Monday, May 24, 2010

RH Jones: OPERS not recommending cuts for their retirees

From RH Jones, May 24, 2010

Re: No cuts recommended for OPERS retirees

To all retired OH STRS members:

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) is not recommending changes in their retired members pension. For this retired Ohio State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) member, it is not pension envy of my brothers and sisters who are retired in OPERS, but wonder at the position my STRS Board of Directors has recommended that we receive a cut of 1% of our simple fixed Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)? Please see the attached copy of page 4 of the Ohio PERS News – Spring 2010.

My STRS has always claimed to be more cost effective by having numerous in-house investment staff that outperforms investment companies hired from the private sector. If this is the case then, I wonder why our retiree COLA is recommended to be cut when the OPERS' is not. I think that a major reason is that by not protecting us from this threat, the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) and the Ohio Education Association Retired (OEA-R) are not properly representing us. They are to protect us, not to make concessions to those who wish to reduce or COLA or any other of part of our hard earned delayed compensations, including HC/Rx; and, further, only leaving the 3% COLA for those who have incomes of less than $30,000 discriminates against the rest of those retired. It is best for the STRS just to keep the COLA at 3% and just leave it alone for all retired members.

In view of the recent rise, albeit moderate, in the Wall Street Stock Market, and in other areas of the STRS investments, the STRS investment department is adding billions to the STRS general fund. One wonders, then, if it is necessary to take back benefits from retired members. We retired teachers will not live long enough to see another great recession. We will live long enough to see high inflation, however.

Please scroll down to the second page of this e-mail to read the OPERS newsletter statement on retention of the 3% COLA for retirees. I hope this is not an OPERS oversimplified statement. Their members, along with retired teachers, need our full 3% COLA. The 3% was voted on and passed by an Honorable Ohio Legislature. It is now Ohio law and the present legislators should not attempted to reduce it.

RHJones, retired teacher member of ORTA and OEA-R

Click image TWICE to enlarge.


Message of thanks from new STRS board member Dale Price

From Dale Price, May 22, 2010
(To John Curry, Dave Parshall, Kathie Bracy, Marie Fetters and other supporters)
Subject: Successful STRS election

Dave, John, Kathie and Marie

Thank you for your efforts on my behalf in the STRS Retirement Board election. Whether it be financial, inviting me to speak, talking to others, producing campaign materials, or giving me advice and moral support, I could not have had the success that I did without you.

I realize that the work before me over the next 4-years will make the past 8-months seem like nothing. I am expecting my first mailing of materials from the STRS office in the next few days, with another to follow in a week.

Iit is a good thing I like to read and can decipher pages of data (math majors do come in handy).

I will do my very best over the next 4-years to continue earning your support as well as that of the active and retired members of STRS.

Dale Price

In your dreams, Bob; do you REALLY think ORTA and OEA-R will go out on a limb for retirees?

From RH Jones, May 24, 2010
Subject: Re: a need for ORTA & OEA-R to counter today's Wall St. Journal


There are three negative letters concerning Defined Benefits in the Wall Street Journal today, 24May10, which need a rebuttal, this time, by the Director or the President of both these two unions in which I am a member.

Their unfounded claims are that taxpayers support us retirees. You well know that this is delayed compensation that we negotiated honorably with our employer, both on the state and local level, to was to be invested in our STRS to provide for our future pension. This keeps professional college educated educators off the public dole, that all of us taxpayers support, including teachers in a dozen other states that have Defined Benefit (a misnomer) Retirement Systems.

Letters-to-the-Editor by the leadership carries more weight than that of the individual members -- You have got to do this. For one thing, it’s free advertisement. Both, say you need new members; this would certainly help. Note: The Wall Street Journal is sent out nationally and is read by millions.

In these critical times of relentless media attacks on retired teachers – among them, I hear it on WNIR radio every day. We are educators, and must educate the ignorant until or dying day; we are also motivators, and must motivate, also, until our dying day.

