Threats to CalPERS pensions never greater

-A A +A

RPEA calls on employees, retirees for support

By Carol A. Clark

The organization fighting to protect the pension benefits of retired public employees is fighting for new members.

“Seldom in our history have the threats to public employee pensions and health benefits been greater,” states a news release from the Retired Public Employees Association headquarters in California. “At present, there is an effort in California to enact an amendment to the California Constitution, which would allow public employee contracts to be renegotiated including reducing vested benefits for existing and prospective retirees. RPEA will be at the forefront in opposing this effort.”

While the local organization includes some 450 members, officials explain that more are needed.

“There’s strength in numbers and we need many more members,” said local Chapter 97 President Tom Sandford. “RPEA was established to protect and enhance retirement benefits for its members. Its’ ever increasing influence in the retirement community is solely dependent on membership support.”

RPEA’s legislative advocacy benefits both the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the University of California Retirement Program (UCRP) retirees.

“In 2005, there was a strong effort by California Gov. Arnold Swarzenegger and others to change our retirement systems from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans, 401K or 403B plans, which would have affected both the CalPERS and UCRP retirement systems,” Sandford said.

The local chapter is urging CalPERS and UCRP retirees to join them in supporting the efforts and actions RPEA conducts on behalf of its members by becoming a member or associate member.

RPEA is a nonprofit association of retirees and active employees who are members of the CalPERS. RPEA fights to maintain current pension and health care benefits and improve these benefits every year.

Its mission is to represent all public employees.

Local chapters serve as informational centers for members to discuss issues affecting their pension and benefits.

They are a direct vital link between local membership and RPEA headquarters, Sandford said, adding that RPEA members also meet for social and business activities.

Most members participate by reading the chapter’s bi-monthly newsletter, giving feedback on their needs, and enrolling in one or more of the group’s “members only” insurance programs, he said.

Area Director Newby Ellington said that at less than $5 per month, RPEA membership is a bargain hard to resist. “We need you and you need us – to support our fight to protect our pensions and benefits,” Ellington said.

The organization was founded in California in 1958 as an association to protect and enhance retirement benefits for all Public Employees who receive their pension or health benefits from the CalPERS.

RPEA currently has more than 34,000 members in 87 active chapters throughout New Mexico, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon. Most members of the local chapter are Los Alamos National Laboratory retirees under CalPERS, he said.

The local chapter holds quarterly general membership luncheon meetings at the Betty Ehart Senior Center.

The luncheons are free to members and guests and include speakers addressing topical issues relevant to retirees and beneficiaries.

For information, contact Sandford at 662-4107 or Ellington at 662-0435. Access the RPEA website at www.rpea.com.