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Delphi retirees deserved better



Published: Thu, March 3, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

Delphi retirees deserved better

I have no idea how many people saw the recent Bruce Gump and Mary Ann Hudzik interview on WFMJ-Channel 21. It was a 90-second summary of the plight of the Delphi retirees.

Hudzik made a statement that should be the battle cry for the remaining time required for this fight every time anyone wants to understand the significance of earned legacy benefits: “Can’t make me 25 again.” How can it be made more clear. These folks worked their entire lives earning a respectable retirement package as part of the compensation they were entitled to by mutual agreement with GM and, much later, Delphi. The management ripped those earnings away. The unevenhanded treatment that the Delphi retirees received during the unusual bankruptcy was a brutal corporate mugging. By a quirk, the IUE retirees got a respite — possibly temporary — from the fate all other Delphi retirees have suffered.

U.S. Rep. Ryan, state Rep. Hagan, state Sens. Cafaro and Shiavoni have all touted the importance of beating back the Ohio Senate Bill 5 because it is an assault on the middle class and they are right. However, everyone should be perfectly clear about the fact that this assault on the middle class began with the Lykes debacle that led to the wholesale slaughter of steelworkers’ pensions during the early ’80s. The technique was perfected to an art form with the Delphi issue and, fearfully, politicians have assigned both of those examples to “yesterday’s news” without rectifying the misuse these worker groups suffered at the hands of their employers and the government.

Anyone who can make an impact must not allow the current course to be the way this page of American history is written. Fix Delphi and provide a possible avenue for those aging steelworkers to address their unresolved issues.

John Vogel, Mineral Ridge

Not crying and not grandstanding

I am not writing to cry or com- plain about Todd Franko taking a shot at me in this Sunday’s column “Collective Thoughts of a Taxpayer.” As an elected official I expect to be criticized from time to time and have come to accept that fact; however, I do not enjoy being labeled something that I’m not. The conclusions Mr. Franko made about me in his column are untrue and unwarranted. “Hagan, Gains, Schiavoni and the gang can grandstand all they want. They cannot cash the checks they want to write — and they know it,” Mr. Franko stated. Number one, I have no gang affiliation. Number two, I am not a grandstander. Just to be sure, I looked the word up in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and found out that “to grandstand” means “to play or act so as to impress onlookers.” I clearly have not been grandstanding for the past three weeks.

On the contrary, I dedicated my life to learning everything that I could about the history of Ohio’s collective bargaining system because I knew how important this issue was going to be to my constituents. Every day, my staff and I have made it our number one priority to help concerned citizens understand the pending legislation and explain to them how it will affect their lives. I have listened very carefully to more than 25 hours of testimony as the ranking Democrat on the insurance, commerce, and labor committee and asked questions of nearly every witness. I have been invited to multiple events by concerned citizens to explain the bill and have done interviews with national media outlets. I have been 100 percent truthful with my explanations and have spoken from the heart. I have not been playing, acting or trying to impress onlookers. So call me what you want, but please do not call me something that I am not.

Joe Schiavoni, Youngstown

The writer is a Democrat representing Ohio’s 33rd Senate District, which includes Mahoning, Carroll and portions of Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

Sick-day buyouts are win-win

In the debate over Ohio Senate Bill 5, proponents have deliberately misled the public on issues regarding public sector union contracts. Let’s just take a look at one mentioned in an editorial by The Vindicator that involves sick day conversions that could have consequences for public employers.

Sick day conversion is a deferred benefit where unused sick days are prorated and converted into what might be called severance pay. For example, over 30 years, a teacher may have accumulated as many as 300 sick days, and if they retire they could be paid for 45 days or about 1.5 days per year. When critics of public unions talk about this practice, they usually ignore the fact that workers receive compensation for only a small percentage of their accumulated sick leave.

Nor do they discuss how the accumulation of sick leave serves the interests of taxpayers and allows public agencies and schools to operate more effectively. Unions and employers have negotiated this policy as an alternative to a “use it or lose it” system of sick days. While the policy benefits workers, it also saves money for public employers.

Under a “use or lose it” system, workers would have an incentive to use their sick days within the year. That would likely increase the number of sick days used, and in most settings, that would require public employers to pay substitutes (for teachers) or overtime to other employees. Alternatively, they could provide less service. Simply put, a “use it or lose it” system would cost taxpayers more and decrease public services.

Commentators on both the right and the left, as evidenced by recent comments on both Fox and MSNBC, agree that the goal of SB 5 and similar bills is to undermine organized labor and thus shore up the power of the Republican Party, not to balance state budgets. In their pursuit of political goals, proponents of the bill, both public officials and commentators, are presenting incomplete and skewed information about the wages, benefits, and working conditions of Ohio’s public workers.

John Russo and Sherry Linkon, Youngstown

The writers are co-directors of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University.

Don’t even say ‘government’

It seems as though everyone is fed up with the government on all levels, local, state and federal. I’ve read a few letters to the editor in past weeks and one stated that it was the people’s fault for voting in the wrong people. The problem is there aren’t any right people.

They all sling mud and tell on each other like children. They all promise to do good and say whatever the people want to hear. Then screw us over. Funds have been cut from the “HEAP” program and a lot of other necessary other programs such as Medicaid.

Just saying the word government makes my blood boil. They made us buy digital boxes for TVs. When they go bad who replaces them? We do. Now they are telling us what kind of light bulbs we must use. People are actually hoarding regular light bulbs as they won’t be made anymore. This is the most ludicrous, idiotic thing I’ve ever heard.

Dana Olsen, Youngstown


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