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Who Started Florida’s Pension Debate?

The roots of Florida’s pension redesign can be traced back to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Florida lawmakers continue to debate over whether to close the Florida Retirement System (FRS) to new employees and move them into 401(k)-type plans. The Florida House has passed a bill that would end guaranteed pensions for new public employees starting next year – and require them to enter a defined contribution plan.

The Palm Beach Post reports that two years ago, about two dozen Florida lawmakers gathered for a conference hosted by ALEC in New Orleans. ALEC’s policy director told the newspaper the three-day meeting held in 2011 helped to affirm the need among legislators to examine public employee benefits in the state.

There are about 623,000 government workers and 335,000 retirees enrolled in the current Florida pension system.

The effective date of the changes to the FRS was moved from January 1, to July 1, 2014.  It also increases the vesting period for new hires in the pension plan from eight years to 10 years of service and reduces the employee contribution rate for members of the defined contribution from 3 percent to 2 percent.
Other groups that are aggressively pushing cash balance plans that would end defined benefit pensions include the Pew Foundation and the John and Laura Arnold Foundation.

The spotlight on ALEC continues to grow in Florida, especially in the aftermath of the controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws that put the organization in the hot seat, causing major corporations to flee from intense public scrutiny.

ALEC, a Washington, DC-based politically ultra-conservative non-profit, thrives on operating in the shadows of American government to push anti-worker, anti-union legislation in statehouses across the country.

ALEC sponsors private meetings allowing state lawmakers and corporate executives to frame legislation that is later introduced in state legislatures. The laws tilt in the favor of big business. ALEC has pushed legislation that has been harmful to fire fighters’ right to collectively bargain and has also proposed other anti-union policies.

ALEC’s success has been its ability to operate in secret and to gain access to legislators while providing an anonymous cover for its corporate sponsors to press their agenda. The organization continues to remain a threat because it pushes model legislation in all 50 states.

Founded in 1973, ALEC supports free market principles and courts financial support from various foundations, including those controlled by the billionaire Koch Brothers.

Comments (2) -

  • Thomas Wesolek (West Palm Beach Association Of Fire Fighters)

    4/2/2013 9:52:26 PM |

    I am amazed by the number of our brothers and sisters who worked so hard to become firefighters to trade the safety of a private sector job for the dangers and the benefits of a unionized firefighter yet so many of us continue to unknowingly support those who are working to eliminate middle class workers and return us to a society of the haves and have-nots.

    We do dirty and life threating work every day that deserves a livable wage, medical benefits, and a solid plan for retirement.  Our brothers before us fought hard to establish workers’ rights, collective bargaining and safety in the workplace.  Our family should have a death benefit to survive on if we do not come home.

    So much is at stake and so many of us are blindly voting in elections without knowing the true intentions of those we elect to represent us.   So many of us are spending our hard earned union dollars at merchants who’s board of directors are the ones putting major money into the pockets of politicians who are out to make more profits while cutting the pay and benefits of their workers.   Many of us even keep our money in banks who supported elimination of dues deductions in an effort to reduce union membership.

    If you can’t connect the dots in this puzzle let me steer you in the right direction.  Elimination of good pay and benefits such as employee sponsored health insurance plans and defined benefit pension benefits from the public sector will allow private sector corporations to lower the bar of comparison or even eliminate benefits in order to maximize the payroll of CEOs while the front line workers barely survive.

    Even Henry Ford who was a tyrant of a boss paid his workers  enough so they could afford to save up some money to buy one of the Model T’s they were making.  He realized that if he didn’t he would someday run out of wealthy upper class people to buy the product he was mass producing.   Today’s corporate executives must have missed that chapter of history in prep-school.  Someday that greed will be their own demise but in the meantime, we, us, the blue collar, middle class workers will suffer and suffer greatly if we don’t take action.
    Politics is key to our well-being and we are being out gamed and must get smarter and work harder when it comes to protecting our pay, benefits and working conditions.  If you are not well versed in politics it’s never too late to get involved and learn.  Most jobs the boss chooses to hire you.   We are public employees….. If done right we essentially can hire and fire those who sign our paychecks by means of elections. For your own sake and the sake of your family, be an engaged and active member of our union.

  • Martin Carney (Federal Fire Department, New Cumberland)

    4/8/2013 11:16:54 AM |

    I agree with Thomas. We better all get our act together. I for one would not have risked my life on a job for over 32 years for a 401K pension. I am retired now with a nice pension it is they way it should be. Lets get real. What do these rich people think they are going to get when they call 911 for fire, police or ems. Watch the old reruns on tvland Andy of Mayberry. A half assed police dept. and the fire dept that they showed on the series is more than a joke. As the old saying goes you get what you pat for. And what they want to pay for would not be much.

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