Fighting for your pension
Fueled by anti-labor extremists, out-of-state special interest groups and sensationalized media reports, some politicians have preyed upon the frustration of recession-jaded voters, using public pensions as a scapegoat for the state's budget woes.
"Out-of-state billionaires and corporate interests whose greed led to California’s budget mess are leading this attack," said CSEA Area A Director Martha Penry. "They selectively draw attention to headlines about the few sensational cases of abuse. And they continue to spread myths and falsehoods about public employee pensions."
Getting the truth out
Penry joined a group of school employees, firefighters, peace officers, and other public employees and retirees in supplying fact-based information about California's public pension system as part of Californians for Retirement Security’s statewide "Pension Truth Squad" tour.
As lawmakers prepared to hear legislation on May 4 to slash public pensions, Penry and Californians for Retirement Security’s Pension Truth Squad visited the State Capitol to share personal stories and set the record straight about the sustained attacks on public workers.
"We've given our fair share. Now we want a fair shake," said Penry, a special education teacher's assistant in the Twin Rivers School District who said she will be lucky to collect $800 a month from her pension when she retires. "It is time to start telling the truth about retirement security for working families."
Communicating the message
The following day, CSEA and the Californians for Retirement Security (CARES) launched a new website, www.DontScapegoatUs.com, to set the record straight about who is really behind the attacks on public employee pensions. The website details the financial and political ties among some legislators, the Little Hoover Commission, a foundation funded by an out-of-state billionaire and others that are wrongly blaming public employees for California's budget mess.
Another new website, sponsored by CARES goes into even greater detail about the pension debate, www.LetsTalkPensions.com. CARES is a coalition of more than 1.5 million Californians representing public employees and retirees. It is chaired by CSEA Executive Director Dave Low.
Our message has also been communicated by Association President Allan Clark, who has authored editorials outlining the real retirement benefits received by classified employees and other public employees. He was interviewed for a Cable television broadcast on the pension issue and will soon be in a televised debate with pension opponents.
"School employees, firefighters and peace officers are being blamed for the budget deficit when we are doing more than our fair share to help the state and our communities balance their books," said Clark. "Retirement benefits for public employees represent less than three percent of the state budget - a lower percentage than 30 years ago. We have endured furloughs and pink slips, we are increasing employees' contributions to our retirement substantially and we are making concessions through collective bargaining. Proposed initiatives and legislation targeting retirement security simply amount to a Trojan horse for an assault on collective bargaining, workers' rights and the middle class."
Reality Check for CalPERS Critics
Video: Protecting your retirement
Video: The facts about public pensions
CalPERS Responds: Myths vs. Facts
CSEA Pension Response Kit