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Summer 2013

Public sector plans at risk, but Council 2 plans safe — for now

by County and City Employee Writer on August 24, 2013

Defined benefit plans, which have all but disappeared from the private sector, are under attack in the public sector, says AFSCME 

Collective Bargaining Director Steve Kreisberg.

“It is difficult to fight against the onslaught, but we will do so because this is one of the best things about public sector employment.”

Kreisberg, who addressed a workshop during the June convention, said Council 2 has been a leader in the fight to retain public employees’ pensions. Council 2 Deputy Director Pat Thompson sits on the board of directors of the Select Committee on Pension Policy. Also, the Economic Opportunity Institute has been working with Council 2 for years
Gov. Jay Inslee has no interest in moving to defined contribution plans, but “you never know what could happen,” Kreisberg added.

Among the moves being mooted by the authorities is to have new employees start with a defined contribution plan, rather than a pension.

But such a move will still have a big impact on existing employees, Kreisberg explained.

The reason: The new employees would not be paying into the pension system, reducing the funds available to fund pensions.

“At some point, your fund will be closed and the amount available to pay the pensions reduced.”

Defined benefit coverage has fallen at the same rate as union membership has declined, Kreisberg added (see accompanying graph). 

“Where we have unions, we have pensions, where we don’t, we don’t.”

The result is leading to impoverishment in retirement.