RHJones, Life Member of ORTA & OEA-R

ORTA under fire from some Summit County RTA members

From RH Jones, May 24, 2010
Subject: Re: Kate gives the Franklin Co. RTA co-president a well-deserved earful....and then some!
Len & Chuck,
Thanks for your support. Those in leadership positions at ORTA "just don't get it". I would love to see them change and get back to their long tradition of, as they say, the only rep of retired educators. However, they have been throwing away a wonderful tradition and have become voiceless in monitoring the STRS retired teacher issues. They just figure the easiest route of "just going along with the boys and the girls" and work to sell us insurance rather than representing us on the "firing line" at the STRS Hdq. It's sad, I do hope they change, and change quickly. They have the infrastructure in place to be our association, but if they aren't willing to aggressively represent us. They've got to go.
From Lenora Wood, May 24, 2010
Subject: FW: Kate gives the Franklin Co. RTA co-president a well-deserved earful....and then some!
From RH Jones, May 23, 2010
Subject: Kate gives the Franklin Co. RTA co-president a well-deserved earful....and then some!
To SummitCRTA board members:
As the SCRTA news says that the membership at the next luncheon meeting will vote on us having to pay ORTA dues in order to belong, I oppose such. Recently, ORTA has done nothing for retired educators. It seems to me that they work for the OEA rather than Ohio's retired educators. Please read documentation exhibited in the messages below. They are true.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Kathie Bracy: Letter to Tom Beck, co-president of Franklin County RTA

From Kathie Bracy, May 22, 2010
Dear Tom,
I was just looking over my FCRTA June newsletter, which arrived in today's mail. When I finished, I started asking myself -- again -- WHY do I bother with this group? If I were to show this newsletter to a prospective new member, they would probably ask me the same thing. Much of the newsletter seems to be taken up with items pertaining to luncheons.
There's your President's Message on the first page. Nicely written, and interesting, but most of it belongs in the minutes of the April meeting since it tells about the program that day; the president should have a message to the membership that is more relevant to our main purpose (which is what?).
Half a page is devoted to "Membership." Good -- we need new members, as attendance at our luncheons appears to have been dropping steadily for some time. Nothing like it used to be, when we could fill a whole room at the Clintonville Women's Club. What is MISSING, however, is a list of REASONS we should be recruiting new members. Offhand, I can't even think of any good reasons. I'm struggling with finding reasons to continue coming myself. At the top of every newsletter there needs to be a mission statement. Do we even have a mission?
Thank you's to people who helped at the April luncheon -- that is nice, and certainly deserved.
FCRTA Community Service -- Bob Croye's project for assisting those in need; excellent. I'd like to see us help him help these people more by reminding people the day before a luncheon by e-mail or telephone (I'm sure we can get volunteers to work on this) to bring canned goods. I don't know how many times I forgot, till I finally remembered to bring some to the May luncheon.
A four line report on an ORTA workshop on page 3, saying it was "informative" and a list of names of those who attended. Fine, but why not a report on the workshop telling us what took place, who the speakers were and what our representatives got out of it that would benefit the members of FCRTA?
The rest of page 3 -- a good 3/4 of the page -- is taken up with information about the dinner coming up in June at the Aladdin Shrine Center. Lots of information, but lots of blank space, too.
In this entire newsletter I did not see ONE WORD about what is on the minds of most retirees these days -- threats to their pensions and healthcare. I see Ann Hanning at every STRS board meeting, but never once has she ever addressed the board and gone to bat for retired teachers. ORTA should be constantly pounding away at preserving our COLA; instead, by their silence, they are tacitly going along with plans to REDUCE it! This is outrageous, but ORTA sits on their hands and does nothing. They should be working harder at raising awareness among the membership on exactly what is going on at STRS and the legislature through their publications and through the RTAs. ORTA should be actively campaigning to build massive support against all efforts to hurt our retirements. (How about working on that at their workshops?) ORTA should be leading us; they should be loudly vocal in defense of the one segment of STRS with the smallest pensions, where every cut in benefits or loss of buying power hurts the most: the retired educators! The fact that they are not is reason enough to turn down membership in ORTA or the RTAs.
You and I are paying more and more each year for our healthcare while inflation is eating away at our pension, not to mention the loss of that 13th check and the current threat to our COLA. The pre-Medicare age group is REALLY paying through the nose -- and I'm supposed to ask them to join FCRTA and ORTA? I would not insult them. I do take my hat off, however, to the oldest members of our group, particularly those who served in WWII, Korea and Viet Nam, who are without a doubt quietly struggling to get by on what little is left of their meager pensions; you know there are those who are being forced to choose between food on the table and medicine. What is ORTA doing for them?
It was helpful to have Laura Ecklar at our May luncheon, though it was appalling that she had to sit out in the hallway for nearly two hours waiting for her few minutes to speak. We should be getting reports every time on the status quo of our pension and healthcare, and waging an ongoing campaign to raise awareness and get people involved. Our officers should be getting to the STRS board meetings. (I have seen Gloria Woods and Eileen Young there a number of times; good for them!)
I hope to see some leaders of our FCRTA at STRS board meetings; they'd get their eyes opened fast. And I'd like to see our Franklin County RTA stand for something more than what I see reflected in the June 2010 newsletter, particularly since we're located right here in Columbus, where all the action is. I'd like to see a newsletter I can proudly show to prospective members that would show them that FCRTA, as a member of ORTA, is doing something for them besides having nice luncheons, programs and entertainment. They need reasons to join, but they won't find them in our newsletters. Surely we must have a mission -- but what is it? I can't tell them if I don't know our purpose.
I am posting below an article written last year by John Curry, a retiree from western Ohio. (Below that is a letter he wrote to Ann Hanning last July.) He sums up much of the apathy I see in ORTA and many RTAs, including ours. We need to get on the ball -- it's our pension and healthcare that are eroding away, and too many people are sitting back and letting it happen. If ORTA, FCRTA and the other RTAs don't put a stop to it, who will?
Thank you for allowing me to vent. What do we do next?
Kathie Bracy
Life member of ORTA and FCRTA (and questioning WHY)
P.S. I just looked in on our website, and there it is: "Primary Mission: Working to protect teachers' retirement benefits" -- and I thought all the time it was to have luncheons and enjoy the programs and entertainment! Shame on me.
May 22, 2010

