What the Fund?!?!? I’ve watched. I’ve participated. I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union. I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do. I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law! I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end. I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.
I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees. I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars. I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too). Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning! We had hope. We are still here, but the fight is not over!
Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future. Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen! Given away without our consent…
Am I supposed to continue my fight? For what??? There’s nothing left to fight for. We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected. They were wrong! But we were wrong for electing them. NEVER AGAIN! They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong! They ignored us! And now we ALL pay the price!
Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now? I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what? Frustration? No! Determination!!!
We didn’t get here because someone gave us something. Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections. And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away. Perfect! Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family. Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey. For what?!? To have it all taken away???
And now the next big ideas develop. “Hey let’s do a work action.” “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!” I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up. Just kidding! “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!” I’m sick. I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate! In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.
This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach (“wait a few days before we publish, children”). I feel! I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators! It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger? No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.