A dark money group has been running ads against the retirement benefits of working people like me in Oregon, and gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler has said he wants to “end PERS.” In response, I would like to share my story.
I have worked at Two Rivers Correctional Institution for 19 years. As a correctional corporal, I’ve done direct supervision of inmates in every part of the institution. Our staffing ratio on our units is two officers for every 112 inmates.
Corrections officers must be on high alert, almost like soldiers on a battlefield. There are inmates here who want to serve their time and get their lives back on track. There are, unfortunately, others who take a different approach. COs are under constant risk of attack. Over time, you become a different person. Your life changes. You begin seeing danger everywhere and can’t be comfortable sitting with your back to the door in a restaurant. You are on permanent red alert with an unrelenting stream of adrenaline. This situation is exacerbated by the regularly required mandatory overtime.
The conditions are so extreme that corrections officers have the highest PTSD, divorce and death rates of any profession. Our average life span is 56 years.
So why risk our families, our health and our lives? Because traditionally this has been a secure job with consistent pay and secure benefits. We knew that if we came to work and did our part that we could support our families and have a secure retirement. Today’s pension is much lower than those in the past, but it’s better than no pension at all.
Now, Mr. Buehler is proposing a raid on my retirement. He wants to seize the 6 percent of my salary that I am required to pay towards my retirement and use it to pay the state’s obligation to those who retired before me. If he does this, I will have to push my body to work long past retirement age. That’s if I can make it. In what world is this fair?
If PERS is ended, Two Rivers will lose any advantage it had over Amazon or the other local employers. It’s already difficult to hire qualified people who can pass the background check.
I am disappointed that a candidate for governor in Oregon would propose such a cruel and harmful attack on working people like me.