Retired miners win health benefits extension. Scrambling to ensure that more than 22,000 aging, ailing retired miners didn’t lose their health care, Congress approved extending the benefits, run by two government-funded plans that were running out of money due to coal company bankruptcies.
The legislation saves the health care funds permanently, senators who advocated for it said. It was inserted in the money bill that keeps the government going through the end of this fiscal year on Sept. 30, but the health care money goes beyond that, they added.
The money the health care funds need will come from coal company fees set aside to reclaim land companies turned into abandoned strip mines, said Sen. Joe Manchin , D-W.Va.
The Mine Workers mobilized members, retirees, unionists and allies in old-time coal country of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia to keep the benefits. Due to company bankruptcies — which stopped the firms’ contributions to health funds – the two funds were almost broke.
“For years I have been working side-by-side with the Mine Workers and West Virginia coal miners to keep the promise we made that these patriotic workers would never go without the health care they earned,” Manchin said.
Lawmakers scheme to put Right To Work in state constitution. Not content with the state’s 70-year-old “Right To Work” law, Right Wing Republicans who rule North Carolina’s legislature want to write RTW – and the low wages and dangerous working conditions it brings – into the Tar Heel State’s constitution.
Needless to say, North Carolina’s unions, which already suffer from an epidemic of “free riders” under RTW, are fighting the scheme, pushed by state Rep. Justin Barr R-Albemarle.
If the measure makes it all the way through the legislative process, it sets up a RTW referendum next year, in a state that is 3 percent unionized.
“Because of North Carolina’s free rider law, one out of every four workers covered by a union contract – 44,000 people – pay nothing to secure the benefits they receive, forcing the other 129,000 people who pay their fair share to also pay the tab for free riders,” the state AFL-CIO said.
The scheme is “your corporate-bought legislature at work,” the labor federation said.
Treasury workers blast plan to turn taxpayers over to debt collectors. Treasury Employees are criticizing the Internal Revenue Service’s latest attempt – the third – to turn people who owe back taxes, particularly people with low incomes, over to private debt collectors.
Unlike IRS workers who must follow legal rules when contacting delinquent taxpayers, debt collectors would face virtually no shackles on the harassment, badgering and intimidation they could throw at people.
“The IRS announcement that Americans with overdue federal tax bills will start getting calls from private debt collectors is an unwelcome development that will waste taxpayer money and further endanger taxpayers who are already targeted by financial scams and identity thieves,” the National Treasury Employees Union said.
“Subjecting taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet and can’t afford legal representation to private contractors whose sole motivation is to maximize their own profits at the taxpayers’ expense is a recipe for disaster,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
Missouri GOP trying to kill referendums. In an almost secretive effort to stifle the voice of Missourians, the Republican-controlled state legislature is considering a bill to make it almost impossible for citizens to stop objectionable laws by making it harder to do Citizens’ Referendum and Initiative Petition campaigns. The GOP’s immediate target: The anti-Right-To-Work referendum.
The effort appears to be a direct attack on workers who want to give the public the chance to decide whether or not there should be a statewide vote in 2018 on the “Right-To-Work” (for less) law. The proposed Citizens’ Referendum about to be circulated would authorize a 2018 public vote if it obtains the required number of signatures by Aug. 25.
Missouri unions and allies wanting to protect democracy are collecting signatures on the referendum petition demanding the public vote on RTW. So the legislature is quietly pushing a bill to severely restrict such efforts.
“This is clearly an attack on American democracy,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis. “Trying to make it harder for citizens to object to a terrible law is as un-American as it gets.”
News briefs courtesy of The Labor Paper

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