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Jan., Feb.


Pre-1999 - Duke Energy Employee Advocate

News March 2000

"If you want justice on the job, nobody is going to give it to you. You have to fight for it." - Rep. Sanders

IBM Pension Plan Tagged as a 'Scandal'
Poughkeepsie Journal 3/30/00

"It's the biggest financial scandal in U.S. history and nobody's heard about it," Lang told a group of about 50 IBMer activists gathered at the Best Western Inn Wednesday. "The scale of it is in the hundreds of billions of dollars."

More firms falsify revenue to boost stocks
USA TODAY 3/29/00

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission brought 90 accounting fraud cases against companies nationwide. More than half involved falsifying revenue, says Helane Morrison, head of the SEC's San Francisco office.

When CEO’s are obsessed with stock price, there is no limit to what they will do. If companies are willing to rob employees for money, what’s a few lies?

PG&E faces new battle with Brockovich
The Charlotte Observer - March 28, 2000

KETTLEMAN HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- In the No. 1 hit "Erin Brockovich," many moviegoers are seeing how a brash young legal secretary forced Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to pay a record $333 million settlement for poisoning the water in a small California desert town.

But the movie's story of environmental villainy is only the beginning of the legal and public relations nightmare Brockovich has created for the utility company.

A bigger, broader lawsuit is headed to trial in November against San Francisco-based PG&E and one of its main suppliers.

About 1,500 employees, their families, other residents and farmers who lived or worked near three PG&E gas-compressor plants contend their water supplies also were contaminated with harmful levels of cancer-causing chromium 6 from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The tough-talking, streetwise Brockovich is trying to find every last person who may have been exposed. Being portrayed on screen by Julia Roberts hasn't hurt. In the movie's first week, 40 to 50 potential plaintiffs called.

"We won't feel resolved -- morally, ethically, or legally -- until we have found everyone we were supposed to," said Brockovich, 39. "And I will keep working until we do."

PG&E has said little about the accuracy of the movie or its effect on the litigation.

"Our general response with respect to the movie is just that we recognize it's a dramatization. It's an entertainment vehicle," spokesman Greg Pruett said. He added that PG&E officials "don't really have any thoughts" about how the film might affect the company's image or influence jurors.

"I will say this: I do believe that when the case is brought to trial, we will mount a very spirited and vigorous defense," he said. "And we are confident we will be successful in that defense."

Brockovich, who was hired by lawyer Ed Masry even though she had no college degree or technical experience, was looking at files for a real estate case in 1992 when she found medical reports about low T-cell counts and other blood problems among residents of the town of Hinkley.

Curious, she drove her beat-up car out to the Mojave Desert town -- about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles -- and began a quest that lasted four years.

"Erin did most of the work," Masry, played by Albert Finney in the movie, said of the research that uncovered the Hinkley pollution scandal that brought compensation for 652 Hinkley residents in 1996. Brockovich earned $2 million for herself. But she wasn't done snooping around.

Suspecting similar problems at other PG&E plants, Brockovich and Masry drove out to Kettleman Hills in California's Central Valley, where employees and their families once lived onsite in a complex they called Camp PG&E.

Masry looked at the cooling towers and the buildings abandoned in the mid-1980s and saw no sign of contamination. He told Brockovich to drop it.

But she noticed a white powder on the needles of the tamarisk trees, an abnormality she remembered from Hinkley. And soon, she was at it again, mining records and tracking down anyone who lived or worked at Kettleman.

Among the boxloads of documents she copied was a 1964 letter from the U.S. Interior Department notifying PG&E about unhealthy levels of chromium 6 in Kettleman's water well.

The Kettleman plaintiffs accuse PG&E of contaminating the water they used for drinking, bathing, swimming and watering crops. They say the water gave them everything from nosebleeds to fatal diseases. The case also includes about 150 people from Hinkley who missed out on the first lawsuit and about 20 from a plant in Topock, on the California-Arizona line, who also claim they were sickened by chromium. Also being sued is Betz Laboratories Inc. of Pennsylvania, which supplied the chromium, one of the chemicals used to cool natural gas.

