Public pension funds benefiting nearly 26 million Americans have invested $1.3 trillion in high-risk, high-fee “alternative” investments like private equity, hedge funds, and private real estate that have been wracked with corruption scandals and financial misconduct. Those pension funds could soon face a reckoning, as the downturn in the stock market spreads to these alternative investments, resulting in costly reductions of their estimated value and in turn, increased contributions from state and local governments to meet those losses. But most public pension members and beneficiaries have no way of knowing the extent of distress facing their investments. That’s because public pension funds rely on valuations provided by the managers themselves.
In recent decades, a top management priority has been reducing the cost of retirement benefits. The pandemic and its economic fallout have generated a new round of employer demands for pension freezes, benefit cuts, plan conversions, and two-tier coverage. The Labor Guide to Retirement Plans (Monthly Review Press), a newly published book by Oregon union activist Jim Russell, shows why and how private and public sector workers should be mobilizing against such concessions. This book will be a critical resource for defending retirement security at the bargaining table and in the political arena. The Labor Guide is not only a highly readable account of retirement plan financing and administration, with a handy glossary of layperson explanations of sometimes confusing technical terms.
As the private equity industry launches ads to protect its lucrative tax preferences, we should remember that this industry is the unseen man behind the curtain driving many social ills — from high hospital prices to surprise medical bills to nursing home deaths to media layoffs to a housing crisis that has become a human rights emergency. A *Businessweek* cover put it best: You live in private equity’s world, even if you don’t know it. But a series of new reports remind us that there is another person behind the monocled, mustache-twirling oligarch running the Emerald City’s secret control panel — and that person isn’t a billionaire. It is the faceless pension official in a state capital or city hall who is using workers’ retirement savings to finance the Wall Street takeover of Oz.
From Tuesday night until early Wednesday morning, Chilean citizens took to the streets to support a pension-related bill and protest against President Sebastian Piñera. Today the Lower House is expected to vote on a bill that will allow Chileans to withdraw the 10 percent of their savings that remain controlled by the repudiated Pension Fund Insurers (AFP), which are private companies that control pensions in this South American country since that time of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). "This initiative is supported by a large majority of the people, which claims to have the freedom to dispose of the money. The government, however, has done everything in its power to prevent the bill from going ahead," Prensa Latina explained.
It is not a secret that the United States has an inadequate and underfunded pension retirement system. Its about to get much worse! The private and public sectors’ pension plans are suffering terrible losses as a result of layoffs and investment losses. We are weeks away from a new assault on what’s left of millions of pensions across the country. There are two kinds of pension plans: (1) a defined benefit plan is when workers retire and get a set amount of money each month (such as 80 percent of their highest wage). This was the gold standard many unions won for their members in the post-WWII years. It required employers to set aside enough money to ensure workers would have adequate income when they retired. (2) Starting in the 1980s employers began to reject defined benefit plans as too expensive and moved to defined contribution plans – so-called “modern pensions.”
On 20 February, nearly 100,000 people across France protested against proposed reforms to the country’s pension system. According to those striking, the new system would force them to work for longer, for less. While France’s pension system is currently running a deficit, it remains one of the best in the EU. Figures from 2018 show that only 7.3% of French pensioners are at risk of poverty, as opposed to 21.6% in the UK [provisional figure] and 18.7% in Germany.
Protesters took to the streets of Paris on Monday and clashed with riot police as the pension reform bill reached the French National Assembly for debate. Tensions between the demonstrators and riot police were visible, as the police tried to keep protesters at bay with batons, before arresting a few. Yellow Vests and unionist with flares could also be seen joining in with the rally. “Sixty per cent of the French are against this reform and against a certain number of measures which have been taken before. We are under attack from all sides on social justice, in a country that prides itself on its freedom, its fraternity,” said a protester. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a two-year-extension of the working period necessary to earn a full pension in December, triggering the anger of workers and trade unions.
