By DEREK VANSPOOR
OLYMPIA (Feb. 9, 2023) — On a brisk Monday morning, public sector retirees from the Retired Public Employees Council of WA (RPEC) and the Washington Education Association – Retired (WEA-Retired) joined forces in-person for the first time since 2020 to swarm the Capitol campus in a show of unity and address issues of importance to their retirement security with their legislators. A strong showing of almost 200 members collectively from the organizations were in attendance.
The day began with a morning training session led by the leadership of both organizations, to educate and familiarize members on successful tools of self-advocacy when meeting with lawmakers to address their concerns and garner support for pending legislation.
Following a group working session, members boarded transportation that delivered them to the steps of the Legislative Building. A sea of green and red shirts spread across the campus seeking face-to-face meetings with legislators, with more than 70 appointments scheduled for that afternoon.
That evening, both organizations jointly hosted a legislative reception, where nearly 20 legislators and legislative staff members mingled informally with their constituents and continued earlier discussions about members’ retirement security and other issues of concern.
Of particular importance to the retired members of RPEC and WEA-Retired this session are the following:
HB 1459 would provide Plan 1 PERS and TRS retirees with an annual adjustment to their retirement benefit. Plan 1 retirees lost an annual adjustment with the repeal of the Uniform COLA in 2011. They are part of the only retirement plan in Washington state with no annual adjustment. Only three small ad-hoc adjustments have been secured through relentless advocacy since 2011 for these plan members.
HB 1057 / SB 5350 would provide a fourth one-time 3% cost of living adjustment for Plan 1 PERS and TRS retirees. Those members whose annual benefit is $44,000 or less (approximately 90% of Plan 1 retirees) would receive the full 3% increase while those whose benefit is in excess of $44,000 would be capped at $110 a month.
SB 5169 would preserve the Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare and would require the Health Care Authority to consider stakeholder (plan subscribers) voices in future policy decisions about their healthcare plans. The bill requires HCA to submit a report to the Legislature, summarizing the findings from stakeholder engagements. For background, in June 2022, the Health Care Authority attempted to close the most popular healthcare plan for Medicare-eligible retirees with no public engagement. More than 300 seniors protested at the June Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB) meeting. As a result of the opposition effort, the Uniform Medical Plan (UMP) Classic Medicare did not close and HCA staff were directed to spend 2023 engaging stakeholders.
During the 2023 legislative session, RPEC and WEA-Retired will continue to unify and mobilize their membership to sign-in supporting pending legislation at committee meetings, testify in support of pending legislation at committee meetings, and communicate with lawmakers, urging them to support and vote in favor of this pending legislation.
WEA-Retired and pre-retired members share decades of experience in our schools to help improve public education in Washington. WEA-Retired supports public education and the enhancement of the quality of life for WEA’s active and retired members. Learn more here.
RPEC’s mission is to unite retired public employees for their mutual benefit and welfare. They do this by promoting legislation to improve financial and medical benefits, providing information to and otherwise supporting members, and working closely with other organizations. RPEC is the premiere organization in Washington State advocating for the retirement security of PERS, SERS, and PSERS retirees. Learn more here.
Derek VanSpoor is Associate Director of the Retired Public Employees Council of Washington.