AFSCME Local 60 - Municipal & School District Employees of Dane County

7/2/12: Protect Your Pension

Report Affirms Strength of Pension System, But Workers Must Remain Vigilant.

But Walker has never let the facts get in the way. He’s already signaled he’s “open to” changing the system and has likened public employee benefits to a “virus”.

He’ll likely seize on a few tidbits in the report to use as cover for his overall goal of undercutting the system. In keeping with his privatization push, he’ll be grasping for ways to move away from a defined benefit plan and push management of the funds to his Wall Street benefactors.

We simply cannot let him succeed in destroying a system that is nationally noted for its stability and superior performance.

The long-awaited study released July 2 was conducted by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Department of Employee Trust Funds in conjunction with a highly regarded actuarial firm. It was ordered by lawmakers and the governor last year as part of the budget.

The study provides a comprehensive actuarial overview of the structure of the WRS and pension benefits. It looks at the implications of moving away from traditional pensions (known as “defined benefit” pensions) and toward 401(k) style retirement plans, also known as “defined contribution” plans.

The report doesn’t contain policy directives. But, instead, it provides a detailed, fact-based analysis of the WRS and pensions, and lays out the fiscal consequences of moving to a 401(k) and allowing WRS participants to ‘opt out’ of the pension system.

We are deeply concerned about what happens once this non-partisan approach gets into the hands of Walker’s partisan appointees. After all, few politicians let facts get in their way.

Any changes to the pension laws must be approved by the full legislature and the governor. The legislature is not expected to return to the Capitol until convening for its next session in January of 2013.

So, while immediate changes aren’t likely – the importance of protecting the hard-won new Democratic majority in the State Senate is an immediate concern.

Wall Street and other powerful forces are lining up to continue the assault on public employee benefits. This is another reason we need to stick together and stick with the union.

Alone, we have little chance of standing against the anti-worker tide. Joining forces in a strong union is how AFSCME helped create our pension system in the first place. Standing together now is our only hope of defending it.

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