This post was written by Michael Barry, Campaign Coordinator for the Connecticut Coalition for Retirement Security, to accompany the release of NPPC’s new video, The Yankee Institute Cannot Be Trusted.
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The Connecticut Coalition for Retirement Security (CCRS) believes all workers deserve to retire with dignity and that no politician or special interest group should ever be given the opportunity to rob them of that ability. CCRS strives to ensure that workers have a voice when it comes to decisions about their retirement. Unfortunately, too many in our state listen to the misinformation produced by the Yankee Institute.
The Yankee Institute is an organization funded by right-wing trusts and foundations are funded by the Koch brothers and their league of anti-union and anti pension groups. They are part of the State Policy Network, whose affiliates include anti-pension groups such as the Illinois Policy Institute and the Bluegrass Institute in Kentucky.
Why the Yankee Institute is bad for Connecticut: CCRS made this video because the Yankee Institute is not to be trusted. They position themselves as a think tank that circulates credible information about Connecticut’s essential workers. However, they use misleading figures from the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC). When the Yankee Institute goes after essential public employees’ pay and retirement as if they are the most important issues facing Connecticut during a pandemic, it leads one to wonder why. With all that is happening in our state and country, are not issues like wealth inequality and just plain lack of equity more important? When the Yankee Institute attacks the pensions of essential workers, it’s evidence these workers need a collective voice in their workplaces, now more than ever.
Essential Public Employees have given back: Public employees in Connecticut have sacrificed billions of dollars just to hang on to their benefits. State employees, municipal employees, and our teachers have increased contributions to their retirement plans which have been underfunded for years. State employees have been paying into their retirement plans since 1984 when Tier II was established, and much of the current pension funding issue is due to obligations for workers who started employment before 1984. Connecticut’s most recent reforms agreed to in the 2017 SEBAC Agreement created a fourth-tier retirement plan with a lower pension multiplier and included the addition of a small defined-contribution aspect, 1% contribution by the employee and employer. The agreement also makes major changes to pension cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) from a 2% minimum COLA to one that reflects the Consumer Price Index for the first 2% and then 60% of that increase above that, as well as a delay in retirees receiving their initial COLA to 30 months post-retirement.
Public employees have become even more essential during the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only are they teaching our kids during a pandemic, but also safely transporting them to and from their schools. Streets are being plowed, trash is being picked up, and services like these never stopped during the pandemic. Essential workers continue to work because they care about the communities they serve and they deserve to retire with dignity. We need to support strong pensions as well as hero pay for our essential workers. A secure retirement should be a concern for every citizen.
In Conclusion: We are all going to retire someday, whether you are a custodian at UCONN, a DOT worker, a second-grade teacher, or a caregiver in a group home. The billionaires and corporate special interests funding anti-union initiatives want to destroy our retirement security so they can put more money in their pockets. We reject and will fight back against The Yankee Institute’s baseless attacks on the retirement rights of essential public employees.