COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio legislators want to cut the pensions promised to school support personnel, and the Ohio Association of Public Employees (OAPSE)/AFSCME Local 4 is having none of it.
More than 400 OAPSE members and retirees marched this month on the Ohio Statehouse and the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) to oppose proposed cuts and freezes to cost-of-living increases for retirees.
Protesters at the June 7 rally also heard from state lawmakers who oppose legislation pending in the Ohio General Assembly that would allow SERS trustees to eliminate, reduce and freeze cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs. They also rallied in front of SERS.
“I am retired and living on my own. I need every penny of my retirement check. So I was glad to join in the march to have our voices heard about these cuts. I’m thankful that the union organized this so active and retired members could come together and demand justice,” said Maryanne Howell, a former OAPSE executive board member and Columbus City Schools employee.
A 33-year bus driver with Bellevue Public Schools, Lynda Mobley, said she worked hard and deserves a secure retirement.
“I count on my pension. And I count on my COLA. To try and solve the problems at SERS by targeting me and retirees like me is just plain wrong. We paid our dues. We did everything right,” said Mobley, a former OAPSE state vice president.
Also addressing the fired-up group were OAPSE State President JoAnn Johntony, who vowed the union will never stop fighting for what is right; State Secretary Sandy Wheeler; and State Vice President Lois Carson.
According to The Columbus Dispatch, the SERS pension fund is one of five public pension funds that the Ohio legislature oversees. All of those funds are under financial strain.
SERS retirees get a 3 percent COLA one year after they retire, but fund administrators want to eliminate from 2018 to 2020 and cap it at 2.5 percent in later years. Participants also won’t receive COLAs until their fourth retirement anniversary.
About 292,000 janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries and other school support workers are covered by SERS. According to the Dayton Daily News, members earn about $24,000 a year and their monthly pension benefits average $1,184.
(Contributing: Lisa Martin, Raju Chebium)