President Obama clears way for Local 1000-supported retirement program
Federal hurdles removed for Secure Choice


A key component of Local 1000’s vision for Retirement Security for all Californians can move forward thanks to action by President Obama. On July 13, the President ordered his Labor Secretary, Tom Perez, to create a set of rules for states by year’s end that will make it easier for them to set up and run retirement savings programs for workers without access to 401(k) plans.

California has just such a program in the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. In 2012, Local 1000 worked with State Senator Kevin de León to craft and pass SB 1234 which created the program. Secure Choice would establish an automatic savings program for the over six million Californians with no workplace retirement plan. Our president, Yvonne R. Walker, sits on the Secure Choice Board to help guide it through the study phase and into implementation.

The union’s push for Secure Choice came when Local 1000 leaders voted to take up the fight for retirement security as part of an ongoing commitment to help all Californians achieve social and economic justice and to strengthen the middle class. By taking on retirement security, Local 1000 members recognize that the economic vitality of the state depends upon more than just their own pay and benefits, but on living in communities where there is enough spending money to support businesses and where extended families aren’t drained by caring for relatives with no retirement savings. Local 1000’s plan for retirement security is comprehensive: Defend public pensions, demand that public officials support and shore up Social Security, and push for programs like Secure Choice that fill in the gaps for those with no retirement.

But states like California that have developed forward-thinking programs like Secure Choice have run into complications related to a federal pension law call the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). That’s where President Obama’s actions comes in: Now states will have a published rule by the end of the year from the U. S. Department of Labor clarifying how to move forward with these plans with respect to requirements to automatically enroll employees and for employers to offer coverage.

The President’s action comes at a time when California’s retirement security is facing a grave threat. Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Council Member Carl DeMaio, two extremists with a history of attacking the livelihoods of public workers, have introduced an initiative that would destroy public pensions; it is an attack that Local 1000 will fight tooth and nail. But while we fight for our own retirement livelihoods, we will continue to work toward a California where everyone has the right to share in the fruits of economic justice. President Obama’s order puts us a little closer to that goal.

“Thanks to President Obama, we are a step closer to implementing a plan that will bring retirement security to millions of Californians,” said Walker. “All workers should have access to a secure, stable retirement.”