Unlike the lawsuit depicted in the movie, PG&E has not offered binding arbitration, which would bring a swift outcome. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say PG&E is trying to prolong the proceedings so that there will be fewer survivors.

PG&E declined to respond to that allegation or any other related to the lawsuit.

Gary Praglin, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, said at least 50 people have died since the case was filed about five years ago. Their include cancer, kidney and liver diseases, serious respiratory problems and colon diseases like Crohn's.

Ruth Ann Vaughn, who spent the first 10 of her 47 years at Camp PG&E, recalls the innocent days she spent floating boats carved from Ivory soap in the cooling ponds, or being sprayed by the mist from the cooling towers as she rode on the handlebars of her brother's bike to buy bubblegum from a company snack machine.

She blames chromium exposure for her Crohn's disease and the loss of her sister and mother, who died of multiple organ failure in the early 1990s. And she wants PG&E to pay.

"They need to take care of the people they've harmed," Vaughn said, her voice cracking. "They've killed innocent children, moms, dads and families, for profit. And then instead of doing the right thing, they continue to cover it up and they're making us victims again."

Shareholder groups to back workers
Poughkeepsie Journal - 3/28/00

A lot of people are disgusted with companies taking pension funds, and are doing something about it.

Dozens of pension funds for public employees and unions will follow, said Bill Patterson, who oversees investments for the AFL-CIO. "We have put this on our focus list of companies," he said.

Investors May Be Caught by Surprise
Tampa Bay Online - 3/24/00

The Securities and Exchange Commission is cracking down on the 'game of nods and winks' some companies play to make their revenues and profits match rosy projections.

This is more great news. Many companies are becoming adept at slight-of-hand methods of making profits appear greater than they actually are. CEOs with day trader mentalities and obsessed with “deal flow” will naturally gravitate to such tactics. These types think they can hoodwink investors and talk the price of their stock up. Also, money added to the bottom line from pensions funds is real money, but not earned money.

Calpers backs IBM workers in pension dispute
CBS MarketWatch - 3/27/00

The largest U.S. public pension fund on Monday threw its weight behind International Business Machines Corp. employees in their dispute with the computer giant over changes to its pension plan. A number of U.S. labour unions, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, are also recommending their pension funds back the shareholder proposal. IBEW director of corporate affairs James Combs estimated supporters had so far marshaled some 20 to 30 million proxy votes, but noted that with over a billion IBM shares outstanding, they still faced an uphill battle.

The Internal Revenue Service and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are investigating whether such conversions may constitute age discrimination and there have been calls in Congress to restrict the practice.

But, the EEOC will only investigate YOUR case if you ask them to, and at no charge. Call 1-800-669-4000 and ask to speak to an EEOC investigator. Ask for nothing and you will probably get it!

Firms hook up to make gas-cutting cow feed
The Charlotte Observer - 3/25/00

It sounds like a joke, but a Canadian electric company had signed an agreement with a U. S. company to produce a feed supplement for cattle in Uganda, to reduce cow belching and flatulence. TransAlta, Canada’s largest private power provider, is trying to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. Company officials say they can cut the equivalent of 30 million tons of methane gas by using the feed supplement.

Duke had better stay out of this deal. If Duke Energy gets involved, only more hot air will be produced!

US Airways, Flight Attendants reach tentative agreement
The Charlotte Observer - 3/25/00

The union said the five-year agreement provides fair raises, new retirement formula with no social security offset and the marriage penalty eliminated and a signing bonus.The deal must be ratified by the 10,000 union members.

They also get an improved retirement plan. Ask for nothing; get nothing!

US Airways Negotiates With Union
Yahoo News - 3/24/00

About 10,000 US Airways flight attendants are working under a contract that expired at the end of 1996. It gave them their last pay raise, 4 percent, at the beginning of that year.

