As the economic crisis rips into state and municipal budgets across the nation, the conservative campaign to dismantle public employee defined benefit pension systems has gained new life. While municipal government budgets are in trouble, most of the claims made for destroying the pension plans are based on falsehoods. Nevertheless, the attack on public employee pensions has gained ground.
It's important for Teamsters to debunk the myths spread by those whose primary goal is to destroy the defined benefit pension system that is designed to provide them with a secure retirement.
Click here to arm yourself with the facts.
The assault on public employee pensions comes at the same time as tens of thousands of public employees are being laid off or furloughed, and with tens of thousands more facing that prospect once the federal government stimulus funding runs out.
A simultaneous wage and jobs crisis is affecting millions of Americans. With economic insecurity at an all time high, those seeking to undermine the defined benefit pension system are appealing to workers-taxpayers who do not have pensions to oppose public employee pension security.
Public Employees are not Over-Paid
Public employees have made trade-offs over the years between wages and retirement security. A recent study by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the National Institute for Retirement Security finds that state and local employees earn 11 to 12 percent less than comparable private sector workers. Even when benefits are included, total public employee compensation lags behind private sector compensation for similar work.
A study by the Center for Housing Policy finds police officers and teachers still don’t earn enough to buy a typical house in 2 out of 5 metro areas. Firefighters and librarians can’t afford a median priced home in the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago metro areas. Nationwide a school bus driver’s average wage is not enough to pay rent on a standard two-bedroom apartment.
It’s up to us to educate the general public and other union members about the truth of public employee wages and benefits. The goal of the anti-public employee movement is to divide private and public sector employees by appealing to private sector unions and workers on the basis of taxes. With wages and jobs disappearing and taxes rising, private sector employees are easy prey. Wages and jobs are eroding for private sector workers, but we shouldn’t accelerate the race to the bottom by gutting public employee pensions. Rather than fewer workers having retirement security, Teamsters believe that all workers should have retirement security. With only a small percentage of private sector workers belonging to unions, but a majority of public sector employees in unions, conservatives are now targeting the public sector for attack.
The Bottom Line
Wall Street caused the economic crisis that is the real threat to state and local governments and the retirement security of all Americans – public employees should not be forced to bear the brunt. We should be working to achieve real retirement security for all Americans, not take it away from those who have it. Public Employees work hard for everyone while earning modest wages and deserve a secure retirement.