RECLAIMING THE PROMISE OF A SECURE RETIREMENT FOR ALL
The nation has long shared a collective commitment to a fundamental right: the right of all people, after careers of hard work and service, to be able to live independent and dignified lives, free from financial worry and hardship.
This commitment has spanned decades, uniting generations and every segment of society. It is based on the belief that a secure retirement is not a right held only by the most fortunate in society but one that extends to all who have worked hard throughout their lives. Members of every generation should be able to retire with the confidence that they will maintain the standard of living they worked hard to attain over a lifetime of work. But now, this fundamental right is being called into question.
Retirement security is under assault by people who demand that we pursue austerity, polarization and privatization. They advance proposals that serve what is profitable or politically expedient. They offer ideas that corrode the foundations of our commitment to retirement security, a commitment based on shared responsibility for employers, workers and our country.
The debate about public pensions needs to move past short-term fixes and focus on long-term solutions. The terms of the debate should be based on reality, not on misconceptions about workers' pensions or healthcare. The goal needs to not pit one group of Americans against another, but ensure that all workers can look forward to a decent and dignified retirement.
We are at a critical moment when we must reclaim the promise of a secure retirement for all—not as it is today or as it was in the past, but as it can be—to fulfill our collective obligation to ensure that all Americans, after careers of hard work and service, can live independent, dignified lives. Retirement security, which includes healthcare and income, is a shared responsibility for employers, workers and our country.
When all working-age families are counted, the typical family has only a few thousand dollars saved for retirement. Four out of five working families have retirement savings less than one times their annual income. And the recession has left millions of Americans unemployed or underemployed, which makes their retirement security even more tenuous.
Social Security is the foundation that puts all Americans on a path toward a secure retirement. By strengthening and expanding Social Security, expanding access to low-cost and high-quality retirement plans, and helping low-income workers and families save for retirement, all Americans could again be assured income security in retirement.
Also, Medicare and Medicaid should be strengthened and expanded so that all retirees can have affordable healthcare and access to long-term care if needed.
Reclaiming the promise is about fighting for universal access to secure retirement plans into which states and employers pay their required yearly contributions. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring all workers are covered by retirement plans that provide consistent and adequate income and healthcare benefits to maintain a reasonable standard of living. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring earned retirement benefits are fully funded and safeguarded from market volatility or changes in employers' economic situations.
By uniting workers, employers and the community around this vision, and by collaborating to develop solutions that are best suited for all, we will ensure that every worker has the opportunities they need and deserve. It is a vision grounded in reality, not misconceptions about workers' pensions, and in consensus rather than efforts to pit one group of Americans against another. It is a vision that will enable all workers to look forward to a decent and dignified retirement:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will:
- Proactively press forward this vision to reclaim the promise of retirement security by assisting state federations and local affiliates to mobilize members and unite with the community to fight against the attacks and push forward our solutions; and
- Engage our members and the community to fight for federal, state and local legislation, policies, funding and collective bargaining agreements to ensure all have the retirement security they deserve.
This is a living document that must be continuously informed by the collective wisdom of our members, our affiliates and our community partners.