Article 43


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

News From ACER

ACER is the same ACECORP that has advocated employee-retiree retirement interests since 1998.  An “R” was added to emphasize that we now represent AT&T Employees and Retirees.

VISIT our new website: or

JOIN or Renew your membership

Read the letter sent to Judge Linares regarding the recent Supreme Court ruling on Age Discrimination and how it affects our case.


VOTE Your Shareholder Proxy!  It is Important!  Although Shareholder votes are non-binding, it supports the view and focus of the shareholder.  We need 5% votes to appear on the proxy the next year. Never give up your voice!  We don’t expect to win, but we can get their attention!

Vote FOR Proxy No. 8, Executive Pensions requiring the Board to seek shareholder approval of any extraordinary supplemental pension benefits for senior executives.  This is cosponsored by Domini Social Investment,LLC.  and AT&T Concerned Employees and Retirees (ACER).

Vote FOR Proxy No. 9, Severance Agreements requiring approval of a “Golden Parachute” in excess of 2.99 of salary and bonus.  ACER and CALPERS (Ca. Public Employees Retirement System) proposed the same proxy.  CALPERS is the named sponsor because of an earlier postmark.  CALPERS is one of the largest institutional voters.

The Shareholder meeting is June 30, 2005 in Denver Colorado.  Email the website if you can attend.

SEEKING Non-management employees that were promoted to Management after the Cash Balance conversion.  You are not part of the current lawsuit.  ACER wants to identify you.  Please writeinto the website.

Credit: pension_watchdog

Posted by Elvis on 06/14/05 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Employee Vs Independent Contractor

Being An Employee Versus Being An Independent Contractor

Maybe you’ve never thought about the difference between being an employee and being an independent contractor (also called a “consultant”wink. In many respects, there seems to be no difference at all. Often, independent contractors and employees work side-by-side at the same company, even doing the same or similar work. But there are very important legal differences between the two. These differences go beyond job title. In fact, sometimes the job title doesn’t match the legal classification—and sometimes job titles are changed to get around legal obligations. Your employment status affects many issues such as employment benefits, tax implications, and liability. If you are accepting a job offer to be an independent contractor, you should know some of the key differences.

Usually works for only one employer.
Generally provides consulting services to more than one company.

Works the hours set by the employer.
Sets his or her own hours.

Usually works at the employer’s place of business.
Works out of his or her own office or home.

Often receives employment benefits, such as health and disability insurance.
Does not receive employment benefits from the employer.

Works under the control and direction of the employer.
Works relatively independently.

Accomplishes tasks in the manner the employer has requested.
Has the authority to decide how to go about accomplishing tasks, and does so without the employer’s input.

Tends not to incur costs or make investments in the work.
Incurs the costs associated with performing the job.

Has a general education and experience background, and receives special training from the employer in order to do the job better.
Has acquired very specialized skills and comes to the work relationship with a particularized education and experience background.

Receives net salary after employer has withheld income tax, Social Security and Medicare tax under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA).
Is not subject to tax or FICA withholding, but pays his or her own self­-employment tax.

Will likely be eligible to receive unemployment compensation after lay off or termination.
Is not eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.

Will receive worker’s compensation benefits for any workplace injury.
Is not eligible for worker’s compensation benefits.

Generally (unless employment is “at will”wink can be terminated by the employer only for good cause and with notice.
Generally (unless the consulting contract is for a specified term) can be let go by the employer for any reason, at any time.

Is covered by federal and state wage and hour laws such as minimum wage and overtime rules.
Is paid according to the terms of the contract, and does not receive additional compensation for overtime hours worked.

Has the protection of workplace safety and employment anti-discrimination laws.
Usually is not protected by employment anti-discrimination and workplace safety laws.

May be entitled to join or form a union.
Is not entitled to join or form a union.

This publication and the information included in it are not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.


Posted by Elvis on 06/09/05 •
Section General Reading
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Wal-Mart and Staffing Agencies

The Wal-Mart Era…

I started my third temp job this week, almost a year after getting layed off from AT&T. I still lack a job with opportunity for growth, decent pay, and employer paid benefits. While my nest egg dissolves meeting bills the temp paycheck doesn’t, hopes of a happy future or happy retirement weaken each day.

AT&T is still laying off, and still REPLACING those layed off with low paid AMERICAN TEMPS, outsourced work to Communist China, poverty ridden India, and other suppliers of cheap labor.

I think Wal-Mart and companies like AT&T that PARTNER WITH STAFFING COMPANIES, are two solid indicators of America’s corporate, economic and political attitudes. 

They illustrate real world examples of the effects of today’s politics, unchecked corporatism, and corporate greed - striving for the lowest common denominator in search of increased profits with government support, who, in my opinion, are giving liittle reflection to the damge being inflicted on our society.