The green beans are over a year old but....much of what was said then is also true now...especially the last paragraph!

Please pass the green beans!
From John Curry, March 8, 2009

To those STRS retirees looking for immediate relief...

...before the STRS Board "guts" more of our current health insurance program benefits and increases already unaffordable benefit premiums, I have some more bad news! Some of you, including myself, were hoping for almost immediate reform of our national health policy....a praiseworthy wish but...not a realistic wish. This time 'round, the President will turn over a significant amount of this "reform" to Congress. With Congress in the driver's seat comes the reality of lobbyists for the pharmaceutical manufacturers and the health insurance industry to ply their out expense. We will eventually get "reform," but it will come to us in the finished product as a "watered-down" that will still allow a profit-over-service business model. We can and should take an active interest in the directions that these "reforms" will take. We can and should become educated with the current happenings in Congress and, most importantly, write our U.S. Congressmen (and women) about our feelings concerning them. Will we?

So, how did we get to where we are today with our current STRS healthcare picture? My take.... is it is a combination of forces that have caused neglect for the retiree for over a decade. We can start the decline of our healthcare program beginning back in the Herb Dyer days. In those times it was not really a well-kept secret that Herb and some of those in management at STRS really wanted to get out of the healthcare pass it off onto the private sector.

This was compounded by teacher labor organizations who sat idly by while the management at STRS made their executive decisions with no hard questions being asked...nor hardly any questions being asked about the dozens and dozens of motions being passed monthly at STRS with an almost immediate unanimous rubber stamping by those who were supposed to be looking out for our (the retirees') interests - the STRS Board. Think about it....retired educators don't pay association dues to the OEA or the OFT, do they? The Ohio Revised Code 3307.15 didn't and doesn't apply to the OEA or the OFT. These organizations are just recently alerting the active educators as to an impending crisis with STRS healthcare...a crisis that began in the early 2000's but was certainly not actively broadcast to their rank-in-file membership until after the fact...and then the coverage was minimal. This was not broadcast to their membership, in particular, due to the fact that five of the former STRS Board members were criminally convicted for violating Ohio ethics laws...along with former Executive Director Herb Dyer. Things like this you just don't want to brag about, do you?