When is a union not a union? When your contract expired years ago and you have not had a raise in years! Instead of the company appreciating the employees forbearance, they only view it as a sign of weakness. With Rick Priory on the board, they could go on forever without a contract. It is past time for some "in your face action"!

President Clinton also can order a halt to transportation strikes for 60 days...

Yeah? He can also order two Big Macs and a chocolate shake.

Pension Appreciation
Plan Sponsor - News Dash 3/24/00

Federal Reserve Board data reveals that pension fund assets have more than doubled in the past five years, totaling $10.4 trillion at the end of 1999, compared with $4.9 trillion at the end of 1994. Private pension funds comprise about $6.6 trillion of the total. Seventy-four percent of the five year surge is attributable to asset appreciation alone.

It is just like the social security fund. No one except retiree were ever supposed to get their grubby hands on the money. But, someone said: "Hey, look at ALL that money! How can we get our hands on it?"

Charlotte Business Leader Urged To Speak Out
Association of Flight Attendants Press Release - 3/23/00

Power Company CEO and US Airways Trustee Richard Priory Remains Silent While Airline Threatens to Cut Off Air Service for Charlotte.

Of course Rick Priory is going to remain silent. Stonewalling is his game.

Business leader Richard Priory is being accused by some in the Charlotte community of showing a lack of leadership in the US Airways crisis.

Lack of leadership? Have you not noticed? Duke can only follow other companies.

Priory, a member of the airline's Board of Directors, has been silent while the airline threatens to shut down operations, strand thousands of travelers, and wreak havoc on employees' families.

Rick Priory is on your board of directors? HOLD ON TO YOUR PENSION!

New overtime law spurs change
San Jose Mercury News - 3/22/00

Now that California's new overtime law is in full swing, efforts to both enforce and modify it are heating up. Known as AB 60, the law on Jan. 1 reinstated overtime pay after eight hours a day instead of 40 hours a week, among other changes. The new law has emboldened some Silicon Valley workers who weren't being paid overtime to ask for it. And it has created headaches for companies that employ highly paid hourly computer workers, many of whom used to be exempt from the law.

Duke uses classification games to chisel employees out of overtime pay. It is possible to be promoted to a higher paying job and end up making less money.

Govt. Agrees to Sex Bias Settlement
InfoBeat News - 3/22/00

This story is here to show that not all legal cases are settled quickly; most take at least years to be resolved. This case was not resolved quickly; it took 23 years! But, a settlement was reached, to the tune of 508 million dollars! Patience can pay. Another important point is that if the original charge/lawsuit had never been filed, the settlement would have been zero! Also, for those who were holding back filing a complaint, to “see how things would go,” are now left out in the cold. NOW is the time to make YOUR decision. Do you want on board the train, or do you just want to observe from the station?

The federal government today agreed to a $508 million settlement of a 23-year-old lawsuit filed by women who claimed a U.S. agency refused to hire them because of their gender, Justice Department officials said.

Even the federal government is not immune to the power of the law. And, the federal government is MUCH more powerful than Duke Energy Corporation.

Vt. lawmaker to join IBM protest
"Poughkeepsie Journal" - 3/22/00

Rep. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Monday he will join IBM employees from Vermont and around the country at the company’s annual meeting next month in Ohio to protest the loss of IBM retirement benefits.

Now there is a congressman!

Boeing workers return to work
"InfoBeat News" - 3/20/00

Going back to work together - the same way they walked off their jobs 40 days ago - Boeing Co. white-collar workers this morning celebrated the determination and solidarity that led to their new contract.

CONGRATULATIONS, Boeing workers. Solidarity is the only way to beat a giant corporation.

Gutknecht steps up role in IBM pension debate
"Post-Buliten" - 3/17/00

Rep. Gil Gutknecht has gone from scapegoat to praise-winner in the eyes of some IBM pension activists. But others say he still has a long way to go. Last week, an e-mail message circulated among IBM activists giving Gutknecht 'kudos' for a vote he cast.

