State Workers Protest Bill that Would Force Many into Early Retirement

Updated: 7:38 PM Mar 23, 2010

State Workers Protest Bill that Would Force Many into Early Retirement
State workers say if they don’t retire penalties will be put in place under bill.

Posted: 6:51 PM Mar 23, 2010

Jennifer Dowling

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State workers hit the capitol steps to fight a bill that would force many workers to retire or be penalized. UAW Local 6000 Legislative Liaison Ray Holman says, "It would take away vision and dental coverage. It would require people that don’t retire to pay an additional 3% towards the retirement program. It caps service at 30 years."

Hazardous Waste Compliance Inspector Bill Yocum says, "I’m concerned about the movement towards early out with sanctions." Yocum is of retirement age, but he says the incentives aren’t there, especially in this economy. He says, "I’d like to retire. I’m one of those baby boomers who just finished putting two kids through graduate school, undergraduate school, and graduate school. I’d like a couple more years at full salary to recoup financially."

Retirement isn’t the only area where state workers say they’re under attack. If voted on by two-thirds of the State House and State Senate, a resolution would rescind a 3% union state employee raise that’s built into their contract. Republican State Representative from Oakland County Chuck Moss says, "I can’t think of anything more, almost comically offensive, than to give our state employees a raise when people are losing their jobs and taking pay cuts and being foreclosed and losing their houses."

The workers holding signs and chanting on the steps of the state capitol say they’d like to see something come out of the discussion for early retirement that’s more fair to workers. President of UAW Local 6000 Ed Mitchell says, "We feel that we’ve given up enough in concessions. We’ve just ratified an agreement for another. So, now we want to see if the legislature starts working on doing some other cuts rather than just on the backs of the employees."

DHS Employee Abbie Maddox says it’s not fair to change the rules at the end of the game. She says, "They’re taking away things that we’ve earned, your dental, your vision, your health care. You’ve worked all your life, now get out and apply for public assistance."

The savings from forcing some state employees to retire is estimated to be about 50 million dollars for the coming year. The governor estimated that about 7,000 employees would retire if legislation for early retirement is passed. However, union officials say that that’s not likely because many of their members are too financially strapped to retire in this economy.

Testimony continued Tuesday in a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing over the Senate Employee Pension Reform Bill.

Holman says, "We believe that people who have dedicated their lives to public services deserve to be able to retire with dignity we think it’s unfair to change the rules at the end of the game."

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