Testimony of Nari Rhee before the U.S. DOL ERISA Advisory Council Hearing. The US private sector employer-sponsored retirement system leaves out many workers, disproportionately impacting Blacks and Latinos. While some states have forged their own path to try to close this coverage gap, these efforts are limited in scope by ERISA preemption. Federal policy action is necessary so that all workers are covered by a plan that effectively prepares them for a financially secure retirement.
Nari Rhee, Ph.D., is director of the Retirement Security Program at the UC Berkeley Labor Center. Her current research focuses on the retirement crisis facing California and the US in the context of declining pension coverage, and policies to improve the retirement income prospects of low- and middle- wage workers. Before returning to the Labor Center in November 2014, she served for two years as manager of research at the National Institute on Retirement Security. She formerly held appointments as a postdoctoral scholar, visiting scholar, and associate academic specialist at the Labor Center. Dr. Rhee has written on a wide range of issues related to pensions and retirement security, including public pension reform, international pension systems, and retirement plan design. Her analysis of the retirement savings crisis and its racial dimensions has received broad media coverage and informed policy debates at the state and national levels.
Dr. Rhee’s previous work engaged a range of issues related to the economic security of low-wage workers, including care work, income inequality, housing affordability, uneven regional development, and labor-community coalition building. She earned a Ph.D. in geography from UC Berkeley in 2007, a master’s degree in urban planning from UCLA in 1998, and a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UC Santa Cruz in 1996.
Testimony of Nari Rhee before the Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor on how the US retirement system can be strengthened and made more inclusive, so that all workers – regardless of race, gender, or class – can have economic security in retirement.
Industries at Direct Risk of Job Loss from COVID-19 in California: A Profile of Front-Line Job and Worker Characteristics
In this blog, we focus on potential differences in the economic impacts on California’s workers, by analyzing major industries that are at highest risk of job losses or hours reduction stemming from social distancing and public health directives to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In this blog post, we first identify the industries most directly at risk of jobs loss and then outline principles for state and local policy responses to this crisis, highlighting immediate policy priorities.
As teachers across the country mobilize for education funding and fair pay, pensions are high on their list of priorities. What they know from experience, and research confirms, is that pensions are a win-win for teachers and schools, delivering superior retirement security and retaining teachers for decades. Conversely, abandoning pensions in favor of 401(k) or cash balance plans would come at great cost to teacher livelihoods and erode education quality.
Rhee also argued for a national universal retirement savings system. “I am agnostic on the exact policy model. Having been deeply involved with the development of the CalSavers program, I offer that there’s much to learn from the states.”
Many states have pursued their own requirements for most or all employers to offer a plan of some form, driven in part out of concern for the long-term financial burden that will arise from legions of older workers who haven’t saved enough for retirement, according to Nari Rhee, director of the Retirement Security Program at the University of California at Berkeley.
“The employer-sponsored retirement system leaves out many groups of workers and jobs, in a manner that disproportionately impacts women and people of color, particularly Blacks and Latinos,” Nari Rhee, director the retirement security program at the University of California at Berkeley, said in her written testimony.
Rhee said, “Your degree of access to the DC plan system is directly correlated with your income level. Most concerning, those sectors of the economy with the greatest representation of Latino and Black workers, such as hospitality, have the worst access to the DC plan system. The upshot of this is that only 46% of Black working households and 36% of Latino households are currently enrolled in the DC plan system.”
Rhee told The Sacramento Bee the House retirement reform legislation, which passed the House Ways and Means Committee on a voice vote last month, “tinkers around the edges of the retirement system and will thus have a modest impact on household retirement assets.”
We have seen a steady increase in the share of older adults who are still working. Before the pandemic, about 13 percent of seniors aged 70 and older were working.
Nari Rhee: “If you claim Social Security before full retirement age, which at this point is 67, so if you do it at 62, when you’re first eligible, that can basically slash your monthly check compared to if you had waited until age 67.”
“Obama was carrying us out of a very deep and long recession, and Trump inherited that. If anything, it’s notable that real income didn’t rise any faster under Trump than it did under Obama, despite the stimulus that his tax cuts were supposed to provide.”
As a Black woman, I think every person of color should open a Roth IRA to take control of their retirement savings
Dr. Rhee’s data shows that workers of color are behind on saving for retirement — 38% of Black households and 31% of Latino households have some assets in a retirement account, compared to 63% of white households.