Since an initial silence last summer when the change came to light, Gutknecht has taken an increasingly active role on the issue. And on March 9, he voted against a Republican-leadership-backed minimum wage bill, citing opposition to the included pension language as his reason.

"The sponsors of these pension reforms tell us they will provide flexibility for employers," Gutknecht wrote in a statement after the vote. "Over the last few years, tens of thousands of workers have lost pension benefits that were supposedly vested."

Gutknecht also criticized the fact that pension wording was stuffed into the minimum wage bill, although it is common in Congress to attach unrelated provisions to pieces of legislation.

Gutknecht said the turning point for him was Dec. 28, when he read a Wall Street Journal article detailing how cash-balance pension plans came into acceptance in 1991. The lengthy article describes how one sentence inserted by a now-former Internal Revenue Service employee paved the way for the popularity of the emerging retirement plan.

Gutknecht's voice takes on a fighting tone when he talks about what he read. "There's almost a conspiracy going on here," Gutknecht said. "This whole thing stinks."

This is great news! There is no crime in being wrong. The only crime is in staying wrong! When our enemies become our allies, what more proof do you need that we are on the right side. As we have said, just because a person is a member of Congress does not mean that they know all things about all subjects. Sometimes they must educate themselves. And, this is just what Representative Gutknecht did. As he learned more facts about the pension issue, he realized that he was on the wrong side. He is now a champion for pension reform. He summed up the situation well, "This whole thing stinks."

Engineers, Boeing Reach Tentative Deal
Fox News - 3/17/00

With profits sagging and customers clamoring for jets, Boeing Co. cut a deal Friday to settle a 38-day strike by its engineers and end one of the biggest white-collar walkouts in U.S. history.

The tentative three-year contract gave a surprising, resounding victory to the 13,000-member Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, which won raises, bonuses and extended health coverage.

Today is the day that the relationship between The Boeing Co. and SPEEA has changed forever," said Charles Bofferding, executive director of the union, who helped engineer the agreement. "Today they understand what we mean by respect."

The engineers surprised many, first by going on strike, then by staying out as long as they did. As the walkout dragged on, Boeing's stock price withered and completed jets sat uninspected, awaiting delivery to customers.

Boeing chairman Phil Condit acknowledged a change in his company's attitude toward the union. "All of us have a greater understanding of what is meant by the issue of 'respect,' " he said.

The contract grants wage increases of at least 9 percent and cash bonuses totaling $2,500 over 12 months. Boeing extended health coverage to domestic partners and dropped its demand of mandatory worker contributions toward health insurance premiums. Originally, Boeing offered no guarantee of pay increases.

"They didn't touch our benefits, and that was key for us," striker Matt Renaud said on the picket line Friday. "Looking at it that way, it's a win for the union."

What do Boeing engineers now get? They get respect, raises, bonuses, extended health coverage, and no contributions to health insurance premiums! Not too shabby. What should all employees learn from this? If you start an action to improve benefits, stick with it. If you wimp out, things will only get worse.

Super Option
Employee Advocate - - 3/16/00

Legislators are promoting a new “super option,” according to the Wall Street Journal. It would be deductible for employers and the income taxes would be deferred for employees.

Our pension plan (old and new) was not provided to us out of the goodness of Duke Energy's heart. There were tax incentives to do so. However, in many cases, Duke took the tax break and then took the pension money back. The above proposed legislation may have been offered with good intentions, and it may actually be good for employees. But, when the boys with the green eye shades get through with it, we know who the ultimate winners will be, the companies. That may sound pessimistic but, we just call them like we see them, based on experience. Who would have thought that half of our pension would have evaporated overnight? It did not happen by accident; it happen because of many years of deliberate scheming to take our pension money.

