Section One: Employees’ Rights Issues
1. The Fraternal Order of Police strongly supports H.R. 1332/S. 2010, the “Social Security Fairness Act,” which would repeal both the “Windfall Elimination Provision” (WEP) and the “Government Pension Offset” (GPO) in current law. The WEP penalizes certain public employees who also worked in the private sector and paid into the Social Security system, through a substantial reduction in their benefits, because they also collect a government pension. The GPO provision in current law causes the reduction or elimination of the spouse’s or widow(er)’s benefit from Social Security by two-thirds of the monthly amount received from the government pension. Are you a cosponsor of this legislation? If elected, will your Administration actively support its enactment and will you sign the bill if it is passed by Congress?
Obama: Throughout my career, I have stood with law enforcement. And I will never forget that the members of the Secret Service, including its uniformed division, put their lives on the line to protect my family and me. Even in tough economic times, when tough budget choices are needed, I have insisted on protecting proven efforts to support law enforcement and combat crime. My support for the men and women who put their lives on the line will never waiver.
The Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset raise important questions of fairness. A broader set of reforms are needed to strengthen Social Security for future generations. I support eliminating these two provisions within a comprehensive effort to reform Social Security to ensure that state and local employees are treated fairly.
Romney: Providing for the elderly is a bedrock commitment of our society, and both Social Security and government employee pension programs must be able to meet that obligation for generations to come. Unfortunately, today’s Social Security program is unsustainable over the long-term and defined benefit pensions are placing significant strain on government budgets. I am strongly committed to preserving Social Security for today’s seniors, who have planned their retirement around the program’s benefits. But I do not believe that it would be fiscally responsible to pursue policies that would increase Social Security liabilities.
2. In the past few years, politicians at the Federal, State and local level have demonized public sector unions– including unions representing law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers, who put themselves in harm’s way to protect their neighborhoods and communities, are being held up as objects of scorn and ridicule by these politicians who cite the cost of their hard-earned pensions and benefits as the reason for the government’s fiscal woes. What will you and your Administration do to halt these politically motivated attacks on public safety unions and how will your Administration bolster these organizations?
Obama: Our economy is stronger when we’ve got broad-based growth and broad-based prosperity. That’s what unions have always been about—shared prosperity. America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement. And as long as I’m in the White House I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining.
The American people deserve to have qualified public servants fighting for them every day. This is why I appointed Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, and recently appointed three new leaders to the National Labor Relations Board who will uphold the rights of working Americans.
I stand with organized labor and public sector unions in condemning those who vilify public servants for doing their jobs. The Recovery Act kept hundreds of thousands of state and local workers on the job through the economic crisis, and provided $4 billion specifically for state and local law enforcement. I applauded Ohio voters for rejecting Issue 2, a law that would have stripped public employees of their collective bargaining rights. This year, I am seeking more funding to help cities and states keep police officers and sheriffs’ deputies on the job. You can be assured that I will continue to support police officers, firefighters, teachers, and other public servants at every turn.
Romney: Law enforcement officers provide an extraordinarily important service to our communities. We owe them and their families a great debt of gratitude for the risks they take every day in defense of our freedom and safety. As I have long believed and consistently pointed out, labor unions can perform an important and constructive role in our society. The work done by the Fraternal Order of Police — from education services to legal defense — offers an excellent illustration. We need a frank conversation in this country about how we can restore fiscal responsibility to our government, but the discussion must be conducted in a way that recognizes and respects the legitimate interests and concerns of all parties. In my administration, we will listen carefully to the perspective of the law enforcement community and I will ensure that those views are taken into account as we craft policies to address the challenges before us.