The State Worker

L.A. retirees lose last-ditch appeal for pensions at CalPERS

Retirees from a defunct job-training program in Los Angeles County appealed to save their pensions at a CalPERS meeting Tuesday but did not persuade the fund’s administrators to make up for benefits that their employer stopped paying.
Retirees from a defunct job-training program in Los Angeles County appealed to save their pensions at a CalPERS meeting Tuesday but did not persuade the fund’s administrators to make up for benefits that their employer stopped paying. Sacramento Bee file

Retirees from a defunct job-training program in Los Angeles County appealed to save their pensions Tuesday but did not persuade the CalPERS’ administrators to make up for benefits that their employer stopped paying.

The discussion reiterated a March decision by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System to slash pensions by as much as 63 percent for former workers of the East San Gabriel Valley Human Services Consortium because the program quit paying into the fund two years ago when it went out of business.

Retirees, some of whom worked for the program for more than 20 years, said they were blindsided by the cut to their pensions. The four cities that created the job training program in 1979 have refused to pick up the CalPERS bills that would allow the pensions to be fully funded.

“I feel like that passenger on United Airlines who was forcibly removed from his flight, and I feel that CalPERS will be faced with a similar PR nightmare if you can’t follow through on this request,” said Maureen Lynch, a 17-year employee of the job training program, referring to a viral video that embarrassed United Airlines last week.

She and a handful of others asked the CalPERS board to move their underfunded pension plan into a flush account for local governments that have paid steep fees to separate from CalPERS without harming their former workers.

In two instances, CalPERS admitted small numbers of retirees from underfunded plans into that account without requiring separation fees.

The board declined to take that route for the nearly 200 former workers on Tuesday, fearing that doing so might set a precedent for troubled governments or overwhelm the so-called terminated-asset pool.

“CalPERS is not the responsible party for not paying. It is your institution you worked for,” CalPERS administrator Theresa Taylor said.

Adam Ashton: 916-321-1063, @Adam_Ashton. Sign up for state worker news alerts at sacbee.com/newsletters.

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