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Retirees in Action

   Jim Carr  A message from PEF Retiree President Jim Carr

COVID-19 adds extra level of tragedy to Workers Memorial Day 2021

Working people face difficulties and dangers in the workplace all the time. Unfortunately, with labor laws and OSHA regulations as they stand, workers are often put in dangerous situations just to put food on the table.

The last year, however, has seen this long-standing problem get considerably worse. Low-wage workers and essential workers have been especially hard hit by the pandemic and resulting economic crisis.

This year, Area Labor Federations held their commemorations of Workers Memorial Day on April 28. We in PEF Retirees join the AFL-CIO in honoring the workers lost to COVID-19. We should all take a moment to remember all workers who have died on the job or from work-related disease or injuries.

We can count our blessings to be retired with good health, quality affordable health insurance, and a defined-benefit pension. 

We can continue to support our union brothers and sisters who are still working during this pandemic.  And we can support our local communities by shopping local and eating at local restaurants, rather than patronizing corporate chains.

The main reason retirees can lead the quality life we deserve is because we have a pension.  Every American worker should be entitled to a pension after many years of hard work. Pensions, in a broader sense of the term, have existed since ancient Rome. Soldiers in the Roman Army could earn pensions through their military service. The value of these pensions to Roman soldiers helped to maintain the power of emperors such as Caesar Augustus. Pensions for military service have continued to exist in one form or another in the 2,000 years since.

Public pensions for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other civilian public servants in the United States are a more recent development. In fact, public pensions as we know them are just over 100 years old. Governments began offering pensions because they are the most effective and cost-efficient way for working families to prepare for retirement.

Unfortunately, many people today have forgotten the true value of pensions and why they are so important.

During the pandemic, many small businesses have been economically affected by the loss of business. Business sectors that cater to the needs of retired consumers will recover. In the coming decades, industries such as health care, restaurants, and entertainment are predicted to be areas primed for growth — and retired public employees will be an important part of their customer base.

New York State and Local Retirement System (NYSLRS) retirees spend a larger-than-average share of their income on industries that benefit local businesses, and they are responsible for an estimated 76,100 jobs as a result of this spending.

Schools, roads and government services of every sort — they all have something in common: NYSLRS retirees help make them possible with the taxes they pay.  In 2018, retirees paid $1.95 billion in real property taxes — that’s 3.1 percent of the total collected in New York. In some areas of the state, this figure is even higher. In the North Country, retirees pay 7.6 percent, and in the Capital District, they pay 8.9 percent of the property taxes collected.

Spending by NYSLRS retirees and their beneficiaries generated an estimated $710 million in state and local sales taxes in 2018.

The pensions earned by NYSLRS retirees are a sound investment in New York’s future. These funds don’t just benefit those who receive them, but pay dividends to local businesses, build strong communities and create jobs. As the number of retired NYSLRS employees in our state grows, we can look forward to their help in building back a stronger New York.

Don’t forget when you retire to join PEF Retirees, because we are growing stronger with every new member.


Sources: NYSLRS Comprehensive Annual Financial Report; U.S. Census Bureau; OSC analysis (Rev. 1/20)

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