Every New Yorker Must Have the Right to a Pension

problem
This is an urgent problem.  With the Republican Congress rejecting the Perez ERISA exemptions for cities, thereby killing Mayor de Blasio’s plan, and with no clear commitment from Governor Cuomo, a this must be elevated to a constitutional right.

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans believe there is a retirement crisis. Some 86 percent agree that the nation faces a retirement crisis, and 57 percent strongly agree there is a crisis.

 

 

  • Only 43 percent of working people in New York City have access to a plan that can help them save for retirement. Those that do have access often face large fees, because they do not have the leverage provided by a collectively-pooled savings program.

 

 

  • By 2035, there could be more than 644,500 retired seniors in New York City living on less than $540 a week, rising to 709,000 by 2040. There will be hundreds of thousands more living in the same manner across the state.

 

  • Mayor de Blasio announced a city-wide plan to provide a pooled pension for workers without access to one, but the U.S. House and Senate reversed Federal regulations that enabled it, killing an innovative plan.

solution
The retirement crisis in New York State must be elevated to a constitutional issue.  New York’s Constitution already features pension protections for state union members.  We need to build on this base with a constitutional amendment guaranteeing access to a pension plan for every New Yorker.

The pension plan, like the plan for New York City that was recently killed by the Congress, should consist of a pooled pension that would automatically create individual retirement accounts for employees of businesses that do not already have a program.  In addition, contractors who do not work for a business directly would also be entered into the program.

In this way, every working New Yorker would have access to a pension plan.  In addition, the plan would move with the person as s/he changes jobs, rather than losing the pension or having to transfer it to another type of plan.

What do you think?

• The Senate has till mid-May to agree with the House and kill the exemption that Obama’s Labor Secretary Tom Perez announced that enabled states to have their own pension programs for workers who do not have access to one. The House and Senate have already killed the exemption for cities.

• "Without bold action on retirement security, more than half of working New Yorkers will be forced to retire on a food budget of $5 a day." -- Letitia James, Public Advocate

• About half of private sector workers in the United States—especially those who are low-income or employed by small firms—lack coverage from a workplace retirement savings program primarily because they do not have access.” -- United States Government Accountability Office, “Retirement Security,” September 2015.

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Article 5, Sec. 7
Membership in Retirement Systems; Benefits Not to Be Diminished nor Impaired

After July first, nineteen hundred forty, membership in any pension or retirement system of the state or of a civil division thereof shall be a contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired. (New. Adopted by Constitutional Convention of 1938 and approved by vote of the people November 8, 1938.)
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Since the New Deal, many workers have assumed that they would get pensions from the company they worked for.  From 1949 to 1975, the number of people who were covered by private pension plans went from 3.7 million to 40 million.  More recently, however, the percentage of working people who have been receiving pensions from their place of employment has been trending down.

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A number of states have pension plans for their citizens.

Illinois

Illinois has recently passed a new plan to provide pensions for a wide variety of its citizens.  According to the Chicago Tribune:

The law requires all businesses in operation for at least two years and that have at least 25 employees to offer by June 1, 2017, its workers an individual retirement savings option.

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learn
AARP Connecticut Praises New Connecticut Retirement Security Program,” by Michael Humes, AARP, June 1, 2016.

AARP: Governor, Lawmakers Ignore Critical Middle Class Issues in New State Budget,” by Erik Kriss, AARP NY, April 10, 2017.

A Bold Vision for Retirement Security,” by Bill Samuels, EffectiveNY, 2014.

Built to Lead: 2016 State of the State,” by Governor Andrew Cuomo, January 13, 2016.

California Secure Choice: Making Workplace Retirement Savings Possible for Millions of Californians,” California State Treasurer John Chiang.

Congress Reverses Rule on State Retirement Plans,” by Katie Lobosco, CNN, May 3, 2017.

De Blasio’s City-Sponsored Retirement Savings Plan Still Needs Federal Approval,” by Laura Nahmias, Politico, February 25, 2016.

Employee Benefits in the United States –March, 2016,” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 22, 2016.

From California, a Better Way to Retire,” by the Editorial Board, The New York Times, August 16, 2016.

Mayor De Blasio Proposes Retirement Savings Plan for Private-Sector Workers,” by J. David Goodman, The New York Times, February 25, 2016.

The New York City Nest Egg: A Plan for Addressing Retirement Security in New York City,” Scott Stringer, October 7, 2016.

Policy Report: Saving New York City Through Retirement Savings,” by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, June 2015.

The Reality of the Retirement Crisis,” by Keith Miller, David Madland and Christian Weller, Center for American Progress, January 26, 2015.

Retirement Security,” United States Government Accountability Office, September 2015.

Retirement Security 2015: Roadmap for Policy Makers,” By Diane Oakley and Kelly Kenneally, National Institute on Retirement Security, March 2015.

The Rise and Fall of Employer-Sponsored Pension Plans,” by Lisa Beyer, Workforce, January 24, 2012.

Senate Repeals Labor Dept. Municipal Retirement Plan Rule,” by Sarah Lynch and Lisa Lambert, Reuters, March 30, 2017.

Senator Murray Report on Women and the Retirement Age Gap,” by Senator Patty Murray, January 26, 2015.

SMART Commission/New York City Retirement Security,” by Kate Herlihy, LICONY Hotline, October 14, 2016.

State of the 50+ in New York State,” AARP, September 2014.

Quinn Signs Small-Business Retirement Plan Bill into Law” by Sally Ho, Chicago Tribune, January 4, 2015.

State-Based Retirement Plans for the Private Sector,” Pension Rights Center.

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