Thousands rally for private pension fix

  • Dean Mahoney, touring percussionist from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. and aspiring member of the American Federation of Musicians, lends his support to union members fighting for their pensions. He said the fight is about future pensions, not only those already earned.


COLUMBUS — Thousands rallied on the lawn of the Ohio Statehouse Thursday in advance of a congressional hearing Friday seeking a way to save private pensions considered to be on the brink of failure.

If pensions that have not recovered from the 2008 recession should go under, some 1.3 million retirees nationally, including some 66,000 in Ohio, could lose their benefits entirely or see them cut.

“An attack on one worker is an attack on all workers, and seeing working people come together to fight for what’s right, to have the American people rally with us to protect the benefits we’ve earned is a beautiful thing,” AFL-CIO President Tim Burga told the crowd that filled the lawn in front of the Statehouse and wound around both sides of the building.

“Nothing is more sacred than the promise of a secure retirement after a lifetime of hard work,” he said.

Taxpayers could also find themselves on the hook if the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. that insures such pension plans should collapse under the weight of failing systems. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the tab to taxpayers could be $101 billion over 20 years.

In a rare hearing on the road to be held Friday at the Statehouse, the 16-member House and Senate Joint Select Committee on Pensions, co-chaired by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), will hear testimony from workers, businesses, and union officials on the potential impacts.

The committee, on which U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) also serves, is charged with coming up with a potential fix to the problem to be presented to Congress by late November.

The affected union pension funds affect coal miners, truckers, bakers, carpenters, and others.



WATCH: AFL-CIO Ohio President Tim Burga speaks to thousands gathered on the Statehouse lawn in Columbus.

Dean Mahoney, a traveling band percussionist from Poughkeepsie, N.Y., hopes to join the American Federation of Musicians. He said he and the band’s bassist thought it was important that they participate in a rally in Columbus even as decisions will ultimately be made in Washington.

“We’re in a pension crisis,” he said. “My generation is working as hard as we can into a pension system we’re worried isn’t going to be around. We can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

“We can’t get rid of pensions for generations that have worked for them, because then where’s the solidarity for us younger workers?” he asked. “If we can’t be in it altogether, there’s no fight.”

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union supports the idea behind the proposed Butch Lewis Act, a Brown-sponsored bill named for a retired Teamster from West Chester who died while battling cuts to the union’s pensions.

“Sherrod Brown’s bill — the Butch Lewis approach, the long-term, low-interest loan approach — works best for our fund and would be most effective in resolving the problems our fund faces,” Harry Kaiser, the union’s assistant to the president, said prior to the rally.

It was clear among the signs carried at the rally outside that many in the crowd agreed with him.

Union President David Durkee stressed the bill does not represent a bailout. The bill would provide for long-term loans that would be repaid by the unions and ultimately their members.

“We’re fighting for what we think we can get,” he said. “We’re trying to gauge the appetite of Congress. What will help these retirees continue with their present retirement benefits? I think if we went to Congress and said we want a bailout, they’re not even going to listen to us.”

Friday’s hearing will mark the committee’s fifth and its first on the road outside of Washington.

Among those expected to testify are two witnesses from northwest Ohio: Bill Martin, president of Spangler Candy Company in Bryan and Roberta Dell, the chief union steward.



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Trump mocks #MeToo movement in Montana rally

President Trump joked about potentially debating Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) while he was at a rally in Great Falls, Mont., on July 5. (The Washington Post)
by Felicia Sonmez July 5 at 10:16 PM Email the author
President Trump joked about the #MeToo movement Thursday, making light of the international campaign against sexual assault during a wide-ranging speech in which he also took aim at a potential 2020 White House opponent, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

At a rally in Great Falls, Mont., Trump deployed his familiar nickname of “Pocahontas” for Warren, which he has repeatedly used to mock the Massachusetts Democrat for her claims of Native American ancestry.

Trump imagined himself sparring with Warren on the debate stage and told the crowd that he would toss her a DNA kit, “but we have to do it gently because we’re in the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very gentle.”

He then made a throwing motion and said that “we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn’t hit her and injure her arm.”

The #MeToo movement gained steam late last year following revelations about decades of sexual abuse allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein. It has since led to the downfall of dozens of powerful men across a broad range of industries.

Trump’s quip comes on the same day that the White House announced the hiring of former Fox News Channel executive Bill Shine, who was ousted from the network last year in the wake of lawsuits suggesting that he ignored alleged sexual harassment by Fox’s late chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes.

President Trump spoke about international relations and national politics at a rally in Great Falls, Mont., on July 5. (Patrick Martin /The Washington Post)
More than a dozen women have accused Trump of sexual assault or improper conduct. Trump has denied all of the allegations against him.

Warren shot back at Trump on Twitter on Thursday night by criticizing his administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy, which has resulted in the separation of thousands of migrant children from their parents.

“Hey, @realDonaldTrump: While you obsess over my genes, your Admin is conducting DNA tests on little kids because you ripped them from their mamas & you are too incompetent to reunite them in time to meet a court order,” Warren said. “Maybe you should focus on fixing the lives you’re destroying.”

