Retirement

All workers deserve to retire with a reliable income that enables them to maintain their standard of living and not fall into poverty as they age

UWUA 30th Constitutional Convention Resolutions:

Fewer and fewer workers have pension benefits, and wages have been stagnant for decades. Too many workers are losing ground, and the UWUA refuses to go along with this race to the bottom.

The U.S. faces a retirement security crisis as the traditional retirement model consisting of an employer-provided defined benefit plan, Social Security and personal savings has unraveled. The retirement savings shortfall facing U.S. workers is over $4 trillion.

While nearly 80% of union members have access to an employer-sponsored retirement program, the American Dream of a safe retirement is out of reach for most non-union workers. As of 2010, only 51% of private sector workers had access to a retirement plan at work, and 38 million households had no retirement savings at all. Only 18% of workers say they are very confident of having enough money to live comfortably in retirement.

While nearly 80% of union members have access to an employer-sponsored retirement program, the American Dream of a safe retirement is out of reach for most non-union workers.

Defined benefit pension plans providing secure retirement income have been all but eliminated for non-union workers, and are under increasing attacks for union workers in both the private and public sector. The preservation of pension plans is one of the biggest fights that local unions wage in contract negotiations.

Under the pretext of competitiveness, corporations have profited greatly from the elimination of traditional worker pensions. Companies commonly freeze worker plans while increasing the retirement benefits of executives. Numerous corporations use bankruptcy or other legal maneuvers to abrogate contractual obligations and hand them off to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), resulting in decreased pensions for workers.

Numerous corporations use bankruptcy or other legal maneuvers to abrogate contractual obligations and hand them off to the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC), resulting in decreased pensions for workers.

Defined contribution pension plans such as 401(k)s are often inadequate but are now the dominant employer-based retirement programs. DC plans shift all investment risk to individuals and are contributing to the retirement crisis. They have high administrative fees that diminish an account’s value by up to 30%.

Social Security provides a modest retirement income for most Americans. Social Security amounts to just one-third of the income that retirees need. And yet, for the majority of people 65 and older, these benefits constitute 50% of their income. As the value of 401(k) plans diminish and employers continue to reduce traditional pensions, Social Security is more crucial than ever.

Projections vary as to how long Social Security will remain solvent, but claims of an imminent crisis are inaccurate. The system is financially secure and will be able to pay full benefits for the next three decades so long as there is political will to keep the program viable. Proposals for privatization or individual managed accounts would destroy, not strengthen, the program.

Pensions are not gifts from employers; they are deferred compensation won at the bargaining table.

Pensions are not gifts from employers; they are deferred compensation won at the bargaining table.

The UWUA supports the continued use of defined benefit pension plans in both the public and private sectors. For this reason, the UWUA encourages our locals to defend and improve the defined benefit pension plans that we have in place, and where all efforts have been exhausted to protect a defined benefit plan and to force consideration of a defined contribution plan, we urge our locals to negotiate provisions requiring the employer to make contributions that provide real financial security for our members throughout retirement, and that minimizes the major risks associated with these plans.

The UWUA advocates for legislation and regulatory oversight that prioritizes the needs of retirees instead of maximizing Wall Street investment profits.

The UWUA opposes any plan to privatize Social Security, raise the retirement age, or cut benefits. The UWUA urges Congress to preserve Social Security and consider eliminating the income tax cap to fortify this vital program. The UWUA will advocate for a national version of the retirement plan that California introduced in 2012. Aimed at lower-income workers whose employers do not offer a pension, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program requires employers to withhold 3% of an employee’s pay, with participants automatically enrolled unless they opt out. Those funds are then invested under the state’s pension system or professionally managed by a private fund.

The UWUA strongly urges increased regulatory and legislative oversight to impede corporations from handing off contractually negotiated pension benefits to the PBGC. Where PBGC takeover is necessary, UWUA will lobby for increased employer funding to strengthen the fund’s finances and enable it to pay out greater shares of promised pensions to retirees. Additionally, through public education and shareholder activism, the UWUA will aggressively fight inequitable corporate policies that boost executive retirement benefits at the expense of worker retirement benefits.

…through public education and shareholder activism, the UWUA will aggressively fight inequitable corporate policies that boost executive retirement benefits at the expense of worker retirement benefits.

MOBILIZING RETIREES

UWUA locals are urged to create retiree chapters and to encourage officers, stewards, activists, and other members who are about to retire to become active in their local retiree chapters. In those places where new retiree chapters are created, local unions and retirees will work together to form organizing committees and to build worker strength. The UWUA and retiree chapters will also work together to build state Alliance for Retired Americans groups that are backed by the AFL-CIO in order to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to build a sustainable retirement system for all working Americans that guarantees economic security.


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