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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Walking On Thin Ice

I'm in a cranky mood today. I'm annoyed that with two OPRI Board seats opening, NO (none, zero, nada, zip) recent retiree applied. Consequently, the OPRI Board remains unchanged for another couple of years. The OPRI Board is controlled by people from a different retirement era and who, thus, have very little interest or concern in the problems faced by recent and soon-to-be retirees. The old-guard is dying off and recent retirees outnumber them considerably. Yet, despite that demographic fact, not a single member of the 38,000 "window retiree" cohort took the time or interest to apply for those open positions, which would have resulted in a recent retiree majority. I *would* have applied, but the OPRI bylaws prevented me because I didn't work for one of the areas from which the open positions derived (State of Oregon, not Higher Education, or public schools, not Higher Education). But, I'd hazard a guess that those two areas covered about one-third of the "window retirees" - about 13,000 possible candidates.

Here we had a golden opportunity to have a significant influence on the direction that OPRI takes. Yet, only pure apathy can describe this lack of movement. It can't be ignorance because this blog and OPDG had countless announcements of the vacancies.

I'm getting very discouraged by things like this. While I appreciate all the individual kudos I get for writing this blog, and I appreciate the individuals who have contributed to the development of a high-class database of all PERS-related documents, it is the lack of effort on the part of most readers of this blog, most lurkers on OPDG, and the rest of the 38,000+ affected retirees that puts us in a sorry predicament. We have NO (none, zero, nada, zip) organization that exclusively represents the interests of recent PERS retirees. Right now, we have a couple of lawsuits out there that might change our collective fates, but legal representation costs megabucks and those megabucks are coming largely from the unions representing active workers, not retirees. How much longer do you think the unions are going to spend the kind of money required to litigate every injustice done to retirees, especially with the abject apathy evident. If people really cared, they'd be scrambling to overtake OPRI with current retirees; they'd be scrambling to be at PERS Board meetings where the action is; they'd show up at every court hearing on any of these cases. In fact, retiree inaction is so pitiful that we've let PERS walk right over the top of us. Do you think if we had a strong and highly visible presence, we'd have been stomped so hard? Either people have been lulled into a false sense of security that the litigation will eventually play out in their favor, or more likely they've chosen to bury their heads in the sand. Worse still, perhaps they don't care. Perhaps in the ultimate act of masochism towards oneself and sadism towards fellow retirees, they are into self-flagellation. I've seen this from a few - "We don't deserve the size retirement benefits we got. The current actions are fair." When I hear that, my blood pressure goes through the roof. Talk about blaming the victim. I sure as hell don't think my pension is too high. I chose to retire when I did on the expectation of getting my fixed pension plus COLA each year. I retired before any of this Lipscomb shit came down. Why the hell should I be screwed for the stupidity of the PERS Board. Their only fault was abject stupidity. They did nothing illegal and my pension does not contain any errors except for the COLA that PERS has been withholding since 2003.

I hate to say this but recent PERS retirees, in the main, have walked right into this buzzsaw and seem not to care. The apathy is PERS' strongest weapon. Recent retirees are walking on thin ice and are about to fall in and drown. Inactivity is our own worst enemy. I'm afraid that the longer I see this, the less motivation I have to keep spending the time and energy researching all these topics. If I can't motivate people to become more informed, more proactive, more reactive, and more energized to participate in all the various opportunities we have had to effect some change in our fates, then it may be time to retire in peace. I *know* my fate. I *know* how to fight and I will fight, but on my behalf. If 38,000+ people don't care enough to help themselves, why should I care so much? It is a question I find myself asking more and more each day. I'm gonna need a lot of convincing to stay at this.

P.S. Added at 9 p.m. I've learned that there might have been one applicant for the State Employee position but I don't know whether this was Kathleen Beaufait, incumbent in the position, or her and one other person. The fact is that Kathleen was reappointed. The other position, for a public school system retiree, remains open for anyone to apply for. The incumbent in that position chose not to "re-up".

11 comments:

Sheri said...

Marc,
I feel for you. Especially you...given all your care and effort. But, things are as they are and injustice is injustice. So despite the apathy, or ignorance, you will continue to joust with the PERS debacle.
Its who you are. And I for one thank you.
dsilvar

Richard said...

Marc: I agree with your recent post. Most public employees are very apathetic. 38,000 window retirees and very few read your BLOG or the comments of the discussion group.

I live out of State and the only information I get is from you and the discussion group. Your involvement has been and will be crucial in our victory over PERS.

We may be small in number but take heart...your leadership, knowledge and wisdom is essential. Since I retired 6 years ago PERS has been a nightmare. I always found hope in your words.

I pray for justice and a victory handshake over a pint of Guiness at Kell's. I wouldn't miss it for the world. You are my leader and hero...Thanks.

PS: Your latest blog reminded me of Steve Allen's Angry Man bit on the old Tonight Show....it is always good to vent.

Sincerely, Richard (RSVPMV@msn.com)

Lance said...

Marc,

I live in Utah. I would love to serve on the Board, but I can't afford to travel to Oregon for meetings.

Window Retiree in Exile

OldPO said...

I think many window retirees would have jumped at the chance to participate but were outside the 'requirements'. Instead I contribute to those causes you espouse. The number of hits on your site must tell you how valuable your efforts are and how much a lot of us depend on your knowledge and insight. Yes, as a Leader you carry the load for a lot of the less energetic, but you can also mobilize, inform, and create change by enlisting those folks who benefit from your labors. I hope you continue--or more honestly: PLEASE CONTINUE!

OldPO said...

