Retiring after a long career is like graduating from high school. You don’t want to be anywhere or do anything that looks like work or controls your life. That is understandable, but the attack against the public pension system is relentless and requires strong action by all of us. These attacks, which take place on many fronts, should not go unchallenged. You have important knowledge that is vital in this fight — and you have a major stake in a favorable outcome.
Today, in the wealthiest county of the world, children are doing worse than their parents. An increasing number of people are falling to the poverty level of the Great Depression. Higher education, once the great equalizer and the vehicle to upward mobility, is now only for the wealthy. And retirement security for public employees, once thought an unassailable gold standard, could soon be a thing of the past.
The assault on public employees is at a dangerous precipice. If we do nothing, pensions could be lost. Without an abundance of involvement, your pension could vanish. So I am urging you to get involved locally and at the state level. The truth needs to get out, and the strength of your presence is needed to stop this assault.
It is imperative that the truth be at the forefront of discussions regarding public employee pensions. You cannot allow your pension to be defined as a benefit or as an unearned entitlement. You need to re-frame the discussion to accurately reflect the facts. In truth, a pension is created by the earned income you deferred from your hourly wages when you were working. It is pay for work you already performed. The income you receive from a pension is similar to the income that you receive from a personal IRA. Both are created when you set aside current income to provide money to live on when you retire. I am certain you would correct anyone that suggests you did not earn your IRA. Your pension is no different. You earned your pension each day you worked. So enjoy it and defend it with the truth. Gently explain to anyone that says otherwise, “I earned it one hour at a time.”
In addition to saving public employee pensions, we must include all Californians in the discussion of retirement security. There are so many issues that need to be addressed and too few people to do the necessary work.
I know you have looked forward to retirement and feel you don’t have the energy to fight the ‘inevitable.’ But remember, public employees didn’t always have a pension. That’s right. It was someone many years ago that made your retirement security possible. It was someone many years ago that invested the necessary energy to insure that it was ‘inevitable’ you would have retirement security. It was someone many years ago that put aside their tiredness to fight for themselves, their brothers, their sisters, their children, their grandchildren and you. So please think about those future workers and enter the fight to insure that you are not the last generation able to retire.
It is important to understand that the forces that are working to destroy public pensions have been active for many years and will continue unabated, if we do nothing . You and I can not allow this scenario to play out. We must stop it.
IBEW 1245 is in the forefront of the efforts fighting this assault on public pensions. Other organizations include the California Alliance for Retired Americans (CARA) and The Retired Public Employees Association (RPEA). Each are dedicated to the principle that everyone should have retirement security and guaranteed healthcare.
But it won’t happen without your involvement. Will you join with me to ensure that all Californians have retirement security? Will you join with me to ensure that all Californians have guaranteed healthcare? Will you join with me to break the chains of economic oppression being imposed by the wealthy of America?
You and I need to rededicate ourselves. Please join with me in the effort to take back America for the working people of America, and for the future of America.
Bill Wallace is a long-time IBEW 1245 activist who retired from the City of Santa Clara in 2004. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.