Article 43

 

Monday, July 18, 2005

AT&T Inhuman Business Practice

The new bottom line ethics of AT&T managers has created a workforce of stress, tension, and apathy.
http://cwa3250.org/ July 15, 2005

Our members show up each day to professionally perform and maintain AT&Ts network. They contribute their experience and expertise to a company on the brink of human collapse. The workplace of AT&T managers is now ruled on the premise of the bottom line. All human contact between managers and our members is now based on how and what you can do to improve a managers numbers or perceived performance relating to the bottom line.

Gone is the interaction between managers and employees that spawned working relationships that fostered loyalty, sacrifice, and commitment to team efforts that once created a workforce of unequal dedication. The new bottom line ethics of AT&T managers has created a workforce of stress, tension, and apathy.

Combine this with AT&Ts policy of no training, understaffing, rebalancing, and constant quarterly lay-offs and anyone can see that the company is becoming a hollow shell. How does the company respond to our demoralized and understaffed workforce? They first try surveys to give the impression that they care about our input and will seriously consider our suggestions. When was the last time you can remember the company responding seriously or implementing any of your suggestions? Now, if they cant motivate the rank and file with smoke and mirror surveys, they can always drive us, its much easier than leading.

This is done by piling on work with unreasonable expectations and then denying you vacation, manipulating overtime, canceling tours, and violating seniority, while you answer to eight different bosses who all ask you the same question, is it done yet. If this doesnt improve your morale and stress level, then they can just declare another lay-off, so in the morning they can pretend that they are concerned when they ask you “How are you doing?”

Then the circle starts up again as your managers look at their numbers and see how we can improve their bottom line. When they call you a body or a resource, they only reinforce that they no longer regard us as human, we’re just another piece of equipment as part of the network. When it breaks, throw it out, and replace it with another, perhaps a contractor will do. Look around you, there they are, searching for the next body or resource that can improve their bottom line or manipulate their numbers. Can they remember our name or that we are people with families, dreams, and feelings? Probably not.

Source

Posted by Elvis on 07/18/05 •
Section General Reading
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Sunday, July 03, 2005

US House Wants To Legalize Cash Balance Pensions

Click HERE to read the press release “The House Committee on Education & the Workforce Approves Pension Protection Act.”

Cash balance pensions are STILL NOT PERMANENTLY APPROVED by Congress! Corporate lobbyists have been trying for years to cram this down our throats, but they haven’t been successful despite their deep pockets.  WE HAVE STOPPED THEM BY MAKING NOISE! 

The class action case is still pending.  We have successfully stopped The Treasury Department from enacting unfair new rules.  Now we have to make sure Congress hears us again before they vote on a piece of legislative crap called HR 2830. 

PLEASE take a few minutes to read this newspeak from Boehner, and follow the suggestions below.  This is YOUR retirement at stake.  Join the most important grass roots rebellion in 35 years.  And forward this message to everybody.

During consideration of the bill, the committee approved a substitute amendment offered by Boehner to help resolve the legal uncertainty surrounding cash balance plans, a type of hybrid defined benefit plan that many American workers rely upon for their retirement security.

“Cash balance pension plans a type of defined benefit plan that is employer-funded, insured by the PBGC, and portable from job to job ֖ represent an important component of worker retirement security, and they account for more than 20 percent of the premium revenue paid by employers to the PBGC,” said Boehner. “Cash balance pension plans are the future of the defined benefit system, and it’s critically important that Congress act to resolve the legal uncertainty that is jeopardizing generous pension benefits for workers across the country.”

The cash balance solution is the result of an agreement reached between Boehner and Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (R-CA). It establishes a simple age discrimination standard for all defined benefit plans that clarifies current law with respect to age discrimination requirements under ERISA on a prospective basis. The bill does not establish different rules for hybrid plans or conversions, but merely sets up a simple age discriminatory standard that all defined benefit plans must meet prospectively. The measure also prohibits employers from reducing or cutting any vested benefits workers have earned during a conversion to a cash balance plan.

“It is important to begin to address the legal status of these retirement plans,” said Johnson. “I have many constituents that are covered by this type of plan and are very happy with the retirement benefits they are earning. Legal harassment of these retirement plans needs to stop.”

Note from Janet Krueger on the four things you should do:

1) Writea letter to the editor of your local paper --- I’ve attached below the one I sent off yesterday.

2) Call your two senators and your representative in Washington and tell them you are outraged—Generally they respond more appropriately to phone calls than to snail mail, and most ignore email. Have the bill number in hand (H.R. 2830) because often the receptionists only classify things by bill number. Make sure you leave your name and your address; many of the people in Washington only listen to people from their district.

A) To find your senators, go HERE and choose your state, then pick up the phone and tell them they better not follow along behind the House. Follow up your call with a short letter. Both their phone number and their address is on that site.

