DALLAS - Fifty North Texans, primarily retirees, added their voices to the general outcry against plans to cut retiree benefits at a meeting in the Communications Workers of America Local 6215 Hall December 2. Most of them had already called their congresspersons to protest earlier in the week. On December 3, activists were relieved to learn that the so-called the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform had failed to get enough members behind the proposals of the two committee chairs. If the report had been approved, it had been expected to "fast track" for a vote in Congress.
Communications Workers of America Retired Members Council 6290 President Larry Laznovsky opened the meeting and called for introductions. Leaders of his own union from Tarrant and Dallas Counties were joined by retiree leaders from the Steelworkers, Teachers, and Auto Workers.
The secretary of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans, Gene Lantz, opened the discussion by pointing out that every attack against retiree benefits would make the unemployment crisis even worse.
"After they drew blood this week by cutting off unemployment benefits, this committee is trying to slam the door on the slaughterhouse by cutting retirees," said Lantz. The AFL-CIO had estimated that the committee's proposals would cause another 4,000,000 job losses, he added.
CWA leader Jim Rivers went over the proposal in detail. Among the grim features were:
- A 15 percent increase in our gasoline taxes
- Dramatic reductions in corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy
- Repeal of the alternative minimum tax
- Chopping Medicare payments
- Give up on long-term care for seniors
- Increase the retirement age
Rivers also summarized a much better proposal by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who is a dissenting member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.
Rosemarie Rieger of North Texas Jobs with Justice pointed out that the overall problems of unemployment and retiree benefits are the concern of everyone, young and old. A great deal of the ensuing discussion had to do with recommendations as to how to spread the word and fight the general attack against active and retired working people. Several pointed to the powerful street actions recently reported in Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Greece, France, and Great Britain.