Oil is well with Bush
"WorldNetDaily" - 3/16/2000

Given the continuing heating oil cost crisis in the Northeast and rising gasoline prices throughout the country coupled with the reported role Kuwait is playing in that process, a report by the Chinese Xinhua News Agency that former President Bush visited Kuwait just seven weeks ago notches a few rungs higher on the "curious" list. This second trip to Kuwait by Bush since his son's presidential aspirations became apparent should start to raise some eyebrows.

This is some interesting speculation, and not that farfetched.

Journalism Awards
Employee Advocate - - 3/16/00

The George Polk award winner for Financial reporting was Ellen Schultz of The Wall Street Journal, according to the Associated Press. Her award was for "articles revealing how many of the nation's top corporations reaped huge savings by adopting pension plans that cut retirement benefits for millions of employees without their knowledge."

Ellen Schultz has done an excellent job of uncovering the ways large corporations have ripped off the worker's pension funds. The Duke Energy Employee Advocate endorced Ms. Schultz for the award in January.

Electromagnetic fields 'raise suicide risk'
"BBC News" - 3/15/00

Electricity workers may be at risk of depression.

We get depressed. Not because of electromagnetic fields but, when we think of our raided pension plan.

People may be more likely to commit suicide if they are regularly exposed to low frequency electromagnetic fields, research has found

Hey, that's not what Duke has been telling us! But, they also don't see what all the fuss is about asbestosis and have tried to tell us that we want cash balance plans. They are so easy to understand, don't you see? Have you ever noticed that a lot of suicides are committed by members of management? Being forced to lie to your employees puts an honest man under heavy stress.

US scientists studied workers employed by five electric power companies between 1950 and 1986. The average length of time worked in the industry was 16 years. The researchers found that suicide deaths were twice as high among those employees whose work regularly exposed them to electromagnetic radiation.

Uh, oh. The average Duke person has been with the company a little over 17 years! Electromagnetic radiation, nuclear radiation (for some), and cash balance fall out. What a deadly combination!

Lean Labor's Big Win
"Washington Post" 3/14/00

When the envelopes were opened on Super Tuesday announcing the award winners for this stage of campaign 2000, most fans paid attention only to the already anticipated victories of the two leading actors, Al Gore and George W. Bush. But the prize that may carry the greatest significance for the long term went to the campaign's best supporting actor: Big Labor.

Well, not exactly Big Labor, a term with little meaning now. But so far this year, America's union movement has proven itself to be lean, focused and shrewd. The unions delivered to Gore when it mattered, and they did so without arousing the high-profile antagonism that religious conservatives let loose in Republican ranks. Organized labor's steady march back to political influence began in the 1996 elections and gained speed in 1998. This year could be better still.

Buried in last Tuesday's results was the Democratic primary victory of California state Sen. Hilda Solis over nine-term incumbent Rep. Matthew G. 'Marty' Martinez. Incumbents don't usually lose primaries, and the standard account of the race, which is true as far as it goes, is that Martinez had been in office a long time and had, as they say, 'lost touch' with his heavily Latino district in suburban Los Angeles.

But what gave Solis the ability to rout Martinez by 2 to 1 was her anointment by the unions. As chair of the labor committee, Solis 'killed every anti-union bill that came before her,' says Miguel Contreras, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor. Martinez, in the meantime, had signaled he might support the Clinton administration's request for fast-track trading authority, a position anathema to the unions.

The Solis victory is a warning to incumbents in heavily Democratic districts. The unions can challenge them in primaries with little risk that their seats might go Republican on Election Day.

"We're sending a message," says Contreras. 'This is a very blue-collar, union district. We ought to be sending warriors from these districts and not just someone who'll give us a vote occasionally. . . . Marty was not terrible. He didn't have a 40 percent voting record. He didn't have a 60 percent voting record. He had an 80 percent voting record. But we're looking for 100 percent.' It's a hard line that might swing a few votes against the administration's effort to grant permanent normal trading status to China, a move passionately opposed by the labor movement.

