FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2019
In a close vote today the Oregon House turned its back on public employees with the passage of the PERS cuts bill, SB 1049. After months of advocacy by working people, tens of thousands of emails, and thousands of phone calls, SB 1049 avoided the more draconian benefit cuts called for by the Oregon Business Council and Gov. Kate Brown, but still left nearly $2 billion in SAIF reserves sitting on the table.
SB 1049 will cut the individual account programs of PERS members between 7 and 12.5% and will reduce the retirement security of working people. The cuts will last until the pension no longer needs extra funds to replace the losses of the 2008 recession, which is estimated to be in 2035. The redirection of those dollars raises new legal concerns about the state’s ability to reduce benefits through the complex system SB 1049 establishes through taking dollars from an employee’s individual account program and moving them to new “Employee Pension Stability Accounts,” that will have to be established for 175,000 active PERS members. Members will not see a penny from those new accounts.
Below are comments from Oregon labor leaders on the passage of SB 1049.
Melissa Unger, SEIU Local 503 Executive Director:
“When the economy was struggling, public workers accepted cuts, furloughs, and freezes. We have worked together with the state in good faith towards the shared goal of a better Oregon for all. Today’s vote to cut worker’s retirement again does not represent us working to shared goals and it is a step backwards for our state. The fight is far from over, we remain united in our fight for good jobs and quality benefits.”
Karl Koenig, President, Oregon State Firefighters Council:
“This is a disappointing day for Oregon workers. Firefighters and public employees spoke out and through their advocacy made these cuts smaller than originally proposed. Now we will continue fighting these unfair, undeserved, and illegal cuts in court.”
Stacy Chamberlain, Executive Director, Oregon AFSCME:
“Every day public workers across Oregon show their commitment to our state and the common good. With the passage of SB 1049 that commitment has been betrayed by Oregon’s politicians. The reduction of worker’s retirement benefits is unfair, unconstitutional, and does nothing to address the debt associated with the current retirees – the unfunded actuarial liability and the rising employer rates. Public sector workers across Oregon deserved better and the state should expect a lengthy legal battle in defense of our members.”
Tom Chamberlain, President, Oregon AFL-CIO:
“The Oregon House took a vote today that is anti-worker and will have the deepest impact on women and people of color by reducing the promised retirement security of public service. Oregon’s union movement will continue to fight to protect the compensation of all workers and against these types of harmful cuts.”
Bruce Humphreys, RN, President of the Oregon Nurses Association PAC Boards:
“With this vote, the Oregon legislature has harmed public health nurses and the vulnerable people they serve. To protect the people who need public health services the most, we have to be able to hire and retain qualified nurses. Lawmakers just made that more difficult by cutting nurse retirement benefits.”
John Larson, President of the Oregon Education Association:
“Oregon educators work hard every day to ensure their students have the tools necessary to be successful in today’s society. Cuts to educator compensation, no matter the form, threaten the quality of our schools. In a state that pays their educators 22% less than they would earn in the private sector, cutting compensation even further is unconscionable. Thank you to all the educators who called, wrote, and showed up in Salem to communicate their opposition to this bill to their lawmakers. We will continue this fight in court.”
About the Keep Oregon’s Promise Coalition
The Coalition is made up of the people who teach our children, protect our life and property, repair our roads and bridges, and keep our communities healthy and safe. Members include:
Oregon Education Association, SEIU Local 503, Oregon State Firefighters Council, Oregon Nurses Association, Oregon AFSCME, American Federation of Teachers, Oregon School Employees Association, Teamsters Local 223, District Council of Trade Unions, Association of Engineering Employees, American Association of University Professors, Oregon State Police Officers Association, Association of Oregon Corrections Employees, Portland Police Association, Oregon PERS Retirees, Inc., Professional and Technical Employees Local 17