The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

October 27, 2011
SEIU Local 1000: Pension proposals a 'good starting point'

Thumbnail image for Yvonne_Walker_small.jpgYvonne Walker, president of SEIU Local 1000, sent the union's pension reform talking points copied into an email to union members this afternoon. The memo calls Brown's pension ideas "a good starting point" for discussion, then pivots to a call for pensions for all workers.

Here's the letter to members, followed by the talking points:

Dear Local 1000 Members:

Earlier today, Gov. Jerry Brown released his 12-point pension reform plan that he hopes will shape the structure of California's public worker pensions for decades to come.

SEIU Local 1000 has been the leader in pension reform, spending several years pushing to end abuses and special deals while protecting the men and women who make this state run. It is a fight our leadership and members will continue to lead until a fair solution can be reached.

We also know the economic crisis has jeopardized the future of millions of workers who are being agitated to target public sector workers rather than the true culprits--Wall Street bankers and financial institutions.

Our vision for a just society should include a secure retirement for all workers.

I have included below the key points we are making to the media and the public; I encourage you to share and discuss these with your colleagues, friends and family. I am also including a link to the governor's 12-point pension reform proposal.

And, I offer this promise to you: together we will continue to work on achieving a secure retirement for all Californians.

Sincerely,
YVONNE R. WALKER
President

* * * * * * *

RESPONDING TO GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN'S PENSION PROPOSALS, SEIU LOCAL 1000 SAYS IT'S TIME TO TALK ABOUT RETIREMENT SECURITY FOR ALL CALIFORNIANS

SEIU Local 1000 believes Gov. Brown's pension reform proposals provide a good starting point for a new conversation about retirement security for all Californians, especially as California and the nation struggle to untangle the mess caused by Wall Street's financial malpractice.

Like most Americans, we're paying more, working longer and earning less, and our pension system--just like those in the private sector and 401(k) plans--was hit hard when Wall Street used our retirement money to fund their extraordinary greed.

This has only exacerbated the retirement security crisis we are facing in California. A new UC Berkeley study shows that nearly half of all Californians are headed into a retirement of poverty. In this day and age, that's just wrong and must be addressed.

SEIU Local 1000 has long advocated for reforms that ensure sustainable public pension plans; here are just a few examples:

We support curbing abuses and putting an end to special deals like those in the City of Bell. At the same time, we cannot jeopardize the secure retirements of hard working Californians whose modest pensions are often the difference between living out their years in security and retiring into poverty.

Along with other public employee unions, we have negotiated reforms that have saved California taxpayers nearly $600 million in the past two years alone.
In 2006, we negotiated pension reforms that included calculating employees' average salary based on their final three years of service, rather than just their final 12 months.
Last year, Local 1000 members overwhelmingly approved a contract that increased their contributions to CalPERS by 60 percent and changed the retirement age for new employees.

The $26,000 average pension for public employees contributes to a secure retirement but hardly can be called extravagant. At the same time, public pensions are strong contributors to our national and state economies.

Nationally, public employee pensions have a total economic impact of $358 billion annually, creating 2.5 million jobs.

In California, pension payments to retired public employees generated $26 billion in economic activity in California last year, and supported more than 90,000 jobs.

Gov. Brown's proposal starts the conversation on retirement security that will help shape the future for the millions of people reaching retirement age, but any reform proposal also must address security for the private sector, including making a vehicle like CalPERS available to public and private sector employers and their employees.

PHOTO: Yvonne Walker / Sacramento Bee file, 2008

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About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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