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Protecting Our Jobs and Our Pensions

In 2010, we are confronting unprecedented challenges and right-wing attacks that test our ability to stand up for the services we provide and represent our union’s core values. As Secretary-Treasurer, I’m honored to fight alongside you.

Saunders and family
New Beginning - Saunders, with sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan; mother, Jacqueline and wife, Lynne. (Photo Credit: Luis Gomez)

Message from the Secretary-Treasurer

By Lee A. Saunders

In 2010, we are confronting unprecedented challenges and right-wing attacks that test our ability to stand up for the services we provide and represent our union’s core values. As Secretary-Treasurer, I’m honored to fight alongside you upholding the dignity of AFSCME members and reminding America of the value of our work.

Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of issues demanding our attention. The economy continues to penalize workers and reward the wealthy. But AFSCME was founded during the Great Depression and if any union is ready to fight for working families and lead the way to a better, fairer America, it is ours.

 

Defending our Pensions

One of the issues that calls for constant vigilance is pension security.

AFSCME members earn on average $45,000 a year for doing the work that sustains communities. After decades of public service, they retire with pensions of approximately $18,000 annually. And for nearly 30 percent of our members, pensions are the heart of their retirement income because they aren’t in the Social Security system.

But you wouldn’t know this based on the lies spread by the right-wing noise factory. These critics have the audacity to call public service workers “the new privileged class.” They argue that our pension benefits are unfair at a time when only approximately 21 percent of private sector workers are in employer-provided, defined-benefit pension plans.

 

The Facts

The fact is that AFSCME members must contribute to their pensions year after year, yet many governments failed to make their contributions over many years. The Securities and Exchange Commission even took the unprecedented step of suing the state of New Jersey for underfunding the pension system and then misleading investors about the system’s health.

Chronic underfunding, combined with the beating all investments — including pension funds — took during the economic collapse has left some pension systems under severe stress. But not because our benefits are too rich.

The real issue is not that our members have pensions. It is that too many workers today do not. The median balance in a 401(k) type plan is less than $32,000 — not nearly enough to provide a secure retirement. As a result, approximately half of all baby boomers will outlive their retirement savings.

In defending our pensions, we are shining a light on the unfairness of a society in which failed CEOs can retire with multi-million-dollar pensions, while the workers who made them wealthy spend their golden years struggling to get by. The recession wasn’t caused by our pensions; Wall Street greed, arrogance and mismanagement brought our economy down.

 

Making a Difference

As we protect our pensions, we are standing up for all workers whose jobs and retirement security are in jeopardy.

Be active in your local so you can help fight any threats to your job or pension. When you read lies about your salary and benefits in the local paper or hear them on the radio or TV, respond with a letter to the editor or e-mail. To learn more about the attacks against public workers and the people behind them, see Page 10. We can’t let these myths go unchallenged.

Together, we can make a difference. I look forward to working with you to accomplish great things for our members and our nation.  

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