Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

March 19, 1999

THE AFL-CIO has issued an informative report entitled "Who's Behind the Private Accounts Scheme?" The report refers to those who are behind the campaign being orchestrated in the press, on television and in other forums for privatizing America's Social Security system. Here's what the national labor federation in Washington, D.C., says about the privatizers:

"BEHIND THE CAMPAIGN to privatize Social Security are most of the same corporate think tanks and right-wing ideologues that funded 'paycheck protection' legislation to silence union members' voice in politics, and that back efforts to derail health care legislation for working families. Groups that would like to destroy public education and subsidize elite private academies through vouchers are also well represented.

These groups are working with companies that would make millions of dollars in administrative fees if Social Security were privatized. Examples include:

"THE CATO INSTITUTE. As the highest-profile backer of privatizing Social Security, Cato is pushing its donors to contribute to a $1 million ad campaign boosting privatization, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Nation magazine has found that 25 percent of Cato funding comes from Wall Street firms. Other funds come from corporations and banks. William Shipman, principal of the Boston money management firm State Street Global Advisors, chairs Cato's advisory board on Social Security privatization; his company has contributed $20,000 to the project. The Heritage Foundation, another conservative group that backs school vouchers and tax cuts for the wealthy, also is asking its members to contribute to the ad campaign. (Among the moneybags behind the Heritage Foundation are the anti-union, extreme right-wing Coors beer barons of Colorado.)

"THE NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COUNCIL/ECONOMIC SECURITY 2000. Members of this group have traveled the country speaking to civic groups, attempting to drum up public support for privatizing Social Security, according to the National Journal and the American Prospect. The council has received grants from the John M. Olin Foundation, which - according to its Website (www.jmof.org) - also funds anti-affirmative action, anti-immigration and pro-school voucher groups.

"THE NATIONAL CENTER FOR POLICY ANALYSIS. Funded by J. Patrick Rooney (of Indiana), one of the top backers of California's (paycheck protection) Proposition 226, the center has promoted privatized Social Security for the past 10 years. It also supports school vouchers, massive tax cuts for the wealthy, privatized prison labor, paycheck deception legislation - and funds legislation opposing patients' rights. (Rooney's wealth derives from the Golden Rule Insurance Company, which his parents started a half-century ago.)

"THE INVESTMENT COMPANY INSTITUTE. The lobbying arm of the mutual fund industry has made revising Social Security a top legislative priority, according to the Washington Post. Wall Street giants such as Fidelity Investment and Merrill Lynch are represented on the group's retirement security task force."

The national AFL-CIO says this about the Social Security system:

"Social Security, the nation's most successful social program, is the foundation of retirement income for America's workers and their families and the principal insurance against family impoverishment due to death or disability. It reliably and efficiently provides benefits to the elderly, the disabled and their children, helps millions of Americans escape poverty and gives the elderly the financial means to live their last years with dignity and independence. Two-thirds of older Americans rely on Social Security for half or more of their income... Social Security faces long-run financial challenges that are serious but modest... Addressing these challenges does indeed demand changes to the system, but it does not require the radical and risky measures advocated by those whose real motive is to scrap the program..."


HENRY (HANK) KISTNER, retired business manager of the former Portland Steamfitters Local 235, died in a rest home Feb. 27 at age 84. He suffered from Alzheimer's.

He was born in Rainier on July 21, 1914 and grew up in Portland. He attended Benson High School and played violin in the Junior Symphony.

Kistner held many offices in Local 235, which is now part of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, and was the union's business manager when he retired in 1976. He also held many offices in the labor movement, including service as president of the Portland Metal Trades Council, secretary-treasurer of the Oregon State Pipe Trades Association, Executive Board member of the Multnomah County Labor Council (now the Northwest Oregon Labor Council). He also held membership on the Pacific Coast Metal Trades Trust Board, Steamfitters Apprenticeship Committee, the Plumbing and Pipefitting Trust Board, and he was a trustee of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company.

Survivors include his wife, Thelma (Peggy) Churchill; sons Richard of Warren and Ronald of Scappoose; daughters Linda Hopkins of Portland and Jodi Miles of Aloha; stepdaughter Carolyn Lanstrum of Lake Oswego; 13 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.

His funeral was held March 4 at Skyline Memorial Gardens followed by interment there.


J. MILTON BROWN, a union leader and civic activist in southwest Washington, died Feb. 15 at his Vancouver home at age 78. He was afflicted by cancer and pneumonia.

A native of Boise, he had lived in Clark County most of his life and was a member of Vancouver High School's 1938 state champion basketball team.

He was business representative of Retail Clerks Local 942 from 1948 until it merged into United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 in 1985. He was the executive officer of the Clark, Skamania and Western Klickitat Counties Central Labor Council from 1959 to 1983. Brown was a leader in the alliance of labor unions that sponsored construction of Smith Tower, the circular high-rise apartment building in downtown Vancouver for low-income retired workers. He had served as president of the Tower ever since it was built in the 1960s. A celebration of his life was held there on Feb. 28.

He had served on the Vancouver School Board, Vancouver Parks and Recreation Commission and Clark County Planning Commission.

Survivors include a son, a stepdaughter, two sisters and a brother.


ADRIENNE WELLER, a member of the State, County and Municipal Employees Local 328 at Oregon Health Sciences University, reports that a new book, "Voices of Color," was issued last month by Red Letter Press as part of African-American History Month. It sells for $12.95. "In this collection, activists of many races speak out on a broad range of topics from politics to pop culture," she said. She added: "In 35 lively articles, African-American, Chicana/o, Asian Pacific-American and Native American men and women address issues ranging from self-identity to land rights, from bias in the entertainment industry to organizing efforts for affirmative action and bilingual education, from confrontations with racism, sexism and homophobia to inspiring life stories and victories."

The Red Letter Press can be contacted at 409 Maynard Ave. S., Suite 201, Seattle WA 98104-2959. Weller can be contacted at (503) 228-3090 in Portland.


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