California is on the verge of a retirement crisis: With what is already one of the highest poverty rates among seniors in the nation, more than six million Californians have no access to a workplace retirement plan and are in danger of retiring to significantly diminished lifestyles. Nearly half of California’s working population is headed toward retirement into poverty.
What kind of communities will California have if millions of seniors are working themselves into the grave or are unable to support themselves? It could very well resemble the era before the passage of the Social Security Act when half of retirees were completely dependent upon relatives for basic survival and the indigent were consigned to government-run poor houses. So even young workers and families will struggle to provide for aging family members who have no retirement savings to fall back on.
In a landmark victory for working families, Governor Jerry Brown signed the Secure Choice plan into law last Thursday, making retirement savings possible for millions of Californians for the first time in their lives.
Local 1000 is spearheading a coalition of labor, faith and social justice groups to expand programs that address the growing retirement crisis facing millions of Californians.
Last month, our union cohosted a coalition-building event that released research reviewing this growing crisis and what Californians will face at retirement age without new policies to change the future.
Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker was the keynote speaker at a groundbreaking October 14 conference on retirement security called “Building Tomorrow’s California: New Visions for Retirement Security” that brought together activists from labor, faith and social justice groups to take a hard look at the retirement crisis and began to craft solutions that will work for all Californians.
After a dangerous and deceptive pension initiative failed to gain support, right-wing extremists Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio have come out with two new proposals that continue their efforts to degrade the hard-earned pension benefits of public employees.
While their new approach appears to dial back the threat to current workers, the new attacks are just as dangerous. Everyone who cares about the economic security of California as a large segment of our population moves toward retirement should take this multi-pronged attack very seriously.
The Local 1000-supported goal of creating a retirement safety net for Californians with no workplace plan came nearer its goal on September 28 as the Secure Choice Retirement board considered detailed information about how that state-run plan should work. Local 1000 was there to make sure our members’ voices are heard as important decisions are made on this groundbreaking program.
The deadly 2016 pension-gutting ballot initiative designed to bypass collective bargaining and threaten the retirement security of all public employees has passed another milestone, receiving a official title and summary from California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
Titled the “Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” the ballot measure “eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees.”
According to a report released this week by the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the pension-gutting ballot measure proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio is so drastic and recklessly conceived that it could lead to radical and unforeseen negative consequences.
When Democratic former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Republican ex-San Diego councilmember Carl DeMaio finally unveiled the language for a promised attempt at getting a statewide public pension cutting measure to 2016 voters, the expectation was that Reed II would be a reined-in and more realistically-framed version of Reed I – last year’s failed attempt at undermining the public pension system.
A new ballot initiative filed last week to appear on the 2016 ballot, would bypass the collective bargaining table and effectively freeze retirement benefits for Local 1000-represented employees at the current contract level, requiring voter approval for any enhancement of those benefits.
Any alterations in cost of living adjustments, pension calculations, changes in vesting or lowering the age of retirement eligibility would all be subject to a statewide vote—even if they are successfully bargained in a contract.
A coalition of anti-union, anti-public employee groups, including the National Right to Work Committee, launched their latest attack against public employee pensions and the hard-earned retirement security of state workers.
Their misleading campaign, called the “Voter Empowerment Act of 2016,” would undermine collective bargaining and require voter approval for changes to pensions and other retirement benefits, including medical insurance. The initiative will soon move into the signature-gathering phase and will appear on the ballot next year.
Following are the comments of Local 1000 member Susan Difuntorum, an associate information systems analyst at DDS. She testified on May 26 at the Secure Choice Retirement Board, who is working to provide retirement options for the millions of Californians who don’t have employer-provided pensions.
Local 1000’s work to provide retirement security for all Californians continued on April 27 as the California Secure Choice Board met to discuss the best options to help millions of private sector workers save for retirement.
President Yvonne R. Walker, a Secure Choice board member, described the group’s efforts to develop legislation that will set up a retirement savings plan that can be accessed by workers whose employers don’t provide one.
A Local 1000 member leader testifies about the retirement problems her family is facing even though they have a secure retirement through CalPERS.
Theresa Taylor, a longtime Local 1000 activist who was elected to the CalPERS board last year, told the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Board of her family’s struggles because her husband became disabled.
On Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, federal Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge Christopher Klein ruled in the City of Stockton case. One of the issues was whether public employees should be treated like any other creditor in bankruptcy. The good news is that Stockton city employee pensions are safe and the threat this case posed to public employee pensions everywhere has been averted.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Sacramento has announced his intention to ignore years of legal precedent in the city of Stockton bankruptcy case.
Some claim his decision may open the door for cities around the country to use bankruptcy as a tool to undercut retirement security for public employees. His decision is bad for public employees, for citizens in these cash-strapped cities and for the retirement security of our aging population.
Members voted to ensure retirement security and affordable health care
Theresa Taylor, the Local 1000-endorsed candidate, has won a seat on the CalPERS Board of Administration, earning 55 percent of the votes counted — a nearly 20-point margin over the next opponent.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s “second mother,” his Aunt Francisca, spent most of her 74-plus years cleaning houses for people who had pensions through their employers or were wealthy enough to set aside money in their own retirement accounts.
Aunt Francisca has neither, only Social Security. At an age when many people retire, she had to keep working until just recently, when she suffered a minor stroke. De Leon now helps support her.
Local 1000 members are volunteering to be part of a campaign to build support for retirement security, including California’s Secure Choice program, which would offer options to more than six million California workers whose employers do not offer a retirement plan.
At a July 1 training session, more than 20 member activists learned about the retirement crisis and best practices for communicating about these issues with fellow state employees and community members.
Barbara Williams is a former aerospace worker in California who lost her piece of the American dream when that industry downsized. She lost her job, benefits and hope for a dignified retirement.
Now, at age 66, Barbara works as an early childhood education provider — an occupation that provides more emotional gratification than wages and benefits. Without access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan, Barbara and more than 6 million other Californians will face the choice of retiring into poverty or working until death.
And Local 1000 is taking a lead role in creating new and innovative private-sector models for workers who don’t have pensions. In 2012, Local 1000 was a strong supporter of the legislation that created the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Plan which, if implemented, would provide a voluntary, automatic-enrollment, retirement plan for millions of Californians without one. Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker serves on the Secure Choice Board, and the union is committed to moving this important program forward.
Social Security alone won’t be enough to stop the slide into poverty. Experts say that program will provide only about 40 percent of what the average retiree needs. For a secure retirement, financial planners talk about a “three-legged stool” consisting of Social Security, personal savings and a workplace retirement plan, like a pension or a 401(k). But for too many Californians with no savings and no defined benefit plan, two legs are missing and the stool is set to crash under the pressure.