Many years ago, when I was still living in Cleveland, there was a heated primary for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate. The race was between Colonel John Glenn, one of the Mercury 7 with the “right stuff” and America’s first man to orbit the earth, and Howard Metzenbaum, a populist who made a fortune as the founder of the Airport Parking Corporation of America, or APCOA. Both men would go on in good time to become distinguished Senators from the Buckeye State, but this race was, for its time, rather nasty.
Ultimately, John Glenn won the nomination and went on to be elected to the Senate. What turned the tide in the race was a candidate’s debate where Metzenbaum, attempting to contrast his experience in the business world with Glenn’s work history, claimed that Glenn had never worked a day in his life. Glenn countered that Metzenbaum should go to a Veteran’s Hospital and “look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn’t hold a job. You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job.”
I was reminded of this primary race when Congress voted this week to give our most important workers–veterans–a lump of coal for Christmas. Incredibly, as part of their compromise to balance the budget, Congress agreed this past week to reduce the cost of living adjustments for veterans drawing military pensions who are not yet age 62 and are not disabled. While federal workers often are treated as America’s whipping boy, the vote to cut military pensions was a new low for even this Congress. Merry Christmas and here’s your lump of coal to the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect our freedoms!
But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The vote last week by Congress was just another day in the war on workers’ pensions and benefits. Under Governor LePage, Maine unfortunately is leading the charge.
Maine joined that war some two years ago when the legislature voted to eliminate the cost of living adjustment, or COLA, altogether for three years and then restricted future increases despite earlier legislation stating that the pension and COLA benefits cannot be retroactively reduced. Those cuts are now the subject of a lawsuit by the Maine State Employees Association and the Maine Association of Retirees. Of course, at the same time as the Governor was cutting public employee pensions, he exempted himself from any such cuts.
And then, just this week, the Blue Ribbon Commission on Unemployment Reform announced that, contrary to the Governor’s statements earlier this year where he scolded unemployment hearing offices for too readily granting unemployment benefits to Maine workers, in fact the system was being administered fairly but was woefully understaffed.
While it seems that the news is constantly reporting attacks by our state and federal government against our workers and veterans, we need to remember that this is the season of hope and miracles. We can hope that our elected officials see the light that our veterans and federal and state workers should receive their deserved pensions and benefits. We can pray for a miracle to change the attitude against the workers in our country. However, we also need to back up all this hoping and praying with some action. Call and email your elected officials and let them know, loud and clear, don’t tread on the people who make this country. Stand up for the workers and veterans today.
If you believe your rights have been violated, contact us.