Here a politician was replaced that had a good record of voting for working people. But, it was just not good enough. The people did not want someone who voted for their interest 80 percent of the time. They wanted representation that would vote for their interest 100 percent of the time! We have some representation that votes for us zero percent of the time! What should we do with THEM on election day?

Myrick Votes For More Pension Losses
"The Charlotte Observer," by Art Pine 3/10/00

This is the same article published in the "L. A. Times." But, "The Observer" Metro print edition had a paragraph that was not in either the "Times" or "Observer" on-line editions:

GOP representatives from North Carolina voted against the bill to raise the minimum wage to $6.15, except for Sue Myrick and Robin Hayes, who supported the bill. N. C Democratic representatives all supported the bill on final passage. S. C Reps. John Spratt and James Clyburn, both Democrats, voted in favor of the bill. GOP Reps. Marshall Sanford, Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint voted against it. Floyd Spence, R-S. C., did not vote.

Sue Myrick is a sponsor of H. R. 1102. Parts of this bill were amended to the minimum wage bill (H. R. 3081). These amendments will provide loopholes for the taking of even more money from employees pension plans. Sue Myrick has voted against all legislation that would correct the cash balance injustice. Now, she has voted for legislation that will only make it worse! You will have a chance to vote to keep her in office or blast her out of office this year. Use your vote wisely.

Minimum Wage Bill Passes -- But Clinton Outraged
Cargan News - 3/10/00

President Clinton is not impressed by some clever maneuvering on the part of Republicans in the house which saw a $122 billion tax cut attached to the bill which authorized a boost to the minimumwage.

Clinton has yet to decide whether he will pass or veto the new bill.

House Votes to Hike Minimum Wage to $6.15
L. A. Times, by Art Pine 3/10/00

The House passed two companion bills Thursday that would increase the federal minimum wage by $1 to $6.15 an hour and provide substantial tax cuts for businesses and upper-income individuals, ostensibly to help them finance the wage boost. Approval of both measures came on broadly based votes after an intense partisan battle in which GOP leaders denied Democrats an opportunity to propose a substitute tax cut package that would have limited the tax relief to small businesses and family farmers. The minimum wage measure passed, 282 to 143, while the vote to approve the tax cut package was 257 to 169.

Thursday's floor action was marked by contentious debate in which Democrats accused Republicans of trying to water down the proposed increase in the minimum wage and grant huge tax cuts to upper-income Americans under the guise of helping businesses meet wage costs.

"How dare you say that the tax provisions in this bill are to protect small business?" said Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, to Republicans. "Two-thirds of the tax benefits . . . go to the richest people we have."

Everyone that this bill is supposed to help loses. The American workers depending on a pension lose. Parts of H. R. 1102 were amended to the bill. This will allow companies to take away pension money from employees that is already vested! If there is any loophole available, the actuarial firms will exploit it and the CEO's will eat it up! The employees making minimum wage lose because, there are restriction as to overtime for certain classes of workers! The tax breaks that were to help small business, will mainly go to the wealthy many experts believe. It's a sad day for everyone, except the CEO’s who are hungry for more of your pension money.

Armstrong to Boost Retiree Pensions
"Excite News" 3/10/00

Following an extensive review of the competitiveness of its pension benefits program, Armstrong World Industries, Inc. announced today that it would increase payments for former employees who retired prior to 1990 by 3 to 10 percent per year, depending on the actual date of their retirement.

This is certainly refreshing news. A company does something FOR retired employees! Usually when a person retires, they are "thrown to the wolves." Here is a company that is actually INCREASING the pension of retirees. Duke DECREASED the future pensions of the employees still working! Armstrong used the word "competitiveness" to justify GIVING retired employees more. When Duke employees hear the same word, they know that they are going to lose something.

Armstrong's Retirement Committee regularly analyzes the company's pension benefit program to assure it is competitive with other major corporations and specifically those in its peer group. The committee had previously increased pension benefits for retirees in 1979, 1986, 1990 and 1995. The cumulative average increase for retiree pension benefits over this period of time, including the increase just announced, is 147 percent.

