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Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Cold Wind Blows Through Your Door

The PERS folks are at it again. Although this is not new information, many of us are just discovering its implications. Remember the old days? The days when you would get a new PERS Member Handbook every couple of years. It would describe membership benefits, information about past Board decisions and legislation, describe all the retirement options, and in general make you feel warm and fuzzy about your retirement plan. You know the plan. The one that your employer kept telling you that it would make up for the crummy salary they were paying you. The plan that would take care of you in your retirement. Yes, that one. Well between 2005 and 2007, PERS decided to "retire" (their word, not mine) the Member Handbook and replace it with their online version of A-Z questions and answers. While it is nice to have an electronic version of typical questions and answers, this in no way replaces the Handbook. I have an entire file of handbooks from my time waiting for PERS to take care of me. They are, except their definition of "taking care" of me is to continually stab me in the back stripping little things from me regularly. The "public" reason given for "retiring" the Member Handbook is that it saves the organization money. True enough, except that the money doesn't seem to be finding its way back to members. In the scheme of things, the cost of printing the members handbook, or putting a pdf version online, is trivial. My hunch is that since the member handbook has been one of the "bones of contention" during the Strunk hearings and later, PERS didn't want to put anything in such permanent writing. If they post it on the web, it is ephemeral, and can be changed with the flip of a switch.

This latest trick is an injustice to all of those people who don't have regular access to a computer, but also to all those people who can find something easily by using a Table of Contents and an Index - something that appeared in the Member Handbook. The best WE can do is to collect as many documents, as many page impressions, and as much support we have to build the library of documents described above (Livin' in the Future) and below (Power To the People). If you want to thwart PERS' effort to make less information available, please help us in our effort to invert that and make as MUCH information public and accessible as possible. Support the database project. Complain to PERS about discontinuing the Member Handbook. That cold wind you feel is coming from PERS slowly sucking as much available printed information as possible into the electronic bit bucket.

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