A blogger said Wal-Mart - the biggest employer in America today - tells it’s employees to get food stamps and public assistance, since they don’t get paid enough from their employer. Workers there lack adequate health benefits and make less than $10/hr.

Like American and multinational corporations, staffing agencies may be getting bigger, stronger, greedier, and less concerned on being good corporate citizens, following Wal-Mart’s model of employment and (lack of) benefits - while layed off middle class professional workers increase in numbers and desperation - resulting in widespread exploitation of the skilled labor pool for substandard wages, who may soon be cashing in food stamps too.

Other opportunities and the American Dream are DISAPPEARING.

Posted by Elvis on 06/09/05 •
Section General Reading
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Wednesday, June 08, 2005

GM cuts 25,000 US jobs

6/7/05 General Motors Corp. is cutting 25,000 jobs and closing an unspecified number of plants over the next 3-1/2 years, CEO Rick Wagoner told shareholders Tuesday.

"First, we are reenergizing our global sourcing efforts. While we’ve had an effective approach in purchasing for a number of years, our move to a global product development system, accompanied by the emergence of excellent supply capability and lower-cost markets, provide us with some real cost-savings opportunities,” Wagoner said.  In other words - he’s gonna outsource the jobs to cheap overseas labor.

The 25,000 jobs represent about 17 percent of GM’s U.S. work force, which includes 111,000 unionized employees and another 39,000 salaried staff.


Posted by Elvis on 06/08/05 •
Section General Reading
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Monday, June 06, 2005

Exploiting Workers in Brooklyn NY

I lived in Bushwick for awhile, a tough neighborhood in Brooklyn where minimum wage jobs in knitting mills and sweat shops were the norm. The Mob hung out on Knickerbocker Avenue, which was mostly Italian restaurants and barber shops back then.  The article below paints it’s picture today.


Beyond the Bargains, Grievances

By Steven Greenhouse
New York Times
June 6, 2005

Like many shopping strips in immigrant neighborhoods, Knickerbocker Avenue in Bushwick is overflowing with 99-cent stores, cuchifrito stands, sneaker shops - and egregious wage and hour violations.

At the Super Star 99 discount store at 353 Knickerbocker, employees say they work 63 hours a week for $260, which works out to $4.13 an hour, far below the state minimum wage of $6 an hour and the federal minimum of $5.15.

At the Nuevo Mexico restaurant at 276 Knickerbocker, Patricia Reyes, a 29-year-old waitress and cook, said she received just $165 a week, including tips, for 72 hours of work, which comes to $2.29 an hour.

And at Footco, a bustling sneaker shop at 431 Knickerbocker, workers said they earned $4.75 an hour working more than 50 hours a week.

For many workers in Bushwick, Brooklyn, the possibility of receiving the legally required time and a half for overtime, even when they work 80-hour weeks, seems as likely as winning the lottery.

“They always told us work faster, faster, and the money was really bad,” said Deisi Cortes, who worked as a stocker at Super Star 99 until April when she was fired, she said, for being pregnant. “We’d ask for a raise, and all they’d say is, ‘Maybe later on.’ “

Knickerbocker Avenue is in many ways the face of New York’s traditional retail life outside of central Manhattan’s wealthy shopping locales, with bodegas, low-cost stores, and ethnic restaurants jumbled together in a confusion of awnings and blaring signs. Immigrant shopping strips like this one in Bushwick and others in Corona, Jamaica, Sunset Park and Washington Heights not only serve the working class but just as often exploit it with widespread wage violations, according to economists, sociologists, immigrant advocates and community groups.

“New York is like the wild, wild West,” said Annette Bernhardt, a senior policy analyst with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School. “The violations are on such a scale that nobody can monitor all of them.” She said widespread violations in Bushwick mirrored those in many businesses that rely on immigrants - greengrocers, laundries, restaurants and garment factories.

The large number of unskilled immigrant workers, many of them here illegally, helps create a fertile climate for wage violations on streets like Knickerbocker. In addition, many immigrant storeowners are unfamiliar with wage laws and not much concerned about them, and the government has been less than vigorous in enforcing them.

“It’s pretty stunning the extent to which stores here break wage and hour laws,” said Deborah Axt, a lawyer with Make the Road by Walking, an immigrant advocacy group in Bushwick. “The violations seem epidemic.”

Robert C. Smith, a sociologist at Baruch College, said recent interviews and surveys he conducted showed that half of New York’s illegal immigrants were paid less than the minimum wage, partly because many are too scared to speak out. But many legal immigrants also face wage violations, and some say storeowners offer them less than the minimum wage if they do not speak passable English.

