelt condolences to the family of Correctional Officer Shana Tedder, who died Friday after a confrontation with a prisoner.
KCEN reports Tedder, 41, died in the Christina Melton Crain Unit in Gatesville.
This heart-breaking tragedy demonstrates anew the dangers faced by correctional officers, who perform an indispensable service for all Texans knowing that every day on the job poses dangers that most of us will never face. Our Brothers and Sisters in AFSCME Correctional Officers are quoted in the story:
GATESVILLE - A female correctional officer passed away in a medical emergency Friday afternoon, following a "use of force" incident with an inmate, according to a Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) press release.
Shana Tedder, 41, was pronounced deceased at 3:22 p.m. at the Christina Melton Crain Unit.
Tedder complained of shortness of breath, walked to another area of the prison to rest, and then collapsed, according to the press release.
Prison staff performed life-saving measures until paramedics arrived, and they were unable to revive the officer.
"Our thoughts are with her family, friends, and coworkers during this difficult time," Jason Clark, TDCJ Director of Public Information, said in a statement.
AFSCME Texas Corrections said before her death, Tedder had taken measures to defuse a confrontational situation with an inmate.
Tedder worked for the TDCJ for 12 years.
"Tedder had a bubbly spirit and a good sense of humor," President Sergeant Tanisha Woods said. "She touched a lot of people's hearts. She will be missed."
Woods added, "Her positive attitude was an inspiration to her coworkers and to her union."
KCEN shared a link to a GoFundMe page at the bottom of its post: http://www.kcentv.com/news/local/correctional-officer-dies-after-use-of-force-incident/447661326
2) For those of you keeping up with the ins and outs of potential changes in the North American Free Trade Agreement, the AFL-CIO has suggestions on how to make the treaty worker-friendly.
The recommendations underscore an important point. Organized labor has never opposed the notion of trade treaties, just a "free trade" regime that makes multinational corporations' wish lists a top priority. The AFL-CIO offers detailed advice on how to make NAFTA a race to the top, not the bottom:
Yesterday, the AFL-CIO revealed an extensive set of recommendations that could turn the North American Free Trade Agreement into a trade agreement that empowers working people.
The recommendations include changes to labor and procurement rules, as well as improved consumer protections and new rules to prevent currency misalignment and tax dodging. The improvements are meant to ensure working people receive a fair return on their work and new rules aren't written to benefit wealthy corporations and CEOs.
"It is time for the Trump administration to rewrite NAFTA the right way," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
If President Donald Trump follows our recommendations-if he renegotiates NAFTA, so it's a real force for higher wages and broadly shared prosperity-we will help him pass it. If he uses renegotiation to further rig the rules for the wealthiest few, we will fight him with everything we have. And if President Trump breaks his promise and leaves the worst pieces of NAFTA in place, we will never forget it.
Release online here: https://aflcio.org/press/releases/afl-cio-reveals-nafta-recommendations-benefit-working-people
3) Gov. Greg Abbott signed the 2018-19 state budget into law, but not before using his line-item power to veto $120 million in funding from what was already an austere spending plan.
Among Abbott's vetoes: $859,000 for initiatives in colonias, the undeveloped border communities that often lack basic services; $2.6 million set aside for compliance and reporting in a reformed child guardianship system (Abbott also signaled he will veto the bill that is attached to the funding); and half the $8.4 million "retailer bonus" that goes to sellers of lottery tickets as an incentive to let gambling into their establishments.
The vetoes are not subject to an override when lawmakers return for a special session on July 18. Overrides are exceedingly rare in Texas even when the Legislature is in session.
The Texas Tribune posted some details:
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state's two-year budget Monday, giving his approval to the $217 billion document crafted by the Legislature.
But the governor did cut about $120 million from various programs through a mechanism known as a line-item veto - including measures meant to improve the region's air quality and assist the colonias, impoverished areas on the Texas-Mexico border.
Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/12/texas-governor-signs-217-billion-budget-vetoes-120-million/
4) The Austin American-Statesman editorializes that Gov. Greg Abbott's focus on reducing the powers of cities - and on denigrating Austin - is "anti-Texan." Couldn't agree more with this analysis of his choice of 20 issues for the special legislative session:
It's a real shame. While Abbott and some conservative Republicans talk a lot about federal government overreach, the special session agenda is nothing more than big government at play, and it goes against the very spirit that defines Texas - individuality...
Austin is Austin - just as Houston is Houston and San Angelo is San Angelo - because of the values citizens bring to their local governments. What Austin decides for its residents, for example, doesn't apply to the good folks in San Angelo or any other municipality. It is an individuality that has defined the Texas spirit for over 100 years.
Abbott and like-minded lawmakers contend that regulations like those created by the city of Austin stifle the economy and interfere with job creation.
We disagree. And so do the numbers.
Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/opinion/abbott-target-individuality-cities-anti-texan/b3Ee01iouYk4Oa5yGnGUoI/
Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News editorial board analyzed all 20 items in the "do-over" special session in an editorial, declaring most of the subject choices wanting. In particular, the Morning News said of the call for legislation to take away the economic freedom of public employees to voluntarily support the labor organization of their choice through payroll dues deduction:
Wrong time for this debate.
