Washington – A Retirement USA conference held in Washington, D.C., today spotlighted the need for a new, visionary approach to retirement security. Convened by the AFL-CIO, the Economic Policy Institute, the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, the Pension Rights Center, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Retirement USA is a new initiative working for a future retirement system that, along with Social Security, will provide universal, secure, and adequate income for workers not already covered by a good pension plan.
Six creative strategies for reforming the nation’s private retirement system were presented and discussed at the conference. Noted speakers included Labor Secretary Hilda Solis; Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO; Anna Burger, SEIU secretary-treasurer and chair of Change to Win; and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston.
“Today we are making history,” said Karen Ferguson, director of the Pension Rights Center, in opening the conference. “We are starting a movement for real change. World-class workers deserve a world-class retirement system. A secure retirement is part of the American dream. We are here to reclaim that dream.”
“We applaud Retirement USA for looking into ways of moving the system toward universality, security, and adequacy for the future, and we look forward to being part of this important dialogue,” said Labor Secretary Solis in her keynote address. “These are big goals and may take some time — but the task is something that must be undertaken.”
“After a lifetime of hard work, every American should be able to retire with dignity,” said Anna Burger. “This is not the case for the millions of workers who clean and protect our buildings, care for our children and our seniors, and provide services we all rely on. This is our next great challenge as a nation and we must act to ensure that retirement security is a reality for all again and not just a privilege for a few.”
“Retirement security is not only a moral issue for our country, it is an economic necessity,” said Richard Trumka. “If we do nothing, if we continue on our present course, the implications for the economy in the coming years are dire. We must vigorously strengthen and preserve the current pension system – through collective bargaining and legislation. But it is equally imperative that we look ahead and begin to design a new system for future generations, guided by the key principle of shared responsibility.”
More than 20 groups have signed on to the Retirement USA’s Principles for a New Retirement System, which create a framework for a universal, secure, and adequate system. The six proposals for new retirement plans discussed at the conference were selected from 24 submitted to the initiative.
“These proposals showcase a wide range of alternative designs for a new retirement system to supplement Social Security for the future,” Ferguson said. “They and other proposals will jump-start a long-overdue discussion of how best to achieve a universal, secure and adequate retirement system to supplement Social Security for the future.”
Funding for Retirement USA is provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Following the conference, Retirement USA will launch a public education and grassroots campaign on the need for comprehensive reform of our retirement system. The conference report, Toward a Universal, Secure and Adequate Retirement System, and summaries of the proposals submitted to the initiative are posted on the Retirement USA web site at www.retirement-usa.org.