We’re entering 2018 in a very good place. Last year we held off the draconian attacks on our retirements. This year PERS investment returns are double what we expected thanks to an uptick in the stock market. While not reducing the current-budget costs to employers, this uptick has reduced the unfunded liability. PEBB — the board that manages workers’ healthcare plans — is starting the year off in great fiscal shape.
None of this will stop some legislators from launching politically motivated attacks on our benefits. Fortunately, these attacks are not supported by the mainstream in Salem. Through our union’s strong political program, we are in a good position to punch back.
There are already four simultaneous attacks on our benefits in the February legislative session.
- HB 4070 Sponsored by Reps. Julie Parrish and Cedric Hayden – This bill would effectively eliminate pensions for all SEIU members going forward, and put a cap on retirement benefits.
- HB 4071 Sponsored by Reps. Julie Parrish and Cedric Hayden – This bill makes sweeping changes to our healthcare plans without any input from SEIU members.
- SB 1561 Sponsored by Senators Winters, Baertschiger Jr, Boquist, DeBoer, Girod, Kruse, Linthicum, and Thomsen – This bill would further politicize our benefits by requiring legislative approval for collective bargaining agreements.
- HB 4131 Sponsored by Rep. Nearman – Much like Julie Parrish’s bill, this legislation would effectively eliminate pensions for all SEIU members going forward.
Through our union’s strong political program, we believe these attacks can be defeated. But in order for us to show our strength, SEIU members need to stand together and make our voices heard.
Protecting our voice
Another threat that has been discussed in recent months is the proposed merger of PEBB and a similar benefits board that represents teachers (OEBB). The PEBB/OEBB merger, which came out of a cost-cutting bill in the 2017 session, is problematic because SEIU members would see their voice in healthcare decisions reduced.
Our PEBB representative Shaun Parkman has led the fight against this merger. He participated in a workgroup that has developed a plan reduce costs without merging. As a result of this work, we no longer expect the merger to happen. If you have questions about PEBB please email email@example.com to reach Shaun directly.
We also have to think about ways to improve our benefits. Even though our retirement and healthcare plans are good — much better than what you see in the private sector — we can still innovate.
One proposal is LC 258, which would give SEIU members the power to choose how a portion of our retirement savings are invested. Today all those decisions are made by the Oregon Investment Council with no member input. LC 258 puts the decisions in our hands. Whether we want to be more aggressive in our investments or whether we want to be risk-averse, it will be our choice.
We’re also working on HB 4123, which would grandfather in existing workers in regards to the “double coverage” cut legislators handed down in 2017. Click here for background on “double coverage.” This cut goes into effect in 2020, and while our proposal may not get a vote this session, it’s critical that we lay the groundwork now, and make sure legislators understand the tremendous impact this cut has on state workers and our families.
In addition to sharing this news online and writing your legislator, the best thing you can do to help push back on these attacks is to show the strength of our union. Click here to recommit to being an SEIU member for one year. A few simple clicks, at not cost to you, can show the Oregon Legislature the power we have when we stand together.
If you’ve already recommitted, you can still help by making a contribution to CAPE, our union’s political action committee. CAPE is a member-led committee that drives our union’s voice in local politics.