When the now over 65s union workers (Local 1985 - International Brotherhood of Electrical workers - 1985/IBEW) of the former Hoover Company negotiated benefits with successor owner Whirpool Corporation, the thought the had a secure deal.
Well, in 21st century America and perhaps in the economic world at large one can forget financial/economic security unless is a corporate top level manager, hits the lottery or develops a great business idea which gets parlayed into a highly profitable business or inherit wealth.
The days of a person working a good paying factory job (with outstanding benefits) and by being frugal and making sound investment decisions and becoming relatively well off are pretty much over!
Come January, 2013 the Whirpool deal with Stark County's former IBEW employees off. Not through negotiation but through unilateral action that Whirlpool has announced in a letter to some of the 2,300 affected employees. Not all employees have gotten "the letter." Some have gotten several letters.
The letter says the previously negotiated benefits will be replaced by a $50 a month payment for a Medicare supplemental plan and another $35 to subsidize the cost of getting prescription drugs uner Medicare Part D.
SECTION ONE - WHAT IS THE INTERNATIONAL GOING TO DO FOR THE FORMER HOOVER EMPLOYEES?
Not only are the retirees getting the shaft from Whirlpool, it appears they are getting the shaft from their own international union: the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).
Here is a video of former and long tine president Jim Repace telling the upwards of 1,000 Hoover retirees (some of which were salaried types) that international IBEW which they paid dues to individually for decades in most cases was washing its hands of them and would be offering no assistance to them in their fight to preserve the negotiated benefits.
SECTION TWO: WHBC'S RON PONDER GETS BEHIND THE HOOVER EMPLOYEES.
The former Hoover employees have a number of individuals to thank for getting behind them in their effort to thwart Whirpool's welching on a deal their union had negotiated in good faith.
First and foremost (in the opinion of the SCPR) is Ron Ponder of WHBC's Points to Ponder. He worked with a Mayfield Sr. Center director Dan Fonte and former 1985/IBEW former presidents Jim Repace and Jim Gensley who played major roles in putting the event together.
Ponder and WHBC are known for their activist role in Stark County politics. Recently, Ponder put together a two meeting presentation (one for government regulators and officials, one for everybody else) designed to get to the truth of the matter as to whether or not hydraulic fracking is a safe procedure for extracting natural gas from shale located thousands of feet below the surface.
Moreover, WHBC and Ponder co-hosted a debate between the candidates for the 16th congressional district in the period leading up to the general election in November, 2010.
One media estimate of the crowd that assembled Thursday at the Mayfield Senior Center located on 13th Street in Canton is 1,000. It could be. The Report believes that WHBC and Ron Ponder specifically is likely a major reason for the terrific turnout because of the efforts they expended to publicize the event.
In The Report's opinion, Ponder is one Stark's prime contributors to empower Stark citizens to be informed and to be heard on issues that concern Stark Countians. His Points to Ponder daily program (M-F, 10:00 a.m to Noon) can be heard on WHBC14890 News-Talk.
What follows is a video of some highlights of Ponder's participation (he will also appear in videos inserted into other sections of this blog).
SECTION THREE: FORMER HOOVER EMPLOYEE EXPECTATIONS.
The Report interviewed a number of former Hoover retired employees. The theme of the interviews was what there expectations were coming into the Mayfield Sr. Center meeting. As SCPR readers can see, all the interviewees seem upbeat about their prospects of avoiding cuts to their medical and prescriptive benefits their union had negotiated with Whirlpool.
SECTION FOUR: THE POLITICS OF WAGES/BENEFITS.
One of the "dirty little secrets" of local, state and national life in America is the role that politics plays in the lives of each and everyone of us. Undoubtedly, many of the Hoover retirees have never participated in politics other than to vote. And so, if they felt they were pretty much unaffected by politics, the action that Whirlpool intends to take to dilute the negotiated for benefits should dispel that notion.
As can be seen in the video accompanying this section of the blog, the politics of the meeting was more to the liking of Democrat politicians and not so much for Republicans. Dan Fonte and Allan Schulman (both thoroughgoing Democrats) weighed-in heavy on the Republicans. So did Hall of Fame AFL-CIO President Dan Scuiry. Additionally, former Congressman John Boccieri (defeateted by Republican Jim Renacci in 2010 had some choice words about Republicans and worker rights and targeted Renacci in particular.
Democrat U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown's regional representative Max S. Blachman and Republican Jim Renacci's constituent service reps Dave Dobo and Heidi Matthews (the director of constituent service and wife of Stark County Republican Party chairman Jeff Matthews) pretty much kept partisan politics out of their presentations.
The SCPR believes that the matters of wages and benefits for America's workers are highly partisan. It could be years before the Hoover employee situation is resolved (as well as other similarly situated retirees across the country) and it may well be that whichever party controls the political processes of government will determine if the Whirlpools of the world can make their unilateral changes in benefits stick.
It would behoove the Hoover employees to get politically sophisticated in a hurry!
If Hoover employees are on the winning side of the political battle, then, of course, politicians are a blessing. Otherwise, they are likely to be seen as a curse.
Here are couple of videos which feature the politicians and politically astute presenters who were present last Thursday.
SECTION FIVE: THE LEGALITIES.
It had to be encouraging for the assembled former Hoover retired employees to hear that the law firm of Schulman and Zimmerman had stepped forward to provide legal direction and representation to their cause.
In this final section The Report publishes a video of the former presidents (Gensley and Repace - Jim & Jim as the referred to themselves throughout Thursday's meeting). Together they review the highlights of Local 1985 IBEW in a general way and (Repace) his recollection of the contract negotiated on benefits.
It will be interesting to see whether or not the Hoover retires and hold on to their negotiated benefits in light of the current political environment.
Thursday's meeting was impressive and now the test is whether or not Gensly, Repace, the lawyers and the membership can sustain the effort.
As Ron Ponder said to the assembly: "America will be watching!"
Here is the video of Jim & Jim.