Archive for January, 2013

UFCW Boss Accused of Harassment, Discrimination

Three women, who are current or former UFCW employees, are accusing Mickey Kasparian, a powerful UFCW boss, of discrimination and/or harassment. The most serious allegations are from a recent retiree; she alleges that Kasparian repeatedly demanded she engage in sexual acts with him. She has filed a lawsuit against not only Kasparian but also the UFCW because the union did nothing to stop his abuse.

Three women, who are current or former UFCW employees, are accusing Mickey Kasparian, a powerful UFCW boss, of discrimination and/or harassment. The most serious allegations are from a recent retiree; she alleges that Kasparian repeatedly demanded she engage in sexual acts with him. She has filed a lawsuit against not only Kasparian but also the UFCW […]






Working Against America

The UFCW used its vast resources to push health care reform through Congress.1 Yet a majority of the Americans disapproved of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 2

The UFCW lauded the achievement “among the ranking highest in our national experience.”3 They may have been right with regard to the impact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will have on the American experience. For example, it would add trillions of dollars in new government spending.4

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will also increase Medicare’s long term liabilities by nearly $50 trillion.5 The bill created more than $560 billion in new taxes and cut Medicare by more than $520 billion. 6

The UFCW claims to protect America’s middle-class by fighting for healthcare reform. 7 However, the same healthcare reform bill the union backed created a “destructive” tax on savings and investment income that would hurt middle-class American including rank and file UFCW members. The Tax is predicted to skew incentives to work, save and create jobs. 8


1 UFCW Press Release: http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/index.cfm?pressReleaseID=490
2CNN/Opinion Research Poll
3UFCW Press Release: http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/index.cfm?pressReleaseID=490
4James C. Capretta, “The Real Budgetary Impact Of The House And Senate Bills,” Heritage Foundation Web Memo #2756, 1/14/10; “Enacting A Lie,” Investor’s Business Daily, 3/23/10
5“Enacting A Lie,” Investor’s Business Daily, 3/23/10
6U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) Op-Ed, “Fix Health Reform, Then Repeal It,” New York Times, 3/26/10
7UFCW Press Release: http://www.ufcw.org/press_room/index.cfm?pressReleaseID=490
8“ObamaCare’s Worst Tax Hike,” The Wall Street Journal, 3/17/10

The UFCW used its vast resources to push health care reform through Congress.1 Yet a majority of the Americans disapproved of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. 2 The UFCW lauded the achievement “among the ranking highest in our national experience.”3 They may have been right with regard to the impact the Patient Protection […]






UFCW Financially-Troubled National and Local Pension Funds

UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS
FINANCIALLY TROUBLED NATIONAL AND LOCAL PENSION FUNDS

For years, UFCW union organizers have been telling prospective new members that nothing beats a union membership for a secure retirement. The inconvenient truth that they haven’t been telling workers is that their union-sponsored pension plans are underfunded, owe more in benefits than they have the assets to cover, and face strict measures such as freezing core benefits while eliminating others in order to recover from their severe financial distress.

An asset/liability ratio gauges a plan’s funding and financial health. At 100% or higher, the plan has enough assets to pay all of its promised benefits and other obligations. Below that, it cannot meet its obligations. Under federal law, if the ratio falls between 65% and 80%, the plan becomes endangered. If it falls below 65%, the plan’s status changes to critical.

Of the 51 pension plans sponsored by the United Food & Commercial Workers, all but seven have funding levels which are in the endangered or critical range. The average funding level for the 51 UFCW members’ pension plans is only 67.4%. Only two plans were at or near full funding levels. This means that more than a 1.2 Million UFCW members are locked into underfunded pension plans.

Forty-four of these plans are in serious financial trouble with either endangered or critical funding levels as described by the Pension Protection Act (PPA). Their average funding level is only 62.7%. Together, these plans have almost a million participants and all of them are required to take steps to recover their financial health and avoid collapse. This may include freezing benefit levels or even eliminating some benefits altogether and drastically increasing contributions. This will tax current workers and employers to pay for poor fiscal management, planning and negotiations of the past.

Half of these weakened plans (22 of 44) are funded at levels described as critical under the PPA. Their average funding is just 57.8%. These severely underfunded plans will be required to adopt even more drastic cuts as part of their recovery. Dire news for their 583,780 participants.

The UFCW is a major proponent of the Card Check bill, which if passed will allow them to force more and more workers into these failing pension plans. Prospective future union members will likely be thrown into a pension plan that is already sliding toward insolvency – thus, their pension contributions will be used in a ponzi-scheme to prop up benefits for current members and retirees, rather than provide a safe and secure pension of their own.

To quote the UFCW’s website, to the more than “1.2 million active, retired, former members and their eligible dependents” of the union’s pension plans, the issue of pension security “is more than an issue – it is survival.”

UNITED FOOD & COMMERCIAL WORKERS FINANCIALLY TROUBLED NATIONAL AND LOCAL PENSION FUNDS For years, UFCW union organizers have been telling prospective new members that nothing beats a union membership for a secure retirement. The inconvenient truth that they haven’t been telling workers is that their union-sponsored pension plans are underfunded, owe more in benefits than […]






Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation

PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTEE CORPORATION
PROVIDING LIMITED PROTECTION AGAINST PENSION FUND FAILURE

For years, union organizers have been promising workers that by joining a union, they were guaranteed a secure pension, that their pension plans were financially sound and healthy and in the highly unlikely event that a new member’s pension plan was to fail, they were insured by the federal government.

