Retirees in Arms

It’s been a couple of weeks since the pension plan meeting at Pellissippi State between DOE officials and contractor retirees, but the struggle isn’t over.

In fact, the candor displayed by the headquarters designee (see Munger’s column in the Sentinel today) may have invigorated those interested. For the uninitiated, the essence of the retirees’ complaint is that their pension amounts have remained stagnant for years, with no adjustment for cost of living.

Walter Hedge’s letter to the editor (also today) summed it up nicely:

An unbelievable statement from the BWXT Y-12 representative indicated that one of the problems with the pension plan is that the retirees are living too long – we apologize for that.

From the outside, one perception may be that these employees held good jobs — among the best in the region — and fared well. The reality, even more so in the last couple of decades, is that most contractor employees in professional fields like engineering would actually earn more in the private sector. The attraction was, and is, stability, decent benefits (though no longer that much better than the private sector, as was once the case), and for some, a sense of purpose.

Federal employees receive regular cost-of-living increases, as do retired congressmen and even social security recipients. Clearly, the Department is unable or unwilling to acknowledge their debt to the retirees and do the right thing, so the solution will be political.

Why should people who didn’t retire from, don’t work for, or have never worked for a DOE contractor care if the pensioners are treated fairly? Because these folks live in your community, and their purchasing and taxpaying power is directly related to the shrinking value of the pension they earned on salaries of ten, twenty, or more years ago. It impacts the viability of your local government, and places a heavier burden upon you.

Munger’s summation that the issue may likely be settled politically is correct, and you have an interest in supporting reasonable change.

One Response to “Retirees in Arms”

  1. on 05 Jul 2006 at 1:44 pm AT

    I’d be more irate if I hadn’t already accepted the fact that no matter what I do I’m going to be screwed out of a meaningful retirement. Whatever I save myself won’t be enough, forget about pensions, and any public funds will have gotten killed off by the boomers.
    So, at least these guys are in good company.

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