Politics & Government

Vote against pension bill or face defeat at the polls, teachers warn lawmakers

Teachers, public workers sing ‘goodbye’ to lawmakers who vote for pension bill

Sue Foster, president of AFSCME Local 4011 in Louisville, leads a room packed with teachers and public workers as they sing a message to lawmakers on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, who vote for Senate Bill 1, the pension overhaul bill.
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Sue Foster, president of AFSCME Local 4011 in Louisville, leads a room packed with teachers and public workers as they sing a message to lawmakers on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, who vote for Senate Bill 1, the pension overhaul bill.

“Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, hey, goodbye.”

That was the blunt political message hundreds of teachers and public workers sang Wednesday to lawmakers who plan to support a proposed overhaul of Kentucky’s ailing public pension systems.

They filled four hearing rooms and many of the hallways in the Capitol Annex as the Senate State and Local Govenrment Committee discussed but did not vote on Senate Bill 1.

Paula Adams, who taught school for 38 years in Middlesboro before retiring, held a sign that read, “Reducing COLAs and Health Benefits is Elder Abuse.”

Adams said she started teaching for less than $6,000 a year and always expected the state “to keep its word” on her pension.

“We paid our money in faithfully, expected them to protect us and give us our money and then they turn around and say ‘no,’” she said. “And that’s not right.”

“I cannot find another job,” said Adams, who has had cancer and battles high blood pressure. “I’m expecting my retirement to take me through.”

Many protesters said they want lawmakers to fully fund the current retirement systems and leave it at that, but proponents of the bill have said changes must be made in order to sustain the systems for teachers and state and local government workers. Combined, those systems have an unfunded liability of more than $40 billion.

Carroll County teachers Trina Raker and Cheri Mann carried their young daughters — Ansley Raker and Jayna Mann — on their shoulders with signs telling lawmakers “Do Not Cut My Mommy’s Pension.”

PensionProtest
Retirees and teachers protest prior to a Senate State and Local Government Committee meeting to consider Senate Bill 1, a pension overhaul plan, at the Kentucky State Capitol Annex in Frankfort, Ky., on February 28, 2018. Michael Reaves

Chris Volz, president of Laborers Local 576 in Louisville, said legislators should raise revenue to fulfill their pension promises instead of cutting public workers’ benefits. The union represents Metropolitan Sewer District employees.

Sue Foster, president of Local 4011 in Louisville, led the singing in one of the overflow rooms to warn legislators “their days are numbered here if they vote for SB 1.” The union represents about 4,000 classified school employees, such as custodians and cooks.

Many of the protesters said they were disappointed that the Senate committee did not vote on the bill, but promised to “be back” whenever that vote occurs.

Paula Adams, who taught 38 years in Middlesboro before retiring, joined hundreds of others Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in the Capitol Annex to protest Senate Bill 1, the pension bill.

Chris Volz, president of Laborers Local 576 in Louisville, which represents some city workers, and his colleagues joined hundreds on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, in the Capitol Annex to protest Senate Bill 1, the pension bill.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics

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