B) To find your representative, go HERE and enter your zip code. Do one more piece of research—look at the education and workforce committee HERE if your representative is on the list of 27 republican represenatives, s/he needs an extra blast of outrage. If your representative is on the list of 22 democratic representatives, s/he needs an extra thank you. If s/he is not on
either list, tell them to please vote no to the bill when it comes to the floor.

3) Contact the committee with a phone call and a letter at:

Committee on Education and the Workforce
U. S. House of Representatives
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 225-4527

4) Forward this note to your network of friends, neighbors and colleagues so they can also act.

If we can generate over 1000 phone calls, Congress will be forced, once again, to back off. Thanks for asking!

Janet Krueger

----

My letter to the editor:

Subject: Letter to the editor --- Cash balance plans do NOT need to be legalized!

In 1999, IBM converted their US pension plan into a cash balance plan. In the process, they cut the benefits of many older workers by as much as 40%.

A lawsuit was filed against IBM in 1999 by Kathi Cooper charging that the new plan is age discriminatory, as it allows younger workers to accumulate retirement benefits much more rapidly than older workers.

Late last year, IBM agreed to settle the lawsuit. The settlement agreement calls for IBM to pay workers $1.7 billion if IBM loses their appeal on the legality of cash balance plans, but only $314 million if IBM wins the appeal.

Today, Republicans in Congress decided to intervene on IBM’s behalf. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce just approved a bill to legalize cash balance plans. According to their press release, “Cash balance pension plans are the future of the defined benefit system, and it’s critically important that Congress act to resolve the legal uncertainty that is jeopardizing generous pension benefits for workers across the country. . . Legal harassment of these retirement plans needs to stop.”

This is outrageous! The plans are NOT ‘generous’; workers should not be accused of harassment when they seek redress against employers who slash federally protected benefits.

Congress is doing this retroactively. The bill defines “effective date” as “The amendments made by this section shall apply to plan years beginning before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act.”

IBM knowingly broke the law when they cut our pensions. IBM employees deserve their full day in court. Congress should back off and stay out of the fight.

Janet Krueger

Credit: pension_watchdog

Posted by Elvis on 07/03/05 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Phone Giant’s Final Knell

By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
July 1, 2005

AT&T investors OK SBC sale, but many aren’t happy about it

AT&T executives on Thursday came to talk to shareholders about the tumultuous past decade that led to the need to merge with Baby Bell SBC Communications.

But many shareholders at the historic event in Denver - AT&T’s 120th and almost certainly final annual meeting - wanted to talk instead about management mistakes over the years, hefty executive compensation, job and benefit cuts, stock price declines . . . and how Ma Bell has ended up a shell of her former self.

“They Built It, They Broke It . . . RIP AT&T,” read black T-shirts with gravestones worn by union officials.

About 250 shareholders attended the meeting at the Colorado Convention Center, in which AT&T shareholders soundly approved the $16 billion sale of the company to San Antonio-based SBC. New Jersey-based AT&T likes to rotate its annual meeting around the country, and CEO David Dorman said there are 20,570 registered AT&T shareholders in Colorado.

Lani Flesch, an AT&T manager for more than 20 years, took three days of vacation to travel from her Chicago wholesale markets job and gave an impassioned criticism of a company that has shrunk in stature from nearly 1 million employees before divestiture in 1984 to fewer than 50,000 today.

She complained about the new breed of CEOs who have widened the pay gap between multimillion-dollar-a-year executives and the average worker. She bemoaned the decision by AT&T to spin off its cable and wireless operations. And she contended that since the 1990s, it has been the employees, retirees and shareholders who have suffered the brunt of the pain.

Flesch broke down when she recounted that AT&T’s “ruthless” behavior in 1998 personally cost her 65 percent of her pension and 13 years of labor. She said she won’t earn back those benefits until 2011, when she is 60.

She compared that with the millions Dorman will earn in pension benefits for less than five years of service.

“How can shareholders, employees and retirees be expected to share the pain when their own executives take the gain?” Flesch asked.

But Flesch also said after the meeting that she voted for the merger with SBC because AT&T “can’t go it alone” any longer.

A majority of AT&T shareholders apparently saw it that way. More than 70 percent of the shares were cast in favor of the merger.

But another nearly 30 percent were withheld intentionally or not voted.

Dorman remained largely unflappable during the 90-minute meeting, taking in but not responding to the criticism by Flesch and other stockholders.

This exasperated stockholder activist Gerald Armstrong, of Denver.

At one point, Armstrong said he was hoping Dorman would respond to a union official who called it “tragic” that AT&T had come to this and who had urged stockholders to withhold their support for the company’s directors.

“I have no response,” Dorman said.

“I feel shortchanged,” Armstrong countered.

Dorman’s presentation also was lacking in any kind of tribute to the early days of AT&T, instead focusing almost entirely on what has transpired since the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which paved the way for the Baby Bells and AT&T to compete in each other’s businesses.

