Union Supports Legislation to Create Universal Savings Program for Private-Sector Workers

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a rally in the rotunda at City Hall about a proposal to create retirement savings accounts for private-sector workers whose employers do not offer the benefit. Seated to de Blasio’s right are City Council members Ben Kellos and I. Daneek Miller, who are the sponsors of a local bill that would require businesses with 10 or more employees to sign up for savings accounts that would be funded through payroll deductions with no cost for the employer. Photo: Mike Lee

By GREGORY N. HEIRES

DC 37 members joined elected officials, seniors and other activists in the rotunda of City Hall on September 23 to support proposed legislation to create a universal retirement savings program for the approximately 1.5 million private-sector workers in the city who lack access to a savings plan through their employer.

“Retirement security should be a right and not a privilege,” DC 37 Assistant Associate Director Jahmila K. Edwards said. “New Yorkers are working harder than ever and they have nothing to show for it.”

The event preceded a City Council hearing on the legislation, which is sponsored by members Ben Kallos and I. Daneek Miller.

Mayor de Blasio spoke in favor of the proposal.

“We have people who are working and don’t know whether they can retire,” de Blasio said. “This is not what we signed up for. This is not the American Dream.”

He noted that millions upon millions of Americans lack retirement security today because employers have abandoned their commitment to help their employees save for their retirement.

He attributed the decline in employer retirement plants to the long-term decline in union representation.

The legislation would create individual retirement accounts for workers at New York City businesses that employ 10 or more workers and do not offer a savings benefit.

Under the new program, workers would be automatically enrolled in the retirement savings account, which would be funded through a 3 percent payroll deduction at no expense to employers.

The city would absorb a $1.5 million to $3 million administrative cost over the first three years, but the program would subsequently be self-sustaining, according to city officials. An outside firm would administer the program.

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DC 37 Assistant Associate Director Jahmila K. Edwards describes the need for private-sector retirement savings accounts in New York City, Photo: Mike Lee

Onza Lynch, a truck driver who works for a company that collects carton waste from businesses, spoke at the rally.

“I don’t want work until I die,” said Lynch. The Bronx resident, who has six children, said he lacks retirement savings even though he was worked for 30 years, since he was a teenager.

“We need a new law like this for people like me,” Lynch.

Only 40 percent of city residents approaching retirement have $10,000 or more in savings for retirement, according to the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School.

 

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