WASHINGTON, DC -Eileen Kirlin, Executive Vice President of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union, issued the following statement in response to a new report released this week by the Pew Center on the States that uses data from two years ago to paint an inaccurate picture of the condition of public pension funds:
"It's critical for policy makers to have accurate, up-to-date data on pension funds as they consider the impact that proposals for drastic pension reform will have on hardworking families.
"It's no secret that in recent years some public pension systems have faced challenges due to the failure of some elected leaders to adequately fund pension obligations over many years and the recent Wall Street-induced economic crisis. At the same time, the economic crisis and fragile recovery has meant that states are collecting less revenue to meet their many obligations.
"The nation is moving toward a troubling trajectory in which the solution for budgetary problems at the local, state and federal level is to take more and more away from working, middleclass families.
"Pensions keep hardworking people out of poverty during their retirement. All working people should have the promise of security in their later years. But the nation is on the verge of a retirement crisis due to the breakdown of our retirement system. We can neither continue to brush off this crisis nor ignore research showing that many of the draconian reforms to pension systems are often politically motivated and would have unintended negative consequences on taxpayers.
"Eliminating traditional pension plans in favor of 401(k)-style defined contribution plans may actually deepen the burden on taxpayers because 401(k)s are more costly by design, don't address existing unfunded liabilities, and often fail to provide retirees with adequate income, leading to increased poverty rates and demand for public services among the elderly.
"The solution for state pension shortfalls does not lie in drastic reforms that take more away from hardworking people. Instead, we must work together to find solutions that protect taxpayer dollars and improve retirement security for all American workers."
With 2.1 million members in Canada, the United States and Puerto Rico, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in the Americas. Focused on uniting workers in healthcare, public services and property services, SEIU members are winning better wages, healthcare and more secure jobs for our communities, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers--not just corporations and CEOs--benefit from today's global economy.