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  1. #131
    BradS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    Y... but some of the tactics "required" to survive the tough economy are getting brutal to us worker bees.
    man, you are not kidding! I'm seeing significantly increased demand and yet simultaneously, declining prices...that is to say, I have been getting more calls for work than ever but when I state my usual fee many balk at it and try to negotiate a lower fee...sometimes significantly lower. Who is John Galt?

  2. #132
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    ...US corporation that still offers retiree medical benefits...
    Sorry, I was referring to medical benefits for active working employees. That's where I see it going. Granted this thread is about retirees.

    ...would have been a routine communication to those affected -- benefits gone.
    And therein lies the problem. Rulings like this that have become a matter of the public record just take it one step closer to terminate benefits for everyone. The legal precedent I am concerned about is such decisions make it harder for the working employee to find recourse when the benefits are cut. So, your company declares bankruptcy, cuts the benefits, and then magically emerges from bankruptcy. The courts said it was OK to cut for retirees, next the courts say it's OK for active employees. Soon after that it becomes the "new normal" to not offer medical coverage at all because the courts said they didn't have to. Employers know the economy stinks and you just can't change jobs on a whim - so to an extent they have you by the b#$$s. Not that they didn't anyway, but such decisions just give them a little tighter grip.

    And, no Sal, I didn't read the whole thread or your post #37, but I did just now. I don't feel that the employer/employee relationship is necessarily adversarial and that unions are the answer, although at times they serve their purpose. As benfits provided decline, union importance/usefulness will, of course, rise. I see the relationship with my employer as more cooperative. I take care of them, they take care of me, and that starts with the old hip pocket. But medical benefits run a real close second.

    Since I am OT, I've said my piece. Kodak was a good place to work. It is a shame to see them come to this.
    All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

  3. #133

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    Quote Originally Posted by BradS View Post
    ... I have been getting more calls for work than ever but when I state my usual fee many balk at it and try to negotiate a lower fee...
    We are on the fourth iteration of the "do more with less" philosophy in the last 5 years. It is driving me into the grave prematurely. There ARE limits to how much one can do with less, and we've exceeded those limits a long time ago. Oh.. and don't get me going on the "we have to better prioritize our efforts"...

  4. #134

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    That's why unions exist (whether you admire them or not). Here is Calif, Brad, there's a dramatic difference in standard of living and of overall community finances right at the union/nonunion divide, which is largely the geographical divide between the Bay Area and Central Valley. Here the economy is relatively strong for a number of reasons including a better sustained payscale, while over the hill it still looks like the Great Depression in places. Glad you are able to work in a field where you can choose to live where you want; but many cannot. But things are getting ugly everywhere in terms of
    trying to pluck the last feathers off the middle class. I'd classify just plain ole greed as the number one factor. But when the the parasite gets as big as its host, they both die. That's what happened
    with all the sub-prime mortgage scams and big sprawl developers behind them. In the long run, tapeworms aren't all that smart!

  5. #135

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    Quote Originally Posted by DREW WILEY View Post
    In the long run, tapeworms aren't all that smart!
    ... but in the end of time the only organizms that will likely survive the tapeworms are the cockroaches.


    Cockroaches aren't that smart either.

  6. #136
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    ...are the cockroaches.
    And there is no shortage of them. Greed often equals stupidity. And stupidity is the only truly renewable resource.
    All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.

  7. #137

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    Quote Originally Posted by DREW WILEY View Post
    ...I've seen my share of companies which deliberately bankrupted in order to raid not only health
    but pension accounts...
    This is about retiree medical benefits, not pensions. Even in California, there's no problem with corporations terminating non-vested retiree medical plans. Bankruptcy is neither necessary nor useful for that purpose; a simple announcement will suffice.

    In post #37 I explained how US pensions work so those outside the country would understand the distinction between medical coverage and pensions. From employees' points of view, Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) coverage provides quite good security of their vested monthly pension payments against company bankruptcies (up to certain dollar limits affecting highly compensated retirees). This protects against plan insolvency resulting from underfunding.

    A new threat to pension security is now manifesting. Corporations able to get their pension plans up to 100% funded are permitted to perform a "standard termination." In this process, several options may be offered to those with vested benefits in the plan, among them cash buyouts, individual annuities or a master annuity for all participants. One corporation that recently took this route is General Motors (GM):


    The PBGC must approve standard terminations, but has no incentive not to. When a retiree's company enters bankruptcy, beneficiaries of the qualified retirement plan can count on the PBGC to continue their monthly payment. After a standard termination such as GM's, those who are retired, depending on which choice they make now, will either be in full possession of investment yield risk, managing the lump sum payment they get on their own, or at the mercy of an insurance company's solvency, in this case Prudential. Their PBGC guarantee no longer exists. Approving "standard terminations" gets the PBGC out of potential future liability, so why wouldn't it approve?

    To the small number of US workers still receiving or eligible for defined benefit pensions, I view plan "standard terminations" as the biggest threat, not company bankruptcies. Again, this pension tangent is completely separate from the thread's topic, namely non-vested retiree medical benefits, which could always be terminated at an employer's whim.

  8. #138

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    Quote Originally Posted by kb3lms View Post
    ...The legal precedent I am concerned about is such decisions make it harder for the working employee to find recourse when the benefits are cut...The courts said it was OK to cut for retirees, next the courts say it's OK for active employees. Soon after that it becomes the "new normal" to not offer medical coverage at all because the courts said they didn't have to...
    The courts don't have to say it's OK to terminate benefits for active employees. Unless you're bound by some collective bargaining agreement, there is no recourse should your employer announce the end of medical or any other non-vested benefit. If a trend develops and offering no medical coverage becomes the norm, it won't be because a bankruptcy court approved one corporation's request. It'll be because the supply of labor is greater than the demand and employers can purchase the labor they need without offering medical coverage.

    Quote Originally Posted by kb3lms View Post
    ...I don't feel that the employer/employee relationship is necessarily adversarial and that unions are the answer, although at times they serve their purpose. As benfits provided decline, union importance/usefulness will, of course, rise. I see the relationship with my employer as more cooperative. I take care of them, they take care of me, and that starts with the old hip pocket. But medical benefits run a real close second...
    Labor is a commodity. Employers purchase that commodity. You can elect to view the relationship any way you like but, like all other purchase and sale negotiations, the parties involved are adversaries, each trying to get what they want. I don't see unions as a panacea, since forces conspiring against employees control so much more than just individual employers, but instead think of collective bargaining as a last stand. Recent history has shown that, without it, there's essentially no way to push back.

  9. #139

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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    We are on the fourth iteration of the "do more with less" philosophy in the last 5 years. It is driving me into the grave prematurely...
    Prematurely in your mind, perhaps, but not necessarily from your employer's point of view. The earlier you die, the quicker any benefits you might still be receiving, vested or otherwise, will stop. If you don't live to retirement age, it will not be a problem to replace you for less, either through hiring an H-1B Visa holder or by exporting the work.

    I think the slogan many firms use needs to be corrected so it reads "Our employees are our most important liability."

  10. #140

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