When a Duke committee analyzes a benefit program to see if it is "competitive," it means that they are looking for more ways to TAKE from the employees! It is evident that Armstrong is not managed by greedy misers. The greedy miser types can only scan other companies looking for more ways to rip off their employees. They have to follow other companies because they have never had an original thought.

Bedsheet sign may play key role in IBM case
"Poughkeepsie Journal," By Craig Wolf 3/10/00

A three-day hearing on a National Labor Relations Board complaint against IBM Corp. may boil down to whether a union organizer can display a bedsheet sign in a company parking lot.

The case may hinge on portions of the National Labor Relations Act and case law that give an employer room to protect legitimate business needs even though the law’s bottom line is that employees have the right to organize.

Congressman Gil Gutknecht's Statement

Up until two weeks ago, I was prepared to support a minimum wage increase that was balanced with tax relief for those small businesses who will bear the cost of the higher wage. Since that time, too many provisions have been attached, including pension law changes that most members of this House do not understand and cannot adequately explain to constituents. This is not a good way to conduct the nation's business.

I still favor a $1 minimum wage increase over three years, along with tax relief for small businesses. What I am increasingly unable to support is a minimum wage increase that is wedded to a few pension reforms which have unknown and unexplored consequences for millions of Americans.

The sponsors of these pension reforms tell us they will provide 'flexibility' for employers. Over the last few years tens of thousands of workers have lost pension benefits that were supposedly 'vested.' Companies may have too much flexibility in rewriting their pension commitments as it is. Yesterday, I asked the Rules Committee to make in order an amendment to strike the pension section of this bill. This would have at least permitted a debate on the issue. So far, those requests have been ignored.

It is great to see that not everyone in Congress is clueless about the hidden agenda of the minimum wage bill (or pretends to be clueless). We have no opinion about the minimum wage bill as it stands alone. Our only concern is H. R. 1102 amendments attached to the bill. These amendments would cost American workers dearly, as if we have not lost plenty already!

Union leaders testify at hearing
"Poughkeepsie Journal" by Craig Wolf - 3/9/00

The line between normal security at a plant and illegal surveillance of union activity came under scrutiny Wednesday in a hearing on complaints filed against IBM Corp. by the National Labor Relations Board.

Counsel for NLRB finished presenting witnesses who told of harassment over union signs, an unusual presence of security guards at union meetings at IBM sites, badge checking, a rare closing of gates and a manager chasing after people to get names.

Judge hears arguments on union charges
"Poughkeepsie Journal" by Craig Wolf 3/8/00

IBM Corp. employee Peter Plavchan testified Tuesday that IBM's agents blocked access to union organizing meetings at two company sites, threatened a 'write up' for displaying pro-union signs and at one point brought up the topic of firing. At the hearing in Poughkeepsie before a National Labor Relations Board judge, IBM's attorneys denied four complaints filed by NLRB counsel and said the company had 'important managerial interests' in controlling site access.

Improper labor practice charges often crop up when employees begin organizing. About 35,000 a year, from both sides, are handled by NLRB. In this case, the complaints stem from incidents last summer, as IBMers began a union movement, which has yet to come to a vote anywhere. IBM's downsizing of pension benefits and changes to the medical retirement plan in July sparked an uproar, of which the union effort rapidly became a part.

IBM is not doing too good. Just like Duke-Energy, IBM tried to rake in millions of dollars at the expense of their employees. The greed of IBM is costing it. And the end is not in sight!

The Electronic Rank and File
N. Y. Times by Virginia Munger Kahn 3/8/00

Last October, as an uproar over the move by I.B.M. from a traditional pension plan to a cash balance plan was peaking, a group of employees at Bell Atlantic set up a Web site intended to address questions about their own pension plan.

