Carriers mobilize to oppose FERS bill

Feb. 6, 2012 — On Jan. 24, Rep. Dennis Ross, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, U.S. Postal Service, and Labor Policy, introduced H.R. 3813, the Securing Annuities for Federal Employees Act. But it probably comes as little surprise that Ross’ measure, were it to become law, would in fact threaten the retirement benefits of federal workers—including postal workers.

Ross’ proposal calls for entirely eliminating the defined benefit component government workers receive under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Instead, under the Ross plan, FERS annuitants would be entitled only to the benefits earned through both Social Security and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).

“Ross’ bill is a blatant attack on federal pensions,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “yet another front in the war on the middle class being pursued by the right-wing faction that now dominates the national Republican party.”

The Office of Personnel Management estimates that the annual FERS defined benefit pension is around $13,000 and makes up about 40 percent of a federal worker’s total annuity. “FERS is a modest benefit component, part of a sensible approach to retirement security that’s been in place for a quarter-century,” Rolando said.

“We usually think of FERS as a three-legged stool,” he said, “with the defined benefit component and the TSP designed to complement Social Security.”

Since the TSP can make or lose money in the stock market, Rolando said, federal workers already are somewhat exposed to risk. “So putting workers’ retirement security at further risk by taking away the guaranteed pension portion of FERS makes no sense at all,” he said.

The Thrift Savings Plan operates much like the 401(k) accounts in which many private-sector workers participate. Like the TSP, 401(k)s rise and fall with the stock market—which is why the 2008 stock market crash revealed the danger of placing too much faith in a 401(k) account: Millions of private-sector workers—many of whom were months away from retiring—lost as much as 40 percent of their 401(k) investments in that crash.

Ross argues that, since defined-benefit pensions are disappearing from the private sector, it makes sense to take them away from government workers as well.

“Congressman Ross seems to think that it’s OK to take away a large chunk of a federal worker’s retirement benefit and replace it with something that’s subject to the whims of a volatile stock market,” Rolando said. “That’s exactly backward.”

In a message to the NALC e-Activist Network, Rolando encouraged letter carriers to contact the members of Ross’ subcommittee and encourage them to oppose the bill. At last report, H.R. 3813 has yet to garner even one co-sponsor.

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  • Bob

    What kind of defined-benefit retirement does Ross have?

  • Carl Hulsewede

    Congress should lead by example and redo their retirement plan to mirror FERS. If Congress changes FERS, then their own retirment changes.

  • David

    I simply want to encourage all postal employees and union members who supported tea party candidates in the last election to think twice — think three or four times in fact– before voting for them again. I full understand that there are legitimate issues in play — financial, social, moral and otherwise — and that many people in the tea party movement are very sincere and love their country. I’m just saying that for the sake of our jobs, pensions, health insurance and futures that for once we vote our economic interests alone. Nothing else! This time vote your job and your money. Thank You.

  • Melissa Paris

    As a letter carrier who started late in life I do not have nearly enough assets or time left to fund my own retiremt. I worked as a TE for the first 10 years of my postal career followed by nearly 5 as a PTF where my hours varied. Please do not take my FERS I have worked too hard to lose benefits that I can not afford to gamble with the remainder of my time. I urge you to strongly OPPOSE the FERS bill!!!

  • JY

    @Melissa Paris: This is not a personal attack on you, so please don’t take my question personal…

    TE positions for city carriers took effect during the last contract in 2006 (which is less than 10 years ago). Previously, temp workers were defined as a casual employee (which is different from being a TE). How were you a TE for 10 years before becoming a PTF when the position didn’t even exist 10 years ago (as a city carrier)? If you were a casual before becoming a TE, then that is a different story.

    Congratulations on becoming a career carrier. I’m sure the road was hard for you. It won’t get any easier unfortunately.

    On the article itself: FERS will still exist (just in a weaker form – which hopefully will NOT happen), Ross is trying to take the “guaranteed” pension part of the retirement away, not SS or the TSP.


    NALC is misinforming you:this bill DOES NOT eliminate FERS annuity….it ONLY eliminates the FERS annuity special Social Security SUPPLEMENT that you will receive from Minimum Retirement Age until age 62.


    NALC has it WRONG: it only eliminates the FERS Annuity SUPPLEMENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!………..NOT the FERS Annuity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…………READ HR 3813 YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!……………DON”T RELY ON NALC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!BECOME INFORMED YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    Tell your 2 Senators to SUPPORT S.1789 so we get the EARLY OUT we so DESPERATELY NEED!!!!!!!Tell your Congressperson and President Obama to SUPPORT any legislation that offers an EARLY OUT!!!!!!!


    Disclaimer: I am a member of NALC, and have been from the get-go.BUT, WE NEED THIS EARLY OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    EDUCATE YOURSELVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!BECOME INFORMED YOURSELF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Pat

    “NO MORE DELAYS”—you are misled . The bill eliminates the FERS supplement. It ALSO reduces the FERS annuity for new hires by over 30%. But TRIPLES the FERS deduction coming out of the paycheck at the same time. Bad bill. I called my REP this morning to ask they vote “NO”

  • sam

    eliminating the ss supplement would be devastating to me. I started carrying mail at age of 20 and my MRA is 57. The thought of having to work 5 more years at that age the way this job is going is terrifying.

  • Wayne

    That supplement is what most of us who have worked our 30 years (like CSRS) want that bridge to our third leg of the “stool”. It amounts to an average of $900.00 per month. How can you even imagine that is not a big deal.