California is on the verge of a retirement crisis: With what is
already one of the highest poverty rates among seniors in the
nation, more than six million Californians have no access to a
workplace retirement plan and are in danger of retiring to
significantly diminished lifestyles. Nearly half of California’s
working population is headed toward retirement into poverty.
What kind of communities will California have if millions of
seniors are working themselves into the grave or are unable to
support themselves? It could very well resemble the era before
the passage of the Social Security Act when half of retirees were
completely dependent upon relatives for basic survival and the
indigent were consigned to government-run poor houses. So even
young workers and families will struggle to provide for aging
family members who have no retirement savings to fall back on.
CalSavers, the new retirement savings plan that will allow
millions more Californians to retire with dignity, launched its
pilot program and will begin enrollment in 2019. In 2016, Local
1000 sponsored SB 1234, the most ambitious push to expand
retirement security since Social Security in the 1930s.
Currently, less than half of private sector workers have access
to a pension plan.
In a landmark victory for working families, Governor Jerry
Brown signed the Secure Choice plan into law last Thursday,
making retirement savings possible for millions of
Californians for the first time in their lives.
Local 1000 is spearheading a coalition of labor, faith and social
justice groups to expand programs that address the growing
retirement crisis facing millions of Californians.
Last month, our union cohosted a coalition-building event that
released research reviewing this growing crisis and what
Californians will face at retirement age without new policies to
change the future.
Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker was the keynote speaker at
a groundbreaking October 14 conference on retirement security
called “Building Tomorrow’s California: New Visions for
Retirement Security” that brought together activists from labor,
faith and social justice groups to take a hard look at the
retirement crisis and began to craft solutions that will work for
After a dangerous and deceptive pension initiative failed to gain
support, right-wing extremists Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio have
come out with two new proposals that continue their efforts to
degrade the hard-earned pension benefits of public employees.
While their new approach appears to dial back the threat to
current workers, the new attacks are just as dangerous. Everyone
who cares about the economic security of California as a large
segment of our population moves toward retirement should take
this multi-pronged attack very seriously.
The Local 1000-supported goal of creating a retirement safety net
for Californians with no workplace plan came nearer its goal on
September 28 as the Secure Choice Retirement board considered
detailed information about how that state-run plan should work.
Local 1000 was there to make sure our members’ voices are heard
as important decisions are made on this groundbreaking program.
The deadly 2016 pension-gutting ballot initiative designed to
bypass collective bargaining and threaten the retirement security
of all public employees has passed another milestone, receiving a
official title and summary from California Attorney General
Titled the “Public Employees. Pension and Retiree Healthcare
Benefits. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.” the ballot
measure “eliminates constitutional protections for vested pension
and retiree healthcare benefits for current public employees.”
According to a report released this week by the state’s
Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), the pension-gutting ballot
measure proposed by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former
San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio is so drastic and
recklessly conceived that it could lead to radical and unforeseen
When Democratic former San Jose mayor Chuck Reed and Republican
ex-San Diego councilmember Carl DeMaio finally unveiled
the language for a promised attempt at getting a
statewide public pension cutting measure to 2016 voters, the
expectation was that Reed II would be a reined-in and more
realistically-framed version of Reed I – last year’s failed
attempt at undermining the public pension system.
A new ballot initiative filed last week to appear on the 2016
ballot, would bypass the collective bargaining table and
effectively freeze retirement benefits for Local 1000-represented
employees at the current contract level, requiring voter approval
for any enhancement of those benefits.
Any alterations in cost of living adjustments, pension
calculations, changes in vesting or lowering the age of
retirement eligibility would all be subject to a statewide
vote—even if they are successfully bargained in a contract.
A coalition of anti-union, anti-public employee groups, including
the National Right to Work Committee, launched their latest
attack against public employee pensions and the hard-earned
retirement security of state workers.
Their misleading campaign, called the “Voter Empowerment Act of
2016,” would undermine collective bargaining and require voter
approval for changes to pensions and other retirement benefits,
including medical insurance. The initiative will soon move into
the signature-gathering phase and will appear on the ballot next
Following are the comments of Local 1000 member Susan
Difuntorum, an associate information systems analyst at DDS. She
testified on May 26 at the Secure Choice Retirement Board, who is
working to provide retirement options for the millions of
Californians who don’t have employer-provided
Local 1000’s work to provide retirement security for all
Californians continued on April 27 as the California Secure
Choice Board met to discuss the best options to help millions of
private sector workers save for retirement.
President Yvonne R. Walker, a Secure Choice board member,
described the group’s efforts to develop legislation that will
set up a retirement savings plan that can be accessed by workers
whose employers don’t provide one.
A Local 1000 member leader testifies about the retirement
problems her family is facing even though they have a secure
retirement through CalPERS.
Theresa Taylor, a longtime Local 1000 activist who was elected to
the CalPERS board last year, told the California Secure Choice
Retirement Savings Investment Board of her family’s struggles
because her husband became disabled.
On Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, federal Bankruptcy Court Chief Judge
Christopher Klein ruled in the City of Stockton case. One
of the issues was whether public employees should be treated like
any other creditor in bankruptcy. The good news is that Stockton
city employee pensions are safe and the threat this case posed to
public employee pensions everywhere has been averted.
A federal bankruptcy judge in Sacramento has announced his
intention to ignore years of legal precedent in the city of
Stockton bankruptcy case.
Some claim his decision may open the door for cities around the
country to use bankruptcy as a tool to undercut retirement
security for public employees. His decision is bad for public
employees, for citizens in these cash-strapped cities and for the
retirement security of our aging population.
Members voted to ensure retirement security and affordable health
Theresa Taylor, the Local 1000-endorsed candidate, has won a seat
on the CalPERS Board of Administration, earning 55 percent of the
votes counted — a nearly 20-point margin over the next opponent.
California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon’s “second
mother,” his Aunt Francisca, spent most of her 74-plus years
cleaning houses for people who had pensions through their
employers or were wealthy enough to set aside money in their own
Aunt Francisca has neither, only Social Security. At an age when
many people retire, she had to keep working until just recently,
when she suffered a minor stroke. De Leon now helps support her.
Local 1000 members are volunteering to be part of a campaign to
build support for retirement security, including California’s
Secure Choice program, which would offer options to more than six
million California workers whose employers do not offer a
At a July 1 training session, more than 20 member activists
learned about the retirement crisis and best practices for
communicating about these issues with fellow state employees and
And Local 1000 is taking a lead role in creating new and
innovative private-sector models for workers who don’t have
pensions. In 2012, Local 1000 was a strong supporter of the
legislation that created the California Secure Choice Retirement
Savings Plan which, if implemented, would provide a voluntary,
automatic-enrollment, retirement plan for millions of
Californians without one. Local 1000 President Yvonne R. Walker
serves on the Secure Choice Board, and the union is committed to
moving this important program forward.
Social Security alone won’t be enough to stop the slide into
poverty. Experts say that program will provide only about 40
percent of what the average retiree needs. For a secure
retirement, financial planners talk about a “three-legged stool”
consisting of Social Security, personal savings and a workplace
retirement plan, like a pension or a 401(k). But for too many
Californians with no savings and no defined benefit plan, two
legs are missing and the stool is set to crash under the