Pension Truth Squad Sets the Record Straight in San Diego

Teachers, firefighters and other members of Californians for Retirement Security’s Pension Truth Squad visited San Diego Monday to share personal stories and set the record straight about the ongoing attacks on public workers across California.

The right-wing agenda of tearing down retirement security for public workers is fueled by misinformation, distortions and outright lies.

The truth is, after years of public service, most public workers have a modest retirement that they have contributed a percentage of their income toward. California public employees’ contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to 10 percent, and the average public pension in California is $26,000. Many, including teachers, retirees do not receive Social Security benefits. The average public teacher’s retirement in California is $33,000 a year after an average 27 years of service.

Butch Biendara, a transportation engineer for Caltrans for more than four decades, described his 1988 pickup truck and tract home in the San Diego region:

As you can see, my lifestyle hardly compares to the portrait that Californians are being fed. Out-of-state billionaires whose greed led to California and San Diego’s budget problems are selectively drawing attention to headlines about the few sensational cases of pension abuse. And they continue to spread myths and falsehoods about public employee pensions.

Biendara joined teachers, firefighters, peace officers, scientists, engineers, school employees and other public employees and retirees in supplying fact-based information about California’s public pension system as part of Californians for Retirement Security’s statewide “Pension Truth Squad” tour.

Tim Jenkins was a San Diego elementary teacher for three decades and now volunteers in local schools once a week. Jenkins noted that teachers’ retirement benefits pumped more than $740 million into the San Diego area economy in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Our retirement benefits support the local economy. These are dollars that support our local businesses and create jobs.

Also speaking at Monday’s press conference were: Tim Diaz, a firefighter for more than 30 years with the Escondido Fire Department, and Gayle Chenoweth, a retired public high school office assistant for more than 20 years.

Monday’s press conference was cosponsored by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, which has a membership of more than 192,000 working families.

Californians for Retirement Security is a coalition of more than 1.5 million public employees and retirees. The group’s executive committee includes: California Federation of Teachers; California Professional Firefighters; California School Employees Association; California Teachers Association; Orange County Employees Association; Peace Officers Research Association of California; Retired Public Employees Association of California; SEIU California, and SEIU Local 1000. 

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