We applaud the strong stance our brothers and sisters at the Maryland State Education Association have taken in leading the charge, along with AFSCME and others, to prevent pension "reform" from gutting what so many working families have paid into for so many years.
Members of my union are the supporting staff of Montgomery County Schools, the largest school system in Maryland and one of the cornerstone counties that have launched our state to No. 1 in the nation for public education and have kept it there for three years running.
We are the bus drivers, para-educators, administrative support, media assistants, security staff and others who keep education working in Montgomery County.
Many of my members are facing serious financial hardship due to reduced hours and no raises or cost of living adjustments for going on three years now. They are losing faith in a system to which many of them have dedicated 20, 25, sometimes 35 years.
The attack on our pension, and our prospects of retiring with dignity, is just unconscionable in light of the sacrifice we are already making. One such unnecessary and painful proposal, slipped through under the guise of reform is the Senate Budget and Taxation committee's plan to cap pension cost of living adjustments at between 0 percent and 2 percent regardless of the pension fund's performance.
So retirees would be held to an unreasonable COLA that would almost certainly not keep pace with inflation, meaning each year they get less in real terms. The average annual rate of inflation between 2000 and 2010 was 2.7 percent; in the previous decade it was 3.2 percent.
We urge our lawmakers in Annapolis to seek common ground that doesn't punish unnecessarily the hardworking men and women that have dedicated their careers to education and service.
Rather than nickel and diming public workers, let's truly commit, in the words of our governor, "to moving forward together as one Maryland."
Merle Cuttitta, Gaithersburg,
The writer is president of SEIU Local 500.