February Update from SOAR President Bill Pienta

Time Marches On

As time marches on and we move into 2021, I would like to remind everyone that time does not stand still, and we should take time to enjoy life and be grateful for what we have.

I must start with being grateful for my time with Harry Hynd, SOAR VP Emeritus, who recently passed.  I was fortunate to have called him a friend and to work alongside him to fight for worker and retirees’ rights.  Harry never thought of himself as being too important to roll his sleeves up and lend a hand to anyone who needed it. Many people had their life improved by things that Harry did, and his love for our Union could not be equaled.

At times the nostalgia makes us believe things were better “back then.” Well, maybe they were and maybe not. I did a little research and found the following examples. You be the judge if we were better off then or now.

In 1980 there were 7,405 fatalities in private industry; in 2019, there were 5,333 fatalities in private industry.

The percentage of workers in the private sector who have only a defined-benefit pension plan is 4%, down from 60% in the early ‘80s.

About 14% of companies offer a combination of both defined-benefit and 401k plans.

Only 85% of full-time private industry workers have access to employer-provided health coverage. 15% have no ability to contribute or purchase health care from their employer.

For 2021, Social Security tax is withheld from the first $142,800 of earnings; in 1980, Social Security tax was withheld from the first $25,900 of earnings. (In 1966, when I started in the mill, the tax was withheld from the first $6,600 of earnings, and I, for one, did not earn $6,600 that year.)

Social Security has provided cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increases to the benefit for many years. In 1980 recipients received a 14.3% COLA increase. In 2020 that COLA increase was 1.3%. The average Social Security benefit received in 1980 was $321. In 2020 the average benefit received was $1,504.

I do not know if things were better in the old days, but I do believe that I was better off belonging to a union and received union wages and benefits that have allowed me to enjoy my years in retirement.

Hopefully, soon we will be able to renew our activism and become more involved in issues that impact SOAR and our Union. Stay safe and healthy.

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