AFSCME Members Prevail in Florida Pension Fight

by Clyde Weiss  |  May 01, 2013

The Florida state Senate on Tuesday rejected a bill supported by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council that would have kept state public service workers from enrolling in the state’s pension system, a victory for AFSCME Council 79 members who fought the plan.

The action effectively ends debate, as least this year, on overhauling the state’s $136 billion pension plan, which is used by more than 600,000 public service workers, including teachers, police and firefighters.

“Once again, Council 79 members took it to the streets and made the difference,” said Council 79 Pres. Jeanette D. Wynn, also an AFSCME International vice president. “Retirement security for state workers is now protected because of the hundreds of us who came up for Lobby Day and traveled as long as 10 hours away to oppose this.”

AFSCME members, working closely with the Florida Retirement Security Coalition, actively opposed the pension changes, calling legislators and visiting the state Capitol on our Lobby Day to make the case for retirement security.

In March, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), pushed a bill through his side of the Legislature on a party-line vote. It would have closed the Florida Retirement System’s traditional pension to new employees. The Senate action makes that House bill moot. An alternative Senate bill that would only have given workers a financial incentive to turn to 401(k)-style retirement accounts instead of the pension plan was dropped.

The effort to push public employees away from the state pension plan has its roots in efforts by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to advance its anti-worker agenda, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post.

The paper reported that ALEC held a conference in New Orleans in August 2011, “where dozens of Florida lawmakers gathered” to hear about its agenda, including pushing workers away from pension plans. “In recent years, the organization has been spearheading efforts nationwide to end governments’ traditional pensions,” the paper wrote.

Read why 401(k) plans are a failed experiment, and how traditional pensions are under attack by politicians under the lie that they are unaffordable.

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