Representatives of the unions of teachers, doctors, lawyers and railway workers marched again Thursday in the streets of Paris, capital of France, against the social policies and economic President Emmanuel Macron, particularly its reform of pensions . Among the main demands of the French is the revision of the pension reform proposed by Macron, before it is approved by the Council of Ministers, reiterating that it violates their fundamental rights. After 43 days of general strike, the Executive has yielded in provisionally withdrawing the retirement age, however, asks for an agreement with social organizations, while the Secretary General of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), Philippe Martínez, said that the government did not convince them with the recent announcement.
The nationwide general strike in France, now entering its record seventh week, seems to be approaching its crisis point. Despite savage police repression, about a million people are in the streets protesting President Macron’s proposed neo-liberal “reform” of France’s retirement system, established at the end of World War II and considered one of the best in the world. At bottom what is at stake is a whole vision of what kind of society people want to live in – one based on cold market calculation or one based on human solidarity – and neither side shows any sign of willingness to compromise.
Teargas swirled in Paris where riot police charged at demonstrators who hurled projectiles and lobbed insults in cat-and-mouse skirmishes as darkness fell. Some protesters dressed in black and hiding their faces daubed anarchist slogans on buildings and the windows of several properties, including a Starbucks cafe, were smashed. The country’s hard-left unions rallied supporters hoping to regain momentum at a time when participation in a 36-day long public sector strike has waned and opinion polls show public backing for the industrial action has dropped.
“For over two years we’ve been hearing about this pension reform! Two years of ‘consultations,’ which, cross our hearts, were to be full to the brim with transparency, intelligibility and instruction. Two years enshrouded in a haze – not to say a dense fog – of a strategy which, playing for time with contradictions, altered estimates and impossible-to- reconcile positions, end up with a strike that looks set to last. Two years supposed to reassure us but which, au contraire, have only caused anguish and sent diverse age groups and trades not among the first concerned with the reform down to the street.”
France Records 391-Mile Traffic Jam As Public Transport Brought To Halt By Third Week Of Strikes Over Pension Changes
A traffic jam of 391 miles was recorded on the outskirts of Paris on Monday morning as fresh strikes over pension changes brought public transport to a standstill in France for a third week. President Emmanuel Macron’s government appeared determined to push ahead with its plans despite the French transport strikes causing widespread disruption as they enter their twelfth day. In the Paris region only two Metro automated trains with no drivers were fully running as the other 14 metro lines remained closed or only very partially running.
This morning, 9 December, the record for traffic jams on the Île-de-France  road network was broken. The images of those 600-plus kilometres of roads blocked with traffic, and of travellers crammed together on train platforms or not even able to push their way into Metro stations demonstrate the depth of the rejection, the depth of the strike action that began on 5 December. The governing power is destabilised. [Prime Minister] Edouard Philippe’s speech last Friday evening can be summarised as follows: reconsidering a points-based pension system is out of the question...
Thousands of retired people and supporters took over the streets in several cities in Spain on Saturday to demand “decent” pensions of at least 1,080 Euros a month, and yearly updates according, to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The protests started in Bilbao, capital of the Basque country, in January as a weekly demonstration and spread to over 200 cities and towns across the Spanish State, supporting other movements along the way. They were organized by the State Coordinator for the Defense of the Public Pension System under the slogans “whoever is ruling, pensions must be defended,” and “Our future: there’s no solution without mobilization!”
By Glenn Greenwald for the Intercept. It’s almost impossible to imagine a presidency imploding more completely and rapidly than the unelected one imposed by elites on the Brazilian population in the wake of Dilma’s impeachment. The disgust validly generated by all of these failures finally exploded this week. A nationwide strike, and tumultuous protests in numerous cities, today has paralyzed much of the country, shutting roads, airports and schools. It is the largest strike to hit Brazil in at least two decades. The protests were largely peaceful, but some random violence emerged. The proximate cause of the anger is a set of “reforms” that the Temer government is ushering in that will limit the rights of workers, raise their retirement age by several years, and cut various pension and social security benefits. These austerity measures are being imposed at a time of great suffering, with the unemployment rate rising dramatically and social improvements of the last decade, which raised millions of people out of poverty, unravelling. As the New York Times put it today: “The strike revealed deep fissures in Brazilian society over Mr. Temer’s government and its policies.”