Posts Tagged ‘Marriage Equality’

Boeing bucks marriage equality

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

By Mike Andrew, Associate Editor

In the first challenge to the state’s Marriage Equality Act since voters approved it in November, Boeing says it will deny pension survivor benefits to same-sex spouses. The company’s contract talks with SPEEA, the union that represents some 23,000 Boeing engineers and technical workers, broke off on December 5 without an agreement on the pension issue.

The pension controversy began on November 21 when, according to SPEEA spokesperson Bill Dugovich, the union asked what appeared to them to be “a simple administrative question” – how would the company handle benefits for new Gay and Lesbian spouses?

“We were shocked,” Dugovich said, when Boeing negotiators told them the company had no intention of paying survivor benefits for same-sex spouses, even though the new state law gives them equal standing with opposite-sex spouses.

Boeing officials walked out of talks November 29 while SPEEA’s team was presenting their pension proposal. A federal mediator reconvened the talks December 4, but they broke up on December 5 without any agreement on the pension issue.

SPEEA member Kenneth Aphibal posted a petition on change.org calling on the company “to honor the people of Washington State by extending survivor benefits to employees of same-sex married couples at Contract Negotiations and show equality for all Boeing employees.” The petition now has 76,802 signatures.

Pension survivor benefits are one way that married couples – same-sex or opposite-sex – can make sure at least one of the partners enjoys a secure retirement even if the other one dies.

The SPEEA team was taken aback when Boeing asserted that they were not required to offer survivor benefits to same-sex spouses because their benefits package was administered under ERISA and not under state law.

ERISA – the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 – is a federal law enacted to regulate employee benefit plans, including health insurance and pensions. Many union benefits plans are administered under ERISA rather than state laws.

Because ERISA is a federal law, and DOMA forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages, Boeing said it was not required to offer same-sex couples equal benefits. SPEEA is not so sure, Dugovich said.

“We’re consulting our attorneys,” Dugovich said. “Discrimination is discrimination. At some point discrimination laws come into play.”

SPEEA secured medical benefits for same-sex domestic partners in 2000, Dugovich added, and those benefits will remain unchanged, but the union expected Boeing to accept the state’s new marriage law.

SPEEA says that The Boeing Company wants to eliminate all defined benefits pensions, beginning with new hires, and eventually terminate their pension program altogether. In addition to pensions, outstanding issues in the talks include wages, medical insurance, family leave, and the company’s use of outside contractors.

To date, SPEEA has emphasized it is “doing everything possible to avoid the need for a work stoppage,” but barring some movement in the negotiations it may be impossible to avert a strike. At SPEEA’s request, the Martin Luther King County Labor Council granted the union strike sanction on December 5.

DOMA a roadblock to marriage equality

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Mac McIntosh

The approval of Referendum 74 is only one stride on the path that married lesbians and gays need to travel to enjoy full equality.

Married lesbians and gays will come under the same Washington State laws as opposite-sex married couples. Unfortunately, however, same-sex married couples aren’t protected by federal laws and regulations, because of a 1996 federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman. This definition denies gays and lesbians the rights and privileges that opposite-sex married couples receive.

These rights and privileges include Social Security survivor benefits, the right to be buried with a spouse in a military cemetery, and the right to inherit  one’s deceased spouse’s money tax free – among many rights and privileges not granted to same-sex married couples. In all, more than a thousand federal rights and privileges are denied to married lesbians and gays.

Eight lower courts have declared DOMA unconstitutional. President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice lawyers to not defend DOMA. Speaker of the House John Boehner disagreed with the President and instructed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (a House sub-committee) to defend DOMA. Boehner has spent $1,447,996.73 of Congress’s money hiring outside lawyers.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Republican leaders for wasting taxpayer’s money defending a law that every lower court has declared unconstitutional.

“The American people should no longer have to foot the bill for Speaker Boehner’s campaign to appease the most conservative forces within the Republican Party,” Pelosi said.  Fortunately the committee has run out of money.

To understand what damage DOMA can do, consider the case of Edith Windsor. She and her partner had been together 40 years. Two of those years they were married, which was recognized in New York State. When Edith Windsor’s partner died, Ms. Windsor was stuck with a $363,000 tax from her inheritance.  If their marriage had been recognized by the federal government, she would not have to pay any taxes because it would be covered under U. S, estate tax laws.

The cases declared unconstitutional by the lower courts will be heard by the U. S. Supreme Court in January or February. Its decision will probably not be announced until June.

In the meantime Congress is working on a bill that would repeal DOMA, called the Respect for Marriage Act.  It has 154 co-sponsors in the House and 32 in the Senate. With 54% of the public supporting marriage equality, it is possible that this unfair law can be repealed through legislation. This may be faster than waiting for the Supreme Court decision.

With the elimination of DOMA, married lesbians and gays will finally enjoy the full rights and privileges of other married citizens of the U. S.

