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June 2016

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Saving for Retirement? This New Rule Aims to
Protect You from Your Advisor

Working people could be forgiven for thinking that when they sit down with someone to get help with their 401(k)s that the person doing the helping is actually, well, helping. Unfortunately that isn't always the case. But now, thanks to a new rule from the Department of Labor, retirees can rest a little easier.

The new rule, issued April 6, provides an additional layer of protection to retirement savings by addressing conflicts of interest that occur between consumers and advisers. It has updated the definition of "fiduciary investment advice" under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ensuring that any adviser receiving compensation for providing personalized advice has a fiduciary duty to do so in the best interest of the client. The Labor Department estimates that these conflicts cost savers up to $17 billion a year.

Until now, a broker's advice may have been influenced by fees and commissions, not to mention a push by the firm to sell certain items and bring in profits. And the broker was only required to offer a "suitable" investment with no regard for the size of the commission, which could have ranged from 1 to 10 percent.

"Under current rules, advisers say things like 'we put our clients first.' This is no longer a slogan. It's the law," said Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez via NPR.

Nevertheless, opposition has already begun, from the financial industry as well as Congress. House Speaker Paul Ryan called it "Obamacare for financial planning" and is promising to hold up the rule by way of congressional action, said NPR. Many in the industry claim it will raise costs and make it harder to work with investors with low-balance accounts.

But Bartlett Naylor, a financial policy expert for Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, pushed back on that, said NPR.

"Wall Street has argued that the hidden fees and commissions are necessary to serve lower-income investors. In effect, they're saying, 'If we can't scam them a little, we'll ignore them altogether.' This deceptive mentality is exactly why a new rule is needed," Naylor said.

The Labor Department likened the new requirement to that of doctors and lawyers, other professionals with a sworn commitment to act in the best interest of their patient or client.

"This gives our members more investment protection," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "And it couldn't be more important than in retirement. We owe this much to our seniors and working families."

With so many employers moving away from defined benefit plans, like pensions, to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s and IRAs, more and more people are looking to financial advisers for guidance on how to make sure they have enough savings for retirement.

The IBEW has been lobbying for this change and has signed on to letters of support.

"Today's conflict of interest rule is the kind of change people want and expect in Washington," said Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a tweet.


The Department of Labor issued a new rule to protect retirement investments from potential conflicts of interest.

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Member Honored for Service to Scouting

One of the highest honors given by the Boy Scouts of America was awarded to Los Angeles Local 2295 member Phil Hampton for years of loyal service.

The Vigil Honor is only given to boys and adult volunteers who have already been nominated and selected for the Order of the Arrow, scouting's honor society.

"This is not an award you set out to earn. It is not about checking boxes or completing trainings. The people who are selected for the Vigil honor are giving time and attention to their scouting community because it is who they are, not to get recognition," said Andrew Sisolak, director of field service for the Western Los Angeles County council of the BSA. "These are people who really embody the ideal of service and good character."

Not surprisingly then, Vigil-honorees are almost always surprised to find out they are being honored. This is especially true for adult honorees, since the award overwhelmingly goes to scouts, not the adult volunteers.

"I didn't even know I'd been nominated," Hampton said.

In the embodiment of scouting's ideals of humble service, Hampton downplayed his own contributions.

"I tried to go to everything. If someone needed a ride, I could get them and I usually haul all the gear," he said. "It isn't what I do, it is what other people see in you."

But the boys of the Serrano's chapter of the Order of the Arrow thought otherwise. In their nominating letter, they wrote, "Mr. Hampton is a Scout's Scouter. [He] serves his unit first and then branches out to help in every way practical that will allow quality to dominate … He relates to the youth with his extensive knowledge delivered with ease of understanding and a touch of wit."

They went on to list nearly two dozen ways Hampton served his troop from helping Eagle scouts complete their projects, leading the desert, winter and basic backpacking awareness courses, serving as assistant scoutmaster and chairing the troop committee.

