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Center for Labor Research and Education


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Report: Private sector workers need guaranteed pensions

Statesman Journal

By Timm Herdt

Ain’t that a kick in the pants.

PERS and other public pension programs have come under attack for providing government employees with a guaranteed pension, from people arguing either (a) the benefits are too rich or (b) state, county and city workers shouldn’t be allowed to get a retirement benefit that’s been cut by most private employers who have favored their own bottom lines over their workers’ well-being.

UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education – arguably a very union-friendly center, looking at the membership of its advisory board – has come out swinging, questioning the very concept behind both arguments. In a new report you can download here, entitled Meeting California’s Retirement Security Challenge, the center argues that a return to guaranteed pensions for private sector workers is the best way – perhaps the only way – to head off a major retirement crisis in the coming years.

From the intro:

Over the last generation, America’s public-private framework for providing retirement security has come undone. The “three-legged stool” of retirement security (Social Security, private defined benefit pensions, and private savings) has given way to a much less stable two-legged stool (Social Security and private savings) that is also being forced to bear the increasing burden of health care costs in old age. It is fashionable to say that these changes are inevitable, that they reflect inexorable demographic and budgetary challenges that dictate ever more risk-shifting onto Americans. This is false. The picture of retirement that we see today is indeed a vision of the past. If we do not act, future retirees will face a more unequal and risky retirement than do those living in the waning days of the Golden Age of Retirement. But that does not mean that we cannot develop a new image of retirement for the future that, like the old, provides people with the means to enjoy broad economic security both during their working lives and during retirement.