Read more: https://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/editorials/2017/06/09/abbott-bogs-special-session-overs-legislative-losses
5) Labor scored big wins in San Antonio in Saturday's runoff election.
The marquee item was the election of Ron Nirenberg, the COPE-backed candidate, as Mayor of the Alamo City. Nirenberg, who held a City Council seat before the election, defeated incumbent Ivy Taylor, a highly unusual achievement in an era of term limits. The San Antonio Central Labor Council block-walked ahead of the election and was part of a larger coalition that turned out the vote. While a list of issues played into the result, one was both timely and significant. Taylor had balked at the City Council's decision to join in lodging a court challenge against SB 4, the "show me your papers" law. That obviously did not fly with Saturday'selectorate, which elected Nirenberg by a comfortable 55-45 margin even though he had trailed in the first round of voting.
The CLC endorsees did very well in other City Council contests, but one is worth noting in particular. John Courage, who has held a variety of offices and run with COPE endorsements for others, including Congress, won election to a North Side seat that has been held by Republicans (or the old breed of conservative Democrats who became Republicans) for as long as anyone can remember. If you are looking for a sign from Saturday that the political winds have shifted direction, this would be a good place to start.
From the San Antonio Express-News:
In a decisive victory, Councilman Ron Nirenberg defeated incumbent Ivy Taylor on Saturday, winning the mayor's seat after a divisive runoff election in which Nirenberg questioned Taylor's leadership and the incumbent's campaign painted Nirenberg as "Liberal Ron."
Taylor served just one elected two-year term after she was appointed to the seat in 2014.
Speaking before hundreds of supporters at his campaign headquarters, Nirenberg said he and his campaign exceeded everyone's expectations but their own.
"Tonight, the voters got it right - on a lot of things. Tonight, the voters rejected the politics of division and false choices," he said before a raucous crowd of a few hundred supporters. "And they said yes to a bigger and brighter vision of inclusion, of diversity, of fairness, or respecting each and every person in San Antonio, no matter if you live on the North Side, the South Side, the East Side, the West Side or any place in between. Tonight, the voters said yes to a mayor for all of San Antonio."
Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/article/Nirenberg-defeats-Taylor-by-large-margin-11211208.php
6) The Austin American-Statesman alerted us to an issue that needs to transcend the "personal financial advice" section of the newspaper, perhaps through the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans.
Many factors figure into when one chooses to collect Social Security. Some people start as early as age 62 and some wait until age 70, with all points in between. Most financial advisors would at least point up that if you think you will live past 80 and can afford to wait until age 70 to collect, you maximize your benefits by doing so. But there is no one right answer. The question of when to take the earned benefits is a complicated one that depends on individual situations.
According to a piece by syndicated columnist Laurence Kotlikoff, the Social Security Administration is calling 69-year-old seniors who apparently plan to maximize their Social Security benefits by waiting until age 70. The federal government is telling the folks they call that they can get a significant cash payment by starting to collect immediately. That is true, and in the case cited by Kotlikoff, the amount was nearly $20,000.
What Social Security is apparently not telling people in these cold calls is that it is very likely the decision will cost them over the course of their lives, to the tune of 6 percent a year in the example cited.
Kotlikoff, who is as dumbfounded over the tactic as anyone, suggested Social Security is making the calls in an effort to minimize its payouts, at the expense of retirees. I suspect if you or I called folks with the same advice and no license, we could be subject to a serious lawsuit or worse.
By the way, Social Security is not "broke," as alleged in Kolitkoff's column and, if Congress had the will, could be adjusted to last for many decades to come without changing the character of the program or penalizing working people:
It's a scam...First, the SSA isn't, in the cases I've directly heard about, telling people that the values of their own and their family members' lifetime benefits will be reduced if they file early. In this client's case, the loss will be not six, but nine months of delayed retirement credits (DRCs) - meaning a 6 percent smaller benefit each year.
Second, the SSA isn't telling people how much their family's lifetime benefits will fall. To do so, the SSA would need to understand how to value these lifetime benefits, which from everything I can tell, it doesn't. I used a computer program to calculate the maximum amount that taking Social Security's deal could cost this client. It's over $22,000! That's huge.
Third, the SSA isn't telling people that filing early will permanently reduce not only their own monthly check, but also the widow's benefit that their lower-earning spouse will collect if they die first. Fourth, it isn't telling people that they will need to wait until Jan. 1 to collect the DRCs accrued in the year they file if they file before reaching age 70. (For example, if you file at age 69 and 11 months in, say, July, you don't collect the DRCs for the preceding six months until Jan. 1 rolls around.) Is Social Security intentionally scamming the public?
Getting people to file early saves the system money. The reason is that the DRCs were established when interest rates were higher and survival rates lower. So, Social Security is overcompensating people for waiting until 70 relative to what's actuarially fair.
But if Social Security realizes it's making money with its bribes, it should be honest and say, "Listen, we are calling you with a lousy offer. If you take it, you can pocket some money right away, but it will cost you over time. But, here's the thing. The system's broke. It's 32 trillion in the red if you look at table VIF1 in the 2017 Social Security Trustees Report. So please help us out. We need the money more than you."