Public Employee Retirement Systems Have a Part in Promoting Human Rights

Feb. 20 was World Day of Social Justice, a poignant moment for us at the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems (TEXPERS) to reflect on the profound impact of pension systems in fostering social and economic justice across the Lone Star State.

Older people can't enjoy their human rights without financial security. Access to some form of retirement pension is considered a human right closely linked to the right to an adequate standard of living and other economic, social, and cultural rights, playing an essential role in reducing and alleviating poverty, preventing social exclusion, and promoting social inclusion. 

In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, outlining 30 human rights and freedoms. The rights cover various aspects of human dignity, such as the right to life, liberty, equality, justice, education, health, work, and culture. Article 22 in that list is the Right to Social Security. 

Last year, I was certified in Human Rights Education Training through the U.S. Institute of Diplomacy and Human Rights. I wanted to know more about the Right of Social Security and how it relates to public employee pensions. [Even if you want to get a basic understanding of human rights, I highly recommend taking the Institute's certification program. It is low cost, and the funds go toward the organization's Edu for Every Child program, which provides essential resources and materials to children from low-income families to ensure they have access to education.]

Social Security vs. Pensions

The UNDHR on social security and public employee pensions in the United States are related in the following ways:

  • Both are based on the principle that people have a right to social security and an adequate standard of living when they are unable to work due to old age, disability, or other reasons.
  • Both are funded by contributions from workers and employers, although many public employee pensions are not subject to Social Security payroll taxes.
  • Both provide monthly benefits to eligible retirees, although public employee pensions are usually more generous than Social Security benefits.

However, there are also some differences and challenges between the two systems:

  • Public employee pensions are not universally available to all workers in the United States, as some states and localities have opted out of coverage such as defined benefit pensions for their employees.
  • Public employee pensions are subject to rules and regulations different from those of Social Security, which may affect their sustainability, portability, and fairness.
  • Public employee pensions may reduce or eliminate the Social Security benefits of retirees who also worked in jobs covered by Social Security due to the windfall elimination provision (WEP) and the government pension offset (GPO), although some provisions have recently changed.
  • Public employee pensions may face funding shortfalls or political pressures that could jeopardize their future payments, especially during economic crises or fiscal stress.

Therefore, it is essential to understand the similarities and differences between the UNDHR on social security and public employee pensions in the United States and to advocate for the protection and improvement of both systems.

Some organizations are pushing for statewide retirement savings programs and even worldwide social security programs, as depicted in the video below. 

Although the United States played a significant role in creating and adopting the Declaration of Human Rights, many social movement groups feel the government failed to enact many of the articles its diplomats helped draft. Designed in 1945 by the UN Commission on Human Rights, chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, the document reflected her American principles of liberty and freedom. The U.S. also provided diplomatic support to overcome political and ideological differences among the UN members and to secure the unanimous approval of the UDHR in 1948. 

World Day of Social Justice

World Day of Social Justice, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, serves as a global reminder of the importance of promoting social justice, including efforts to eradicate poverty, uphold the principles of equality and human rights, and create inclusive societies. The day provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations, and governments worldwide to reaffirm their commitment to addressing social inequalities and advancing justice for all.

At TEXPERS, we understand that social justice isn't just an abstract concept—it's a fundamental principle that underpins our mission to ensure the financial security and well-being of public employees in Texas. Our public employee pension systems serve as a bedrock of stability, providing retirement security to millions of Texans who have dedicated their careers to serving our communities. Many of these hardworking public servants do not qualify to earn Social Security and instead work for the promise of a pension, such as a defined benefit.

One of the most tangible ways pension systems contribute to social justice is by offering a pathway to financial security for public employees, regardless of their socio-economic background. Whether it's teachers, firefighters, police officers, or municipal workers, our pension systems ensure that every public servant has the opportunity to retire with dignity and peace of mind.

However, the impact of pension systems goes beyond individual retirements. Pension systems play a crucial role in advancing broader social justice goals by narrowing the wealth gap and promoting economic equality. Through prudent investment strategies and responsible management, pension funds sustain retirement benefits and drive economic growth and job creation in communities across Texas.

Our commitment to social justice extends beyond financial security. Our Association's member trustees and stakeholders of public employee pension systems are entrusted with the responsibility to uphold principles of fairness, inclusivity, and transparency. By ensuring the sustainability and integrity of pension plans, they honor their commitment to the public employees and taxpayers who rely on them to safeguard their futures.

Resources for Further Information

TEXPERS Website: Search through our website for in-depth resources, reports, and information on the benefits of public pensions in Texas. Explore our blog, publications, and research papers to deepen your understanding of the importance of pension systems in promoting social and economic justice.

National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS): The NIRS website offers comprehensive research and analysis on retirement security issues, including the impact of public pensions on individuals, communities, and the economy. Access their reports and publications to gain valuable insights into the benefits of public pension systems.

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB): GASB sets accounting and financial reporting standards for state and local governments, including pension systems. Their website provides information on pension accounting standards, financial reporting requirements, and resources for stakeholders interested in understanding the financial health of public pension plans.

World Day of Social Justice is the perfect time for TEXPERS members to reaffirm their dedication to advancing social and economic justice through robust and resilient pension systems. Together, we can build a future where every Texan can retire with dignity, security, and peace of mind.

Thank you for joining us in our mission to promote social justice and support public employee retirement systems in Texas.

About the Author:
Allen Jones is a seasoned journalist and communicator with over 20 years of experience in leading print and online media projects. He is currently the director of Communications and Event Marketing at the Texas Association of Public Employee Retirement Systems, where he engages and educates the association’s members through various media channels and programs. He has also written for several prominent publications, such as the Houston Chronicle, Venues Today, and Southeast Texas Record, covering a range of topics from hard news to lifestyle features. [email protected]


Share this post:

Comments on "Public Employee Retirement Systems Have a Part in Promoting Human Rights"

Comments 0-2 of 0

Please login to comment