Hampton started volunteering with the scouts when his youngest son Wade joined about a decade ago. Wade attained scouting's highest rank, becoming an Eagle Scout three years ago. When that happens, most parent volunteers move to other things. But Hampton never stopped volunteering his time and expertise to Troop 2222 and the Order of the Arrow.

"What makes Phil so extraordinary is that his son aged out three years ago and he is just as present," Sisolak said.

The Vigil honor is awarded at the annual banquet dinner for the West Los Angeles County Council. The biographies of volunteers and scouts are read aloud from the dais. At the end of the recitation, the name of the awardee is announced.

"As the guy was talking, I started to think, that sounds a lot like me," Hampton said. "Then when they said my name, I asked everyone at the table if it was me and they all knew already."

Hampton is not just a leader after work. He has been a technician on the production side of the Miller-Coors brewery in Irwindale for 27 years. He is also the chief steward for a 35-person unit at Miller-Coors and a member of the Local 2295 executive board.

"I've known Phil for more than 10 years and he is an excellent worker and a staunch trade unionist who insists on fairness and justice for the people he works with," said Business Manager David Clay. "He is very proud of this award and he should be. It's wonderful, a credit to him and it shows the IBEW in the best possible light."

Hampton said he has no plans to stop anytime soon.

"I enjoy watching the boys grow and take on challenges. I am just there to help," he said. "I'll do this until I can't do anything else."


Los Angeles Local 2295 member Phil Hampton, fourth from left, was awarded one of the Boy Scouts' highest honors, the Vigil Award, for dedication and service delivered with "a touch of wit."

Jacksonville RENEW: Making a Difference through Service

Fourth-year apprentice Ross Mullis and second-year Patrick Pentard came away from the Fifth District progress meeting last year inspired. Driving home from the Savannah, Ga., gathering, the two young leaders from Jacksonville, Fla., Local 177 devised plans to inspire and involve their local's young members and to change perceptions of the union in their community at the same time.

Weeks later, the two created Local 177's new Reach Out and Engage Next-Generation Electrical Workers (RENEW) committee, and they've very quickly built an impressive organization, said Business Manager Russell Harper. "They're out there in the community giving back and showing people what brotherhood is all about."

"We were really trying to find a way to make a difference and strengthen our local," Mullis said. "The younger folks wanted to get more involved so that we have smart, engaged brothers and sisters ready to take the reins when the time comes."

With fellow RENEW executive board members Chris Wolf and Tyler Baxter, the team is drawing 40-50 young members to meetings each month, promising free pizza and a chance to contribute to the local's changing culture. In February, the group received its official RENEW charter from the International Office.

They've been active members of the local community, participating in organized events like local beach and river clean-ups and the recent Jacksonville Multiple Sclerosis Society's annual fundraising walk. And they've done projects on their own as well, volunteering to install hand bars in the home of a Local 177 retiree and cleaning up the property around the union hall and training center.

In April, nearly 20 brothers and sisters from the group came out to help wire a new home for a Jacksonville Beaches Habitat for Humanity project. Most of the volunteers had never worked in residential wiring before, so RENEW members leaned on the experience of some of their journeyman brothers, Local 177 President Chris Stovall, Carlos Nunez and Ander Cribbs. While there, they managed to impress a nonunion contractor also working on the house.

"I'd like to think we changed that guy's perception of union electricians here in the South," Wolf said. "Everybody who came worked hard to get the job done quickly and correctly, and the whole thing was just a huge success."

For Harper, looking back, the decision to invite Mullis and Pentard to the Fifth District progress meeting was a no-brainer. "I'm really proud of this group of young people," he said. "The older members are really seeing the enthusiasm among the RENEW group, and I think it's a great thing for our local and its future."

The RENEW members see it the same way. "We know we're a new group," Wolf said, "but we want to help the brotherhood, whether it's increasing our market share or just showing the community a different side of the IBEW. This is our chance to make a real difference here in Jacksonville."


Jacksonville, Fla., Local 177 members recently helped to wire a Beaches Habitat for Humanity house in their community.