Update on the SWP

Jonathan Flanders jon_flanders at SPAMcompuserve.com
Mon Sep 6 09:26:28 MDT 1999



I can understand Mike Yates being miffed at Jose's quick putdown of his
comments on Taylorism. I personally think Jose is off on his assessment of
global warming.

But this last post on the SWP, looking at it of course as an ex-member, was
a gem. It confirmed some impressions I had developed and pointed to other
interesting phenomena, like the centrism issue.

Now without a doubt centrism and scepticism operate in the world of an
"unorganized socialist." Nevertheless the Barnes comment Jose highlighted
was truly amazing. Perhaps some context was missing, but it seems
consistent with my current experience. The last time I saw a SWP friend
working in rail, her main mission was to sell me Barne's book. It is a
collection of writings spanning the last decade or so.

My impression in talking to her, was that there was little interest in
working on the 55/30 retirement issue, which is the hottest thing going on
the  industry at the moment. I guess selling books of theory is "communist
work," while trying to lead and influence workers organizing around
pensions is "centrism." I'll append the latest circular to railworkers on
this issue below.

The 55/30 movement in the rail industry is largely due to the efforts of
Ron Friend, a BMWE(Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way) local president who
has been persistently agitating around the issue for the last two years. He
has made extensive use of email and set up a website dedicated to the
proposition. It's a good example of how workers are now using the new
internet technology to organize.

Jon Flanders

Date:  05-Sep-99 23:08:24  MsgID: MC2-83BC-4A3B  ToID: 72763,2240
From:  "ron friend" >INTERNET:railroadron at hotmail.com
Subj:  55/30 update
Chrg:  $0.00   Imp: Norm   Sens: Std    Receipt: No    Parts: 1


The following message is regarding the progress of the 55/30 proposal that
I
wrote about 18 months ago.  In order to obtain this goal, ALL rail labor
crafts are going to have to unite on this subject.  It is an obtainable
goal, but our leaders, the Senate, the Congress, the STB, and the FRA all
need to hear it from each of us.  In the meantime, while the issue is being

discussed railroaders are becoming disabled too young, railroaders are
dying
too young, and widows of railroaders are losing all that we have worked for

because they are to young to draw benefits.  We can let them hear more than

a quiet murmur, we have the technology to let them hear a roar.

Many suggestions have been given as to funding this proposed change.  Some
include:
we pay half, the carriers pay half

increase the tonnage rate and earmark the funds for the cost of the
proposed
changes.

the carrier pay it all

we, the worker, pay the increase.

in any case, it can be achieved.  Send those emails.  and if you have time,

post a copy of it in:   http://www.globaldialog.com/~tpm/friend/

Pass it on to the members of the rank and file that do not have access to
the internet.
And let us know what craft you are a member of.

Last, but not least, since we developed the forum on the proposal website
we
have received some rather disheartening messages that have nothing to do
with the retirement proposal.  I apologize for the messages and their
content and we ae taking appropriate action to address the 'anonymous'
person.

Now, not to mislead you, the following info is some that I just received,
not that I wrote.

Ron Friend
President, local 741
BMWE

The figures the actuary originally came up with have been revised as a
result of discussion of, among other things, the exact point you raised.
The
actuary studied other pension systems where 55 and 30 exist and has based
his newest calculations for the cost of 55 and 30 on assumptions that 40%
of
railroad workers would take advantage of 55 and 30 at age 55. He then
determined the numbers who would retire at 56 and 30, 57 and 30, etc. He
based his numbers primarily on Civil Service Retirees. We have asked him to

provide numbers based on 15% taking 55 and 30. The reason we are now saying

between 6 and 8% as opposed to the original number of 7.8% for 30 and 55
and
improved benefits for spouses is because of this downward revision (to 40%
taking 55 and 30). Another revision in our favor was made in that
employment
decline assumptions were reduced (i.e. rather than assuming there would be
a
3% decline per year in railroad employment there would only be a 2% decline

per year in railroad employment.)

Even under these new assumptions, the Railroad Retirement Trust Fund would
start running in the red (paying out more than it is taking in) by the year

2013 if there were no increase. We also must remember that if those
optimistic assumptions are inaccurate, the fund would start running in the
red even earlier.

Grand Lodge does believe the members deserve 30 and 55. The BLE is now
supporting 30 and 55 EVEN IF THE TAX MUST BE INCREASED. The other rail
unions are now supporting 30 and 55, but are unwilling to see a tax hike to

pay for it. This is recent.

I know it would be popular to simply demand that 30 and 55 be provided
without discussion of increased taxes. But that would simply be dishonest.
If we get a benefit we can't pay for, then the fund will stop providing
benefits or demand even more substantial increases later. We would not be
able to convince any of the other crafts to run this kind of risk with
Railroad Retirement or the Railroads. It would be a disservice to our
members also. The Railroads have outright refused to consider 30 and 55 in
their last meeting with us. They broke off the negotiations for now over
that issue. The rail crafts did not retreat from 30 and 55 despite this.
The
meeting this happened in occurred on August 31.


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