The vast majority of AFSCME members are also members of PERS — Oregon's Public Employees Retirement System. Oregon AFSCME is a leader in the fight for retirement security for all. For PERS members in particular, in the mid-1980s AFSCME was one of the founding members of the PERS Coalition, a voluntary association of public employee unions (and one community group) with members in PERS. The PERS Coalition has been instrumental since its formation in fighting anti-PERS ballot measures and litigating bad PERS bills passed by the Legislature.
Following is the latest PERS update. Please note that PERS "news" does not come on a regular cycle, so this page is only updated when there is something new to report.
(Oct. 9, 2015) — There’s another national study of public pensions out, and once again the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) is ranked among the nation’s best. That’s not unusual. Despite the hue and cry from many regarding Oregon PERS, the state’s public pension program has consistently ranked in the top seven nationally over the last decade, no matter who is doing the research.
The latest numbers were published by the Wall Street Journal, and show Oregon's pension system as the fifth-healthiest in the nation, with 95.9 percent of future obligations to retirees funded. Those numbers match the most recent analysis by the Pew Center for the States, which showed Oregon PERS at 96 percent in 2013.
A recent Willamette Week article ties the Oregon PERS numbers to the strong investment results from the Oregon Investment Council, the five-member board that invests nearly $90 billion in state pension and trust funds. WW then pivots a bit to a brief discussion of Wheeler’s upcoming run for Portland mayor.
As seemingly always, there are rumblings from some Oregon legislators about the need for new PERS “reforms” (read: cutbacks) in the 2017 legislative session. Major reforms were passed in the 2003 and 2013 sessions. AFSCME and the PERS Coalition challenged both sets of reforms. The Strunk case, the challenge to the ’03 reforms, ended as a “split the baby” decision but importantly retained Tier 1 members’ rights to the full rate of return. The Moro case, centered on the ’13 reforms, rejected the vast majority of the Legislature’s attempt to cut back on the pensions of those already retired.
Given that the Oregon Supreme Court has, in those two decisions, largely upheld the rights of Tier 1 members and retirees, and given that those two groups account for the bulk of the liability of PERS, it is difficult to predict where those calling for reforms in 2017 expect to find savings.