In 1974, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act created the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), a federal insurance corporation that is funded by insurance premiums of member plans, investment income and recoveries from failed plan sponsors. Many multiemployer plans are insured by the PBGC which, in turn, will provide some protection to their participants if the plan fails. However, this does not guarantee that a retiree will receive their promised pension.

The PBGC’s current maximum guarantee is 100% of the first $11 of the plan’s monthly benefit rate plus 75% of the next $33 of the plans monthly benefit rate (combined potential maximum of $35.75) multiplied by the participant’s years of service (which also may be subject to a maximum limit). Further, a retiree’s plan does not have to fail to incur these limitations. If a plan does not have enough assets to pay the plan benefits, it is allowed to suspend payment of that portion of the payment that exceeds the PBGC guarantee level. For the typical worker, this could mean a loss of up to 20% of their monthly pension benefit.

Since most union pension plan benefit rates are fixed rates, unaffected by annual or semi-annual pay increases, and since most plans do not have a cost of living or inflation adjustment for retirees, any additional reduction in benefits could have drastic effects on fixed-income retirees, who having worked their entire lives, are no longer in a position to effectively make up the difference by returning to the workforce.

The fact that the PBGC itself exists does not guarantee any specific level of benefit. From 1980 to 2002, the PBGC has operated with a net positive balance. However, since 2003 the PBGC has reported a negative balance of hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In 2007, the difference between its assets and its liabilities was almost a billion dollars. The PBGC has been underfunded each year since 2000 and 2006 it only had 2/3rds of the assets needed to cover its liabilities. In the last three years, the number of multiemployer plans requiring financial assistance from the PBGC increased by 45%. The total amount of financial assistance given during each of the last three years was between 6-18 times over the levels experienced during the preceding five years.

Also alarming is that the percentage of active participants in PBGC-insured multiemployer plans has dropped from 75.9% in 1980 to 45.3% in 2006, while the percentage of retired participants has almost doubled. Where there used to be more than four active workers for each retiree, today that ratio has dropped to less than 1½. This means that the burden for covering benefits for retirees has changed drastically. In prior years, only 20% of the contribution for each individual worker would go to covering benefits for active retirees. The balance could be used for investments and covering administrative expenses. Today, that figure has jumped to 75%, which, after expenses, leaves less than 1/4th of contributions for active workers to invest for their ultimate retirement.

PENSION BENEFIT GUARANTEE CORPORATION PROVIDING LIMITED PROTECTION AGAINST PENSION FUND FAILURE For years, union organizers have been promising workers that by joining a union, they were guaranteed a secure pension, that their pension plans were financially sound and healthy and in the highly unlikely event that a new member’s pension plan was to fail, they […]






Why Doesn’t the UFCW Respect Women?

Since last year, Mickey Kasparian, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, and his lackeys have been accused of discrimination and/or mistreatment by not one, not two, not three, but four Hispanic women. Three of these four accusers worked directly for the UFCW; a fourth works for a UFCW-funded organization.

Last December, Sandy Naranjo, a UFCW organizer, filed a lawsuit against UFCW Local 135 alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination. This was a shocking turn of events, given the fact that she had previously viewed her job as a “dream job.” In her lawsuit, she alleges that “Kasparian created a work environment that was particularly hostile toward women.” Kasparian had fired this woman shortly before Christmas — while she was recovering from a work-related car accident.

As bad as those allegations are, the most troubling allegations are from Isabel Vasquez who filed a lawsuit against Kasparian and UFCW Local 135 for sexual harassment just a few days before Christmas last year. She claims that Kasparian repeatedly demanded that she have sexual relations with him. At one point, a co-worker interrupted one of these sexual acts, but nothing was done, and the harassment continued. Last year, after more than a decade of abuse, she decided to retire early from the UFCW. In her lawsuit, she further alleges that Kasparian sexually harassed another woman in 2011. After this woman’s husband found out about the harassment and beat up Kasparian, she too was fired.

In February, a local paper called on Kasparian to step down. At an anti-Kasparian protest that month, another woman who had worked for the UFCW for nearly a decade accused Kasparian of making “everybody [in the office] feel fearful of losing their jobs.”

After expressing support for Vasquez, Anabel Arauz, a UFCW organizer, was fired in March of this year. The following month, she also filed a lawsuit against UFCW Local 135 and Kasparian alleging discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In her lawsuit, she referred to the union and Kasparian’s “demonstrated animus, bias, and discriminatory intent/conduct against women.”

Also in March – Women’s History Month – Nohelia Ramos Campos filed a complaint against the San Diego chapter of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), which is funded by the UFCW. In her complaint, she accused her employer of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Specifically, she alleged that a superior pressured her to support Kasparian and mentioned that Kasparian had threatened the UFCW’s funding of ACCE over her comments on social media in support of Kasparian’s accusers.

While serving as the president of UFCW Local 135, Kasparian was also the president of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, a group of local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. In May, Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, ordered the removal of Kasparian from the leadership of the labor council and placed the organization into receivership.

While one might guess that Kasparian would have taken his removal from the labor council presidency as a sign that it was time for him to resign from the leadership of his union, that was certainly not the case. Instead, the shameless Kasparian announced the creation of a rival labor council the day after his removal; this new labor council’s membership includes SEIU Local 221 and several other unions. And through it all, the local Democrat Party leadership has continued to support Kasparian.

All of which leads to one question: how many more women will have to speak out about their mistreatment by Kasparian before the UFCW and its allies start taking women seriously?

 

Since last year, Mickey Kasparian, the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135, and his lackeys have been accused of discrimination and/or mistreatment by not one, not two, not three, but four Hispanic women. Three of these four accusers worked directly for the UFCW; a fourth works for a UFCW-funded organization. Last […]