Retirees told social upheaval is possible without protections.
|By James F. Russell Correspondent||April 24, 2008|
Dr. Tom Mackell, Jr. is also the Chairman of the Board of United Benefits and Pension Services, Inc. the parent company of ATPA.
STURBRIDGE- A top official with the nation's banking system is predicting massive social upheaval in 10 years unless laws are enacted to safeguard the benefits of the American worker.
Speaking at the Association of BellTel Retirees annual meeting yesterday at the Sturbridge Host Hotel, Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., chairman of the board of directors for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Va., warned that pension plans once taken for granted are evaporating and will disappear, along with affordable access to health insurance - leaving tens of millions of retirees vulnerable, destitute, hungry, sick and willing to take matters into their own hands.
Mr. Mackell also lambasted Congress and the president with harsh words for what he portrayed as the government's neglect in not recognizing the magnitude of the problem and trying to fix it.
"I don't think these folks are in touch with the real world in terms of the erosion of pension plans and the erosion of health care coverage," he said, referring to the president and vice president, the 435 House members and the 100 senators as a "band of incompetents and thugs in D.C. that control the system."
"Let's start a grass-roots movement nationwide to take away their pension plans - maybe they will be more responsive," Mr. Mackell said to howls of approval and cheers from the 250 retirees.
Copies of Mr. Mackell's book, "When the Good Pensions Go Away: Why America Needs a New Deal for Pension and Health Care Reform," published this year by John Wiley & Sons Inc. of New Jersey on sale in the hotel lobby went fast.
"In the brave new world of outsourced jobs, short-term gigs and on-again, off-again health care coverage, American workers cannot rationally plan their economic futures. It is like being placed in a lifeboat without oars with the desire to row to a safe haven," wrote Mr. Mackell in a chapter titled "The Fractured American Retirement Dream."
"I find it amazing that as various injustices keep unfolding, the citizenry has responded with only momentary outrage that quickly evaporates," he wrote. Yesterday, Mr. Mackell predicted that private company-supported pensions may be gone in five years and public sector pensions would wither away in eight years. He said the mortgage crisis and the devaluation of home prices would last at least two to four more years.
"We have got to give serious thought that this thing can't continue as it has over the past 25 years. We have become short-term America - no vision," he said. "There is potential for the R-word, and it is not recession, it's revolution. Our democracy is fast being eroded; we have to stand up," Mr. Mackell concluded to a standing ovation.
Now in its 12th year - and boasting a membership of 100,000 - the Association of BellTel Retirees Inc. represents the interests of more than 220,000 retired telephone company workers, including those from Bell Atlantic, NYNEX, GTE, MCI and Verizon and subsidiaries.
According to BellTel President and Executive Director C. William Jones, 56 percent of the 100,000 dues-paying members are retired managers and 44 percent belonged to bargaining units while employed. The group was formed in 1996, when seven Nynex retirees began to organize because they were not getting a promised cost of living adjustment.
"It is numbers that give us power," Mr. Jones, told the audience. He is a retired managing director for Nynex in New York. Mr. Jones characterized relations between BellTel and Veizon as "very good," and said BellTel frequently makes suggestion about Verizon benefits, and makes proxy proposals when company stockholders meet each year.
BellTel is pushing Congress to pass HR 1322. According to protectseniors.org, the legislation would prohibit group health plans from making post-retirement reductions in retiree benefits; require employers to restore benefits reduced after retirement; and create a loan guarantee program to assist employers in restoring retiree health benefits. Mr. Jones is chairman of protectseniors.org.
Thomas J. Mackell Jr., speaks at the Association of BellTel Retirees meeting in Sturbridge. (T&G Staff/DAN GOULD)
Article courtesy Worcester Telegram & Gazette