This was also compounded by the reality that those in executive positions at STRS were and are not educators....they are actuaries, investors, accountants, and business men and women. Some (note-not all) of them even have the Wall Street mentality that we have come to see being exposed these days in every newspaper and electronic media on the face of the globe. It was a good game for those while it was being played in an environment of lax regulations (no real STRS Board member oversight and hard question asking in our case) but....the greed and deception finally has been exposed for what it was...greed and deception. If the STRS administration didn't generate policy internally to present to the Board for adoption they brought in paid consultants who also worked in and lived by the Wall Street mentality of entitlement to do the same. Problem is, the ORC 3307.15 doesn't recognize nor condone an entitlement mentality, does it? If "our" associates, or at least those in management positions, were placed in and paid into the Ohio STRS with Ohio STRS retirement benefits things might have gone a different direction, might they have not? The same can be said for placing our Ohio politicians into the STRS retirement system rather than OPERS system they currently pay you think that may have had something to do with the vast differences in the healthcare premium schedules of STRS vs. those at OPERS and the OPERS proactive planning for future healthcare obligations? I do!

The last factor that led retirees to where we are today is one that we can blame on ourselves, the retirees! Far too many of us have stood idly by and trusted our professional (?) retirement organizations to be a watchdog over the actions and day-to-day work at STRS. These organizations have, for the most part, served only as social gathering service clubs fostering a monthly opportunity to hash over old times with portions of meat and mashed potatoes with gravy and green beans. A tasty time-out in a retiree's monthly calendar with a smidgen of current, and the most important part but not realized by retirees, legislative report which was and is usually met with the more often heard request, "Please pass the green beans!" And then.....the legislative report is neither discussed nor thought about for another month because most retired educators, as well as actives don't pay attention to their retirement system's actions and planning (or lack thereof), do they? Guess what.....they are now! The best way, unfortunately, to get the attention of a retiree is to reduce benefits or increase deductions on that monthly paycheck, isn't it? By the way…when was the last time you saw a representative of ORTA or OEA-R stand up, at an STRS “public speaks” portion of an STRS Board meeting and…speak as a representative for ORTA or OEA-R while calling the STRS administration or Board to task over an issue of misspending, mismanagement, or entitlement? It’s been a long time, hasn’t it? We do have, along with Dr. Leone, some new members on the Board that are open to your suggestions...remember that. Now, please pass the green beans!

John's time to step up to the plate

John Curry to Ann Hanning, July 9, 2009
In perusing the ORTA website ( I came across this page which lists "25 good reasons why you should join your local Retired Teachers Association and the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA)."
Reason #7 on that list is, and I quote, "7. Promotes cost-of-living increases."
Well, Ann, the time is now overdue for ORTA to step up to the plate and publicly fight to keep our COLA. ORTA has not been vocal at STRS Board meetings re. this topic or other reform topics. When was the last time an ORTA official speaking as an ORTA official stepped up to the podium in the 3 minute speaks portion of the board meeting to do such? I can't remember that happening in the past 6 years or so that I have been either attending STRS board meetings or listening to the CD's of STRS board meetings. Where has ORTA been? On that same web page ORTA touts itself as, and I quote, "ORTA, the voice of Ohio's retired teachers." Boy, you surely could have fooled me!
Almost a decade ago I joined the Allen County Retired Teachers Association and, at that time, I had a choice (thank God) to join or not to join ORTA. At that time I told Allen County member George Doyle, "No, I do not wish to join ORTA as I am not impressed with them." Well, Ann, I still am not impressed with ORTA and neither are thousands of other retired educators who have been let down by ORTA's lack of representation.
When will your organization really begin to fight for retirees? Too many of your members who have no access to the Internet have in no way been able to see what they have been missing that has transpired at STRS and your organization has done nothing to keep them abreast of what really has happened at STRS. Those "uninformed" have been happily enjoying meatloaf and green beans at monthly meetings which should have contained enlightenment by ORTA as to what was going on at STRS. Then again, if they had been informed....they probably would have lost their lunches! Thanks for keeping them in the dark.
John Curry
A retired STRS stakeholder
A Proud member of CORE
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
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