ERISA Failures and the Erosion of Workers' Rights: The Urgent Need to Protect Private Practice & Public Workers' Pensions and Benefits

Source: James P. Allen, Jr. & Richard A. Bales, Albany Law Review, Volume 75 Issue 1, 2011/2012

On March 11, 2011, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed into law a bill that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for the state’s public-sector workers. Many other cash-strapped states followed Wisconsin’s lead and introduced or enacted similar restraints on the rights of their workers. Thousands of public workers, whose only means of protecting their rights rested in their ability to collectively bargain, suddenly found their retirement benefits in jeopardy. This truth highlighted the lack of protections for public worker benefits similar to those of the private sector. However, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, enacted for that purpose, has failed to secure these benefits. This article seeks to provide a broad overview of the crisis facing the pension and benefits system in the United States and offers some possible solutions. More importantly, the goal is to spur discourse on the urgent need to protect the benefits of all workers, public and private.

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