You cannot see all the good things you do, your hit counter is just one clue. I couldn't apply for the board because I was the wrong 'class', so instead I fund those efforts you suggest as a way of honoring your efforts. Many folks will take advantage of your work and be complacent, but many others will fund, vote, and mobilize as you ask. To get that support you have to be Out Front, as you have been and hopefully will be in the future.

greengardendogs said...

I'm curious, Marc, about your thoughts on WHY the windowites are so apathetic. Like you, I have despaired of the resigned attitude that so many of my friends who are PERS window retirees have. I'm also a windowite, and I'm furious! It doesn't take a genius to run one's numbers on the Lipscomb/Sartain calculator and see that most of us stand to lose many thousands of dollars over the coming years if PERB prevails on their so-called reforms. And yet people are just "oh well, it's only a few dollars month. . ." Reminds me of the old "frog in a pot of gradually heating water" story. Why are we so willing to be slowly boiled alive by PERB? I don't think it's because we're all so well-off financially that we won't miss the money. And surely we can't be totally clueless about what PERB is trying to do--everyone has received at least one letter from PERS. Are we too busy to care? Too apathetic for our own good? Too trusting that someone somehow will rescue us? For the generation that raised such uproar forty years ago, we're looking like a multitude of milquetoasts now. What's going on?

greengardendogs said...

I'm curious, Marc, about your thoughts on WHY the windowites are so apathetic. Like you, I have despaired of the resigned attitude that so many of my friends who are PERS window retirees have. I'm also a windowite, and I'm furious! It doesn't take a genius to run one's numbers on the Lipscomb/Sartain calculator and see that most of us stand to lose many thousands of dollars over the coming years if PERB prevails on their so-called reforms. And yet people are just "oh well, it's only a few dollars month. . ." Reminds me of the old "frog in a pot of gradually heating water" story. Why are we so willing to be slowly boiled alive by PERB? I don't think it's because we're all so well-off financially that we won't miss the money. And surely we can't be totally clueless about what PERB is trying to do--everyone has received at least one letter from PERS. Are we too busy to care? Too apathetic for our own good? Too trusting that someone somehow will rescue us? For the generation that raised such uproar forty years ago, we're looking like a multitude of milquetoasts now. What's going on?

mrfearless47 said...

I appreciate all your supporting comments, however, let me reiterate a point that I tried to make in my post today. I am not seeking support for my efforts, nor am I fishing for compliments, or asking for appreciation. What I am looking for is to see a critical mass of "window retirees" rise up and take some action and to actually show that they care about what is going on. If this means pushing OPRI to start recognizing that there are 38,000 retirees disenfranchised from representation by their organization, then figure out a way to apply pressure to them. If it means attending Board meetings, court hearings, or whatever, people affected by everything going on need to show some face, put some skin in the game. Right now, I can count on two hands the people in the community who are fighting for all 38,000. There are too few hands actively involved. We need to have lots more before anyone even notices we're here. Whatever you can do to rectify this situation, time is running short. Depending on how Judge Kantor rules, the game could continue (we win), or blow up in our faces (we lose). Reread the part about the unions. I don't think people truly grasp the significance of that point. It isn't mentioned because I necessarily know something that you don't. I mention it because it would be a logical outcome. Court battles are expensive and the legal meter is running. PERS' goal is to drain legal funds and to exhaust those of us who are fighting. Because there are so few of us actively resisting in a very public way, it won't take them long to wear us down. We have to have more people engaged in this battle in whatever way is possible.

mrfearless47 said...

To answer greengardendog's question about "why", I really don't have a clue. But I did get an email tonight that may summarize the position of some retirees. It says, in effect: "I'm too busy to give a shit".

Lance said...

About all I can contribute is a monthly payment to the OPRI legal fund...outomatic electronic transfer, forwarding updates on the "royal screw job" to other PERS Window Retirees, and writing legislators (Richard Devlin is the only one who ever even acknowledged my communication).

Why are retirees so passive?...I spent 30+ years in the public school system in Oregon being hammered with messages from the media, politicians, and parents that I was a parasite feeding off the tax payers blood, an incompetant (or why else would I work in the public sector), and an over compensated union slacker only interested in easy money, summers off, and a fat pension. I think, perhaps, those realities demoralized many of us and led to a sense of resignation, lack of pride in what we were doing, and loss of self esteem. Maybe we are just holed up now...waiting for the next shoe to drop...on us. Maybe that is all we are worth.

mrfearless47 said...

Lance:

Do you really believe people are so demoralized by media demonization that they're willing to accept this final act of fiscal defiance without a fight? Most teachers belonged to unions; most unions have been pretty aggressive in fighting for teacher working conditions, salaries, and benefits. Why wouldn't the same unions respond to pressure from the retirees who kept paying union dues all those years. At a minimum, I would expect former union members to keep up the pressure on their unions to stay in the game all the way; don't abandon former union members just because they no longer pay dues. Press the unions on pressuring OPRI to step up to the plate. Giving OPRI more money right now just goes to pay off current legal bills; it does nothing to further the fight. Until OPRI gets the message that there are 38,000 of us who demand representation on the decision-making processes inside this organization, we'll continue to be at the mercy of a generation of retirees who doesn't understand what this is all about, is jealous of the benefits we receive compared to them, and doesn't seem truly motivated to continue fighting on our behalf. This is exacerbated by the apparent lack of interest by window retirees in their own fate. We need to press hard on OPRI to make some serious governance changes to give recent retirees more of a voice in the affairs of the organization. We *are* the future of OPRI. Without us the organization cannot survive, but they don't want us very badly and seem almost content to let the organization fold before giving us any control. I don't understand, yet I do. It is a final grab for power in a world that is fast closing in on their remaining years. They can't let go. We have to urge them to do so. Go enjoy their retirement and let a new generation take over and fight today's battles.