Dorman revisited the turbulence of the past decade, talking about how the “irrational exuberance,” hyper investment, overcapacity, accounting fraud, competitive technologies and pricing pressures all led to an “inevitable bursting of the bubble.”

He told shareholders the deal with SBC is the “greatest opportunity” for increasing shareholder value and ensuring that the company has the financial strength to prosper in an intensely competitive environment.

He said SBC offers as a complement a strong local phone and DSL high-speed Internet business, as well as a nationwide wireless operation through its 60 percent ownership of Cingular, and soon will offer video services.

A video that accompanied Dorman’s remarks also revisited the past decade and showed several images of former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers, now convicted of fraud. The message seemed to be that WorldCom, now known again as MCI, contributed to the downfall of AT&T.

On at least this point, Flesch, the Chicago wholesale markets manager, agreed.

She said after the meeting that she believed AT&T was compelled to match MCI’s performance and that MCI’s “lies” about its revenues caused AT&T to spin off its broadband and wireless operations.

“We could have had it all, and instead we’re being bought,” Flesch said, tears still in her eyes.

SOURCE

Credit: pension_watchdog

Posted by Elvis on 07/02/05 •
Section Pension Ripoff • Section News
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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Article - Midcareer Crises

Information Week

The world for older IT pros is in flux: Jobs have never felt so precarious, and retirement looks very different. The easy answers - such as retraining - aren’t so easy.

Three years ago, Rich Straka packed his bags and moved 700 miles away from his family to study computer security at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Sounds like just another story about a kid off to college. Except instead of leaving behind Mom and Dad for four years of frat parties, Straka left his own home, a wife, and two sons. Pushing 50 and with only a part-time job, Straka had to start rethinking his career.

After putting in 20-plus years at AT&T Bell Labs and then Lucent Technologies in demanding positions such as being the architect of a computing environment used by 6,000 software developers, who could blame Straka if he had looked forward to mixing work with a little more pleasure time as he entered the zenith of his career? Instead, he felt compelled to accept an early retirement package in July 2001, when Lucent, like other telecom-equipment suppliers, retrenched in the wake of the Internet and telecom-industry bust. He didn’t want to leave but worried that his pension benefits would be a lot less lucrative if he stuck it out and then later became a victim of layoffs. The post-9/11 job market in Chicago wasn’t rife with other opportunities, though, and Straka knew he had to make a major move. “It was an opportunity I needed to go after,” he says.

Across the country, thousands of seasoned IT pros have faced similar career upheavals, or could in the near future. It’s happening to their younger counterparts, too, as offshore outsourcing, corporate downsizing, and fast-changing technologies shatter the myth of job stability. Just this month, the Walt Disney Co. disclosed plans to cut about 1,000 IT jobs and outsource the work to other companies. For those IT pros in the second half of their careers--and the latest data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there are about 301,000 who are 55 and older--the possibility of having to change gears amid these conditions presents unique challenges.

FULL STORY

Posted by Elvis on 06/16/05 •
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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

HR 2830 - Pension Protection Act of 2005

Congressman Boehner’s bill, The Pension Protection Act of 2005 (H.R. 2830), has a great title, but ignores older workers who have already been deprived of benefits when their employers froze traditional pension plan accruals when converting to cash balance pension plans.  This bill can be corrected with new language that:

Prohibits companies from establishing employee cash balance accounts that will result in lower benefits than employees have accrued under traditional defined benefit plans.

Protects the right of older workers to continue accruing benefits after conversion to cash balance plans (Eliminate the “wear-away” period).

The bill’s current language has been described as a “Get out of jail free” card for companies who have already discriminated against older employees by converting to cash balance pension plans.

Boehner also announced plans to introduce a bill to LEGALIZE CASH BALANCE PLANS (That’s right.  They still aren’t legal)!  Tell your congresman that any such bill MUST PROTECT OLDER WORKERS.  Nothing less will be acceptable.  This is especially urgent if your rep is on the Education & Workforce Committee. Click HERE for the list of members.

I recently met an AT&T employee who was just laid off.  He told me he was shocked when he got his pension paperwork.  He suddenly understood what I’ve been ranting about for years.  He expectd a much larger pension.

Contact your Congressional Rep.
Explain that HR 2830 is unnacceptable as written, and that Cash balance plans should NOT be legalized without better protection for older workers.

Ask your rep to support HR1322 The Emergency Retiree Health Care Benefits Act.  For details and an easy method to get this done, go to http://www.nrln.org/ and enter your zip code in the “Writeto congress” box.

What else you can do:

Forward this message to other interested parties
Check and bookmark this site:  http://www.att-retirees.org/index.html
If you’re leaving AT&T, send me your personal e-mail address.
Vote your proxy.

Credit: pension_watchdog

Posted by Elvis on 06/15/05 •
Section Pension Ripoff
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In the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to loose for their convictions are deserving of posterity's approval. -- Gerald Ford

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