In the weeks that followed, executives at Bell Atlantic were deluged with e-mail messages and letters expressing outrage at a similar move by the company, even though the switch had taken place two years earlier. 'I've been here 26 years, and I have never seen such an outpouring,' said Janice Winston, co-founder of the Bell Atlantic Employee Coalition for Retirement Security, which set up the Web site,

On Jan. 19, Bell Atlantic blinked. It told 20,000 employees with 15 or more years of tenure that they would be given their benefits under a modified traditional plan if the company's analysis found that they would be better off than under the new pension plan.

Bell Atlantic denied that it had been influenced by the employee group. "We would have come to this decision had there been no Web site," said a spokesman, Steven Marcus. "We have a long tradition of staying in touch with our employees."

Sure, Bell would have come to that decision on their own. We wonder why it was not their initial decision? Surely they would not just tell a big lie! Duke Energy has "touched" its employees. Touched us right in the pocketbook! The spokesperson interview evidently has only one question: Can you tell a lie with a straight face?

That is not how Ms. Winston sees it. 'They knew they couldn't go forward with employee morale the way it was,' she said. "I believe our Web site was key."

The model for this new worker activism was established by I.B.M. employees after the computer giant announced its pension conversion plan last May. Originally, I.B.M. said it would allow about 30,000 employees who were near retirement to stay with the traditional plan. In September, however, it more than doubled that number to 65,000. What happened? I.B.M. employees used their computers to band together, to create programs that compared the old plan with the new and to lobby legislators in Washington against the change. The company's decision came within days of a Congressional hearing on cash balance plans.

Indeed, since the I.B.M. backpedaling, employees at several large corporations besides Bell Atlantic have established Web sites and chat rooms dedicated to pension issues, including for AT&T employees and for Duke Power employees. Inaddition, employees at SmithKline Beecham and the Williams Companies have set up sites at

Microsoft boosts salaries
"CNET" - 3/6/00

Facing a hiring crunch in California, Microsoft has boosted salaries of its Silicon Valley employees by 15 percent to stem turnover and increase staffing, the software giant confirmed.

"We're doing everything we can to listen to everything employees are saying," Williams said. "We're not unlike other employers. We're struggling to find ways to attract the best and brightest, but we're having some success now."

Duke Energy is doing everything it can to ignore everything employees are saying.

Good for Employees and Investors
Employee Advocate - - 3/3/00

Companies that take care of their employees are known to take care of their shareholders, according to a Watson Wyatt study. 405 companies were studied. The ones with a high “human capital index” had an average return of 70%. The companies on the lower end lost 6%.

Well, duh! You would have figured that anyone with an ounce of common sense could have figured that one out. Duke Energy's senior management does not deal too much with common sense and farsightedness. They deal with GREED and shortsightedness. They are on their bullheaded charge to bottom quartile performance.

Low-Level Options
Employee Advocate - - 3/3/00

The Clinton administration wants to offer stock options to low-level workers by changing the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Low-level workers? That's us folks! And, we do mean LOW. Low level workers at Duke Energy get their pension benefits cut 50% or more. Senior management has "supplemental bonuses" added to their opening balance. But options do not pay off on stock that is dropping like a rock. We'll just take our lost pension benefits, health benefits, and retirement health benefits back.

House OKs Repeal of SS Earnings Limit
"L. A. Times" - 3/2/00

The House passed legislation Wednesday that would repeal the long-standing earnings limit on Social Security, enabling Americans 65 to 69 years old to earn as much money as they want each year without losing any federal retirement benefits.

This is legislation that is long overdue. But, what is Congress going to do about employees who are losing 50% or more of private retirement benefits due to cash balance conversions?

Republicans made the bill a major element in their tax program this year after failing to push a broad tax-cut bill into law in 1999. But Democrats, sensing a sure-fire political issue, quickly signed on. The Senate is expected to approve a similar measure promptly.

Republicans led this? The Republicans have done almost nothing for American workers who have lost large portions of their pension benefits due to cash balance conversions. The Democrats proposed all pension reform legislation last year. Only a very few Republicans voted for the legislation that would help workers regain their lost pensions.

News - Jan. - Feb. 2000