Honoring the Sikhs

Friday, August 31st, 2012

By Robby Stern

PSARA members attended a moving memorial at the Sikh Gurdwara (temple) in Renton August 11, to honor the Sikhs and police officer who were murdered and wounded in the racist armed attack in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An estimated 1,000 people attended, including mourning members of the Sikh community, from whom we learned something about the history and content of the Sikh religion and the history of the Sikh community in the Puget Sound region. Public officials, including Senator Maria Cantwell, expressed their sympathy and support. An emotionally-charged candlelight vigil was held, surrounding the pond in front of the Gurdwara.

We all understood in a deep way that no matter who is targeted, such attacks are attacks on our entire community. We will stand shoulder to shoulder as a community to express our abhorrence of these acts of hatred. It was uplifting to comfort the Sikh community and to feel their gratitude as we stood with them in this hour of mourning and remembrance.

PSARA Gets Active for Marriage Equality

PSARA does not endorse candidates but we do support or oppose ballot issues. Our PSARA Executive Board has determined that PSARA will staff the Yes on R – 74, Marriage Equality Referendum phone banks a couple of evenings this fall.

We will staff the R – 74 phone banks on Wednesday, September 19 and Wednesday, October 17. The phone bank location is UFCW 21, 5030 1st AV South in Seattle and the hours are 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

PSARA members unable to come to UFCW 21 on those dates will be able to make phone calls from home those two evenings, using a list provided by the Yes on R-74 campaign. The campaign will train you, whether you are at the phone bank location (preferred) or phone banking from your home phone.

We can be the first state in the country to pass voter-approved marriage equality! To participate, please email president@psara.org or call the office, (206) 448-9646.

Other Campaign Opportunities

Organizations with whom PSARA is affiliated are sponsoring door-to-door election-year walks and phone banks. Here’s information for our members. The Washington State Labor Council is coordinating campaign walks and phone banks for the Governor’s race and the Attorney General’s race. PSARA members are invited to participate. The walks and/or phone banks are targeted to union members, retired union members and their families. Here’s the information for Puget Sound counties:

WALKS:

  • 9:30A.M.- 3 P.M. (9:30 a.m. snacks/training/pair up, 10:30 a.m. first knock, 2:30 p.m. last knock and a barbecue)
  • King County: contact Max Price (206) 962-3161
  • Saturday, September 15, Auburn, Intl. Association of Machinists 751Hall, 201 A Street SW
  • Saturday, Oct. 20, Renton, Plumbers & Pipefitters Hall, 595 Monster Rd.
  • Pierce County: Contact Nathe Lawver (253) 973-3765
  • Saturday, September 15, Tacoma IBEW 76 Hall, 3049 S 36th
  • Saturday, October 13, Tacoma IBEW 76 Hall, 3049 S. 36th
  • Snohomish: Contact Michele Stelovich (360) 303-8410
  • Saturday, September 22, Everett Labor Temple, 2800 Lombard
  • Saturday, October 20, Everett Labor Temple, 2800 Lombard
  • Thurston, Lewis, Mason: Contact Kay Halpain, (509) 869-0366
  • Saturday, September 29, Olympia WSLC/WFSE. 906 S. Columbia
  • Saturday, October 13, Olympia WSLC/WFSE, 906 S. Columbia
  • Whatcom, Skagit: Contact Michele Stelovich, (360) 303-8410
  • Saturday, October 6, Mount Vernon Steelworkers Hall, 47 Alder Lane

Members in other parts of the state. Call the PSARA office (206) 448-9646 or email president@psara.org, for information about walks in your area.

PHONE BANKS:

Labor-sponsored phone banks are scheduled in all areas of the state. The contacts for these phone banks are:

  • Benton & Franklin Counties: Rigo Rivas ((509) 396-4911
  • Clark & Cowlitz Counties: Judy Kuchel (360) 600-9645
  • King County: Max Price (206) 962-3161
  • Pierce County: Nathe Lawver: (253) 973-3765
  • Snohomish County: Michele Stelovich (360) 303-8410
  • Spokane County: Beth Thew (509) 939-0688
  • Thurston, Lewis, Mason Counties: Kay Halpain (509) 869-0366
  • Whatcom, Skagit Counties: Michele Stelovich (360) 303-8410

PHONE BANKING SENIORS:

To phone bank seniors exclusively and during the day, Washington Community Action Network, with whom PSARA is affiliated, is sponsoring phone banks targeted to the Governor’s race and focusing on home care and long term care issues. The phone banks begin October 17 and will operate on weekdays with shifts from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2- 6 p.m.

Most of the phone banking will occur at the offices of SEIU Healthcare 775, 33615 First Way, #A, Federal Way, WA.There will be four shifts at the offices of UFCW 21, 5030 1st Avenue, Seattle: 9 a.m – 1 p.m. shifts on October 25 and November 1, and 2 – 6 p.m. shifts on October 26 and November 2. Contact for these phone banks: Susie Levy, (206) 805-6676.

I hope PSARA members will find a way to participate in the November election.