It might seem odd that federal and state officials demand that employers pay the minimum wage to illegal immigrants. But officials say enforcing wage laws, even for those workers, is important to prevent the exploitation of any employees, legal or not, and to discourage employers from hiring illegal immigrants for cut-rate wages when jobs might have gone to Americans or legal immigrants at $7 or $8 an hour. In addition, wage enforcement helps deter off-the-books work that deprives the government of tax revenue.

Concerned about the high rate of wage violations, Make the Road by Walking and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have adopted an unusual strategy. They are collecting information about violations from scores of workers on Knickerbocker Avenue. The two groups plan to confront storeowners with this evidence and give them a choice: either face a lawsuit or government action seeking maximum back pay, or agree to unionization and face a less aggressive push for back pay.Bushwick teems with newcomers from Mexico, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, and Knickerbocker Avenue, as with many immigrant-dominated retail strips, is characterized by low prices, low wages and shoppers with low incomes. At stores like National 99 Cent or Less, LaCasa Discount and Barato Variety, shoppers can find cans of Coke for 49 cents, flower-print bedspreads for $14.99 and pinstriped suits for $79.99.

At Minimax, a discount store at 437 Knickerbocker, Sofia Campos said she earned $3.80 an hour until she was fired when she missed work one day because her daughter had a high fever. Other Minimax workers said they also were getting $3.8o an hour for 63 hours of work before the owners paid $65,000 last year to settle a lawsuit over wage violations. The workers said the store now paid the minimum wage.

Emilio Cortes said he received $320, or $4.38 an hour, for his 73-hour workweeks at S & S Farms before it reached a $28,000 settlement in March with the state attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Cortes said he was paid $6 an hour now.

Morris Cohen, the owner of Minimax, did not respond to three phone messages, and Khubib Masoud, the manager of Super Star 99, declined to comment. The owner of Footco, the sneaker store, did not return two phone calls, but workers at the store refused to give their names because they feared they would be fired for complaining. A manager at Nuevo Mexico restaurant denied any wage violations.

Some storeowners acknowledged that the intense competition on Knickerbocker Avenue created pressure to flout wage laws to save money.

“Some new people, they come, and they try to squeeze people,” said Adelo Jreige, who has owned Adelo’s Shoes for 20 years, making him a respected veteran on the ever-changing avenue. “Rent is going crazy, and it’s hard to operate, and people do what they can to manage.”

Mr. Jreige said he complied with labor laws. “I have people making $7 an hour, $6.50 and $5.75,” he said, apparently unaware that on Jan. 1, New York’s minimum wage rose to $6, from $5.15.

Steve Kim, the manager of Morris Discounts, at 348 Knickerbocker, acknowledged that his store paid some workers $5 an hour in cash. “If you make $6 on the books, wouldn’t it be smarter to make $5 off the books?” he said. “Some people prefer to get cash. It’s good, and they don’t pay taxes.”

The retail union and Make the Road by Walking say that a half century ago, half of Knickerbocker Avenue’s stores were unionized, but that just two were now. The groups assert that unionization would be preferable to occasional back-pay settlements because it would mean long-term improvements in wages and benefits.

“The State Department of Labor is completely overwhelmed and doesn’t seem to have enough commitment or resources to do the job properly,” said Andrew Friedman, a co-director of Make the Road by Walking. “My sense is many folks are very scared to stand up and complain because they worry about losing their jobs and because they have a perception that the State Labor Department isn’t interested in protecting the rights of immigrants.”

Robert Lillpopp, the department’s spokesman, said its investigators pursued complaints, regardless of a worker’s immigration status. He noted that the agency recently expanded the mandate of its Apparel Industry Task Force to include many low-wage industries.

But Julia Ortiz, a Dominican immigrant, faulted the department’s investigation of the discount store where she worked. In November, Ms. Ortiz and a coworker, Consuelo Echeverry, protested to the department, saying the store, Save Smart, paid them $35 for 11-hour workdays, equal to $3.18 an hour. Shortly after the state sent investigators to the store, Ms. Ortiz said, the manager fired her and Ms. Echeverry because he was angry that they had complained to the state.

Ms. Ortiz said that when she complained to the Labor Department that it had violated its promise to keep their names confidential, officials told her their identities had been divulged at the store owner’s insistence. “We felt totally betrayed,” Ms. Ortiz said.

Ali Hamad, Save Smart’s manager, declined to comment. Mr. Lillpopp said the investigators would not have disclosed the names because state regulations bar officials from revealing the identities of complaining workers while investigations are in progress. “It didn’t happen,” he said, adding that the department was still investigating the store.

“Sometimes it felt like we were working for nothing,” Ms. Ortiz said. “I don’t know why we didn’t leave. We were afraid that we would end up without jobs.”


Posted by Elvis on 06/06/05 •
Section General Reading
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