by David Card | November 10, 2014
Phoenix voters last week emphatically rejected a billionaire-backed ballot initiative that would have replaced city workers’ pensions with risky 401(k) style plans.
Supporters of the measure called Proposition 487 sought to close the existing defined-benefit plan to newly hired workers and force them to shoulder a greater share of the cost of a private investment plan. Voters defeated the measure 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent.
“Residents, community groups and front-line employees voted no on Prop 487 and sent a clear message to outside interest groups that it is the wrong pension reform, wrong for public safety and wrong for taxpayers,” said Luis Schmidt, president of Local 2384. “Despite efforts from dark money organizations to confuse Phoenix taxpayers and deprive workers of their hard-earned retirement security, voters protected the promise for employees to retiree with dignity.”
“We are thrilled that voters stood with city workers and recognized the harm Prop 487 would do to Phoenix,” said Frank Piccioli, president of Local 2960. “This victory should serve as a warning to those selfish interests who are seeking to undermine the retirement security of public workers across the country.”
Texas hedge fund billionaire and former Enron executive John Arnold played the role of Rich Uncle Pennybags, donating more than $1 million to fund the anti-worker campaign. Arnold is a major contributor to the so-called Liberty Initiative Fund, which poured millions of dollars of dark money into similar measures in Tucson and Cincinnati last year. Both failed to pass.
A broad coalition of pension advocates that included Phoenix firefighters, police officers, AFSCME Locals 2384 and 2960 and their allies came together to fight the measure. They went door to door in the months leading up to Election Day and planned an extensive get-out-the vote effort for Tuesday, Nov. 4.
AFSCME Sec.-Treas. Laura Reyes was in Phoenix on Saturday before Election Day to lead a neighborhood canvass and talk to voters about why Prop 487 was bad for the community.
“The extremists don’t share our belief that after a lifetime of working hard and playing by the rules, we all deserve to live out our years with the dignity and respect that comes from a secure retirement,” Secretary-Treasurer Reyes told a group of volunteer canvassers. “This election is an opportunity for all of us to stand up and say, ‘Today I’m voting for what matters to me and my family.’”
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