Labor Unions Organize Protests Against Social Security Reform

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - The AFL-CIO is organizing a "National Day of Action" on March 31 to protest President Bush's Social Security reform plan.

The idea of letting people invest part of their payroll taxes in private accounts, if they want to, is very upsetting to some Americans, including labor unions, who say it would lead to benefit cuts for retirees and plunge America further into debt.

President Bush has floated his plan as a starting point for future discussion, and he insists that he's open to all ideas, from people on all sides of the issue. But so far, all he's hearing from his opponents is "no."

As part of Thursday's campaign, union activists plan to hold demonstrations in dozens of cities. They are targeting the Charles Schwab stock brokerage and other financial services firms that support the president's reform plan and might benefit from it.

Pressure from labor unions already has prompted two companies, Waddell & Reed Financial, Inc. and Edward D. Jones & Co., to withdraw from a pro-reform coalition, the National Legal and Policy Center said. (The conservative NLPC monitors government/corporate ethics; and it describes itself as the nation's only clearinghouse on union corruption.)

'Defy unions'

In a letter to the Charles Schwab Corp., NLPC Chairman Kenneth Boehm urged the company to stand firm - to defy the labor unions' pressure tactics and defend its support for private Social Security accounts.

"It is vital that Charles Schwab not succumb to labor's demand to stop advocating this much-needed reform," the letter said.

The letter also said labor unions do not speak for America's workers on the issue of Social Security. The NLPC points to a recent poll showing that nearly 60 percent of union members support the creation of voluntary private retirement accounts.

The AFL-CIO's "anti-reform" campaign is another example of labor bosses thwarting the will of rank-and-file membership, the NLPC told Schwab.

It's also "hypocrisy of the worst sort," the NLPC said, given labor leaders' "shameful history of raiding union pensions for personal gain."

The letter says labor leaders are in no position to offer advice about the ethical management of workers' retirement funds - and it offers various facts and figures pointing to the "deep-seated corruption" plaguing organized labor.

"Besides misleading the public about the merits of private retirement accounts, the corrupt labor union movement lacks the moral authority to even voice an opinion on the matter," the NLPC wrote to Charles Schwab.

"Charles Schwab is a respected corporation and doesn't have to justify its views on Social Security or any other issue to labor unions. It is time to stand up to union bullying tactics and continue championing private accounts."

The American Federation of Teachers is among the unions planning to picket outside Charles Schwab and Wachovia bank during a conference of "paraprofessionals" in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday. (Paraprofessionals include food services, maintenance and other school employees, the union said.)

In recent weeks, President Bush has been taking his Social Security reform plan directly to the American people. His cross-country tour takes him to Iowa on Wednesday.

According to the president, if the system isn't fixed now, the only solutions will be
be higher taxes, massive new borrowing or sudden and severe cuts in Social Security benefits or other government programs.

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