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SFGate: Public retirement plans must change with times

By Yvonne Walker

May 23, 2010

California, along with the whole nation, is abuzz with fiery rhetoric and myths about the failings of our public pension system. But let's step back for a minute and look at the reality for retired state employees.

Take San Francisco resident Adrienne Suffin, 61, who retired in January after 31 years helping unemployed workers. Her $31,000 annual pension is not enough to cover her basic living expenses.

"I became a public employee because I wanted to help people," Suffin said. "But one reason I stayed around for 31 years was my pension. Public employees are willing to accept a lower income for years in return for some retirement security."

Suffin is not unlike the 95,000 other state employees represented by my union - the average retirement pay of a member of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 is $28,755 per year. Many get by on far less.

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