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.