Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SEIU's Andy Stern Finds New Romance in Pension-Slashing Adventure

SEIU's Andy Stern
Remember Andy Stern’s “bromance” with Ron Perelman, the billionaire venture capitalist?

Well, don’t tell Ron, but it looks like Andy has fallen head over heels for a younger venture capitalist who’s busy slashing workers’ pensions. 

Ain’t that a perfect match for SEIU’s President Emeritus? After all, SEIU-UHW's Dave Regan, one of Andy's best buddies, has already destroyed the defined-benefit pensions of tens of thousands of healthcare workers in California.

Who, exactly, is Andy’s new love object? 

She’s Gina Raimondo, a 42-year-old former venture capitalist who’s now the Treasurer of Rhode Island.

Gina Raimondo
Raimondo is waging a war on public workers' pensions and has rammed through a law that’s “slashing benefits of state employees with a speed and ferocity seldom before seen by any local government,” according to “Looting the Pension Funds” by Matt Taibbi, a contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine.

What kinds of cuts?

She “raised the minimum retirement age, suspended annual cost-of-living increases and replaced the state's defined-benefit pension with a hybrid that includes a 401k-style plan,” according to the Providence Journal.

And that’s not all. 

She funneled a billion dollars of workers’ pension money to her buddies who run hedge funds on Wall Street. These hedge fund fatcats, who are charging Rhode Island taxpayers $70 million a year in "investment fees," are in turn showering Raimondo with campaign contributions for her expected run for governor.

Earlier this month, AFSCME released a 106-page forensic investigation performed by a national financial expert that shines the light on Raimondo's scam. The report begins this way:  

Two years ago, Rhode Island's state pension fund fell victim to a Wall Street coup. It happened when Gina Raimondo, a venture capital manager with an uncertain investment track record of only a few years… got herself elected as the General Treasurer of the State of Rhode Island with the financial backing of out-of-state hedge fund managers. Raimondo's new role endowed her with responsibility for overseeing the state's entire $7 billion in pension assets.

The report, which received prominent coverage in the Providence Journal, continues:
The Treasurer has emerged as the leading national advocate of a disingenuous form of public pension 'reform' which involves slashing worker's benefits and thwarting public access to information regarding the riskiest of pension investments while, in secret, dramatically increasing the risks to retirement plans and the fees they pay to Wall Street.

The financial expert, Ted Siedle, goes on to charge Raimondo with committing multiple violations of state and federal laws.

So… what does Andy Stern think about Raimondo?

Just days after Siedle and AFSCME trashed Raimondo in the Providence Journal, Stern rushed to her defense by publishing an op-ed in the same newspaper. In the op-ed, entitled “Raimondo Right to Use Investment Tools,” Stern says things like this: 

I have met and talked with Rhode Island General Treasurer Gina Raimondo… it is not helpful to attack her integrity and motives... While one can debate whether Rhode Island was right to alter benefits for current employees and pensioners, Rhode Island should be applauded for using all the tools in the modern investment manager’s toolkit to generate the returns workers are counting on to pay for their pensions.

Gimme a break! Once again, when workers are in a fight, Stern rushes to the Boss's side.

According to observers, Raimondo’s looting of public pensions is just the leading edge of a broader national attack against workers’ pensions. According to the Rolling Stone, one of Raimondo’s key supporters is “billionaire former Enron executive John Arnold – a dickishly ubiquitous young right-wing kingmaker with clear designs on becoming the next generation's Koch brothers, and who for years had been funding a nationwide campaign to slash benefits for public workers.”
Ron Perelman

Back on Wall Street, three of the hedge fund owners who are getting rich off Raimondo’s pension scam also happen to serve “on the board of the Manhattan Institute, a prominent conservative think tank with a history of supporting benefit-slashing reforms. The institute named Raimondo its 2011 "Urban Innovator" of the year,” according to the Rolling Stone.

Taibbi's article offers more details about the scam engineered by Raimondo, summarizing it this way:
This is the third act in an improbable triple-fucking of ordinary people that Wall Street is seeking to pull off as a shocker epilogue to the crisis era.

Where does all of this leave Stern?

Let's face it. Andy is a pathetic figure. He long ago threw in his lot with billionaire capitalists like Ron Perelman. Nowadays, Andy's corporate pals let him prance around in a business suit and salivate over stock options in exchange for Andy lending his title as SEIU's President Emeritus to anti-worker causes backed by big business. Stern, like so many other SEIU leaders, is for sale to the highest bidder.