Trump also used his Montana speech to deride Rep. Maxine Waters, the veteran Democratic lawmaker from California whose call for aggressive protests against Trump administration officials drew the president’s ire last month.

Trump mentioned his previous attacks on Waters as a “low IQ individual” and added what appeared to be his own personal assessment, telling the crowd, “I mean, honestly, she’s somewhere in the mid-60s, I believe.”

A Waters spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Anne Gearan contributed to this report.

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FBI: Man scouted for July 4 attack at parade in Cleveland

Updated: 11:53 AM EDT Jul 2, 2018

By JOHN SEEWER Associated Press
An American-born citizen who federal authorities say recently scouted locations in Cleveland to attack people watching Fourth of July fireworks and talked of carrying out additional bombings has been charged with trying to support terrorism.

FBI news conference: Tap the video player above to watch.

Federal authorities said Monday that Demetrius Pitts, 48, had repeatedly expressed his support for al-Qaida for more than a year and talked about setting off bombs at a July 4 parade and later in his hometown of Philadelphia.

Pitts, of Maple Heights, was due in federal court Monday in Cleveland. There were no court documents listing an attorney for him.

He was arrested Sunday after meeting an undercover agent and charged with attempted support of a terrorist organization.

FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said it was not clear how close Pitts was to carrying out his threats, but he said authorities couldn’t sit back and wait to find out.

Authorities first began watching Pitts in 2017, after he made Facebook posts threatening violence against the U.S., Anthony said.

He later began meeting with an undercover agent and discussed several different ways to carry out an attack, according to court documents. Pitts also talked about his hatred for the U.S. military, Anthony said.

An undercover agent in late June gave Pitts a bus pass and cellphone that he thought were from al-Qaida supporters so that he could go downtown and look for locations to carry out his attacks, according to a complaint filed by authorities.

Pitts shot videos of potential targets such as a federal building and U.S. Coast Guard station and then turned over the phone last week, believing the photos and videos would be given to al-Qaida members, the document said.

In recent weeks, Pitts also talked about wanting to travel to Philadelphia, and on Sunday told the undercover agent he wanted to conduct reconnaissance for a future attack using a truck packed with explosives, similar to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, authorities said in the complaint.

Anthony said Pitts had been radicalized in the U.S. and that he had no information that Pitts had traveled out of the country.

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Democrats Have Now Flipped 42 State Legislative Seats From Red to Blue

Since Trump became president, Democrats have been on a legislative winning streak that sends a powerful signal about resistance politics.

Lauren Arthur is a former middle-school teacher who campaigned as a progressive Democrat in a special election to fill a Missouri State Senate seat that a Republican won in 2016 with more than 60 percent of the vote. Her race, which highlighted support for expanded funding of education and access to health care, was run in a district that backed Republican presidential nominees Donald Trump in 2016 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

It should have been an uphill bid.  It wasn’t. On Tuesday, Arthur beat her well-funded and serious Republican foe by a landslide, winning 60 percent of the vote.

That was a big victory for Arthur, a labor-backed state representative who declared in her victory speech that “For too long the priorities and pet projects of billionaires and corporations have been put ahead of investing in Missourians. We sent a message loud and clear that we demand great public schools [and] a transparent and responsive state government.”

But it was also a big victory for Democrats nationally, as this is the 42nd Republican legislative seat that has flipped to the Democrats since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.

The legislative-district wins for Democrats tend to fly under the radar. They are not as closely covered as the flipping of Alabama’s US Senate seat by Democrat Doug Jones last year, or the flipping of a Republican-held US House seat by Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb earlier this year. But there is a good case to be made that they provide the best measure of the resistance voting that is taking place across the country in the Trump era.

They signal that candidates who run bold campaigns can mobilize voters and win legislative seats that will be essential to winning back statehouses that Republicans won in the “wave” elections of 2010 and 2014.  Hailing “a 24-point swing from Donald Trump’s 49-45 percent victory here in 2016,” progressive analyst Carolyn Fiddler said, “Arthur is a staunch progressive who supports government ethics reforms, equal rights for Missouri’s LGBTQ residents, and local autonomy for cities that want to raise their local minimum wage or enact gun-safety ordinances. Tuesday’s special election took place in the shadow of the recent resignation of disgraced former Governor Eric Greitens, and it may foreshadow the impacts of the Republican’s misdeeds on his party in upcoming elections. Arthur, for one, absolutely linked her GOP opponent to Greitens and the ‘corrupt’ state capitol in a campaign ad—a tactic other Democratic campaign are likely to adopt for the fall.”

That optimism extends beyond Missouri.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, taking encouragement from the pattern of wins in special and off-year elections for state House and Senate seats, has launched a new “Let’s Flip Everything This November” campaign—featuring a video by New Jersey US Senator Cory Booker. That’s a tall order, but wins like that of Lauren Arthur in formerly Republican districts point to the possibilities that are inherent in the message Booker is delivering: “When we win back state legislatures, we can resist Trump’s agenda and enact America’s agenda.”

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