why it matters:
Retirement Security

Photo: Jeff Zimmerman

Photo: Jeff Zimmerman


A pension is a promise made. It deserves to be a promise kept.

Every person who works hard over a lifetime has earned a reasonable retirement for their efforts. This basic tenet is at the heart of labor’s historic effort to build in fair pensions and health care into the concept of compensation.

For first responders, retirement security is more than a “perk. Preserving secure, well-funded retirement benefits – including health care – is a critical component of any fair system of compensation for a lifetime of risk and public service.

Why retirement security matters … for firefighters and their families.

  • The toll of the job. Firefighters take a beating over the course of a career. Job-related illness, debilitating injuries, extraordinary emotional and physical stress. Firefighters sign up for all of these when they take the job. They are owed a decent retirement.
  • Peace of mind for families. Firefighters aren’t the only ones who suffer the toll of the job. Spouses, children, parents and others also carry the burden of empty nights, weekends and that knot in the pit of the stomach knowing the next call could be the last. A secure retirement protects firefighter families.
  • Simple fairness. Firefighters and police officers contribute an often-hefty percentage of their own pay into their retirement. These involuntary contributions are based on a simple covenant: you put your life on the line for a career, and you get a pension at the other end of it.

Why retirement security matters … for the communities we serve.

  • Recruiting the best people for a dangerous job. Retirement security is critical to recruiting and retaining a high-caliber work force, particularly in high-risk occupations, such as public safety.
  • Protects public safety. The high-intensity and high-risk nature of firefighting makes it a profession that wears out its work force. The injury risk alone escalates considerably as firefighters age. A secure retirement makes it possible for older firefighters to retire, rather than linger on after their skills have diminished.
  • Simple fairness. Retirement security is the least our communities can do for those who devote the bulk of their lives to public service.

Why retirement security matters … for our future as a society.

  • Preserving a strong Middle Class. For many in the private sector, retirement is no longer secure. Risky, fee-laden private retirement accounts have replaced secure pensions. The result has been an ever-yawning gap between retirement haves and have-nots. Pensions make it possible for the vast majority in the middle to have a dignified retirement after decades of toil.
  • Protects the social safety net. Retirement security protects future generations of workers from becoming a burden on the social safety net, producing a long-term benefit to taxpayers and public agency funding.
  • Simple fairness. Every worker deserves a secure retirement for a lifetime of work.

The union … fighting for your secure retirement

As the state and local unions representing front line firefighters, pension security is a core issue.

Among the earliest firefighter-sponsored local ballot initiatives – dating back to the 1940s – were measures establishing local public safety pensions. Public safety pensions were the beachhead from which pension security was won for all public workers.

When pensions have come under attack, it is your state and local firefighter unions standing on the front lines.

The battle to protect retirement security is never over. Wall Street and its advocates have maintained a steady drumbeat of hostility toward pension security for all public workers, singling out firefighters, in particular, as targets.

CPF and your local unions remain committed to fighting these attacks in order to protect the security you’ve earned for putting your lives on the line. 

Making sure that a promise made is a promise kept … because the union is all of us.