Oklahoma workers rally against proposed pension changes

Several hundred teachers, firefighters and state employees on Monday packed the Oklahoma Capitol’s fourth-floor rotunda to rally against proposed changes in the state pension system.
by Randy Ellis Published: February 18, 2014


photo - Retired Stevenson County teacher Daisy Lawler joined other public employees to protest pension reform plans at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Monday February 17, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman
Retired Stevenson County teacher Daisy Lawler joined other public employees to protest pension reform plans at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, Monday February 17, 2014. Photo By Steve Gooch, The Oklahoman

Waving signs and cheering, several hundred teachers, firefighters and state employees packed the state Capitol’s fourth- floor rotunda Monday to rally against proposed changes in the state pension system.

“We’re not asking for the moon. We’re just asking for a living wage in retirement,” said Linda Hampton, president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Behind her stood employees waving signs with messages like, “Hands off pensions,” and “If our legislators deserve a pension, why don’t we?”

State employees currently have a defined benefit pension, under which they are promised a certain monthly payment for life after they retire, providing they work enough years to become vested.

The governor and Republican legislative leaders have been pushing to convert new public employees to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan, under which the state and employees would contribute a percentage of each employee’s wages toward that person’s retirement. Each employee’s pension benefit would vary with investment returns.

“You can very well outlive your money” with a defined contribution plan, Hampton complained.

Jim Long, a Tulsa firefighter, shared similar concerns.

“There’s a nationwide effort that’s been going on for several years now, and it has now come to Oklahoma, to try and steal the pensions of hard-working middle class people,” Long said.

Long said defined contribution funds cost more to run, charge higher fees and pay less benefits, but are being pushed by wealthy money managers because they can make bigger profits off them.


by Randy Ellis
Capitol Bureau Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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