On October 27-28th 2006, the Project convened a meeting on “Public Sector Pension Plans: Current Challenges and Future Directions.” Participants, presenters, and speakers included scholars and researchers, public pension fund trustees and officials, members of the investment community, union leaders, experts on public knowledge about and attitudes in relation to the issues, and others.
Attendees sought to enhance their understanding of the challenges that public sector pension plans face, including finance and operation and broader issues such as pressures on state and local finance, shifting demographics and workforce needs, and concerns of public sector workers about security in retirement. They also sought insights into how public knowledge and attitudes on these issues shape and are shaped by contests over the future of public sector pension plans. [More]
The Harvard Labor and Worklife Program's third annual "Capital Matters: Managing Labor's Capital" conference was held on April 27th though the 29th. Organized under the aegis of the Program's new Pensions and Capital Stewardship Project, this year's conference was somewhat larger than in the past, with a total of over 90 participants, presenters, and speakers, including an increased number of union trustees. In keeping with the Project's aim of enabling trustees to become more active and effective, the opening session focused directly on what should and can be done in that regard. More so than at previous conferences, recent challenges to the survival of defined benefit plans both in the private and public sector have become a subject of intense debate while similar heated arguments rage over Social Security. For these reasons several sessions were held to assess the current and future status of those plans and Social Security. There continues to be considerable and increasing pension fund activity arising as a result of ownership of shares in publicly traded corporations. One session focused on a critical assessment of the goals for such activity, for example, whether the aim is to influence corporate governance (and in what ways) or more broadly to affect corporate behavior (and, again, in what ways) and challenges to efforts to achieve agreed-upon goals. [More]
Introductions and Opening Remarks by: ELENA KAGAN, Dean, Harvard Law School, Harvard University
President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
Opening Remarks by Elena Kagan, Dean, Harvard Law School: " This is a great privilege for us. Actually, before I say anything else I'd like to welcome Jerry Wurf's family: Mildred Wurf and his children, Abigail and Nick Wurf. We are extremely pleased that you could join us today. For those of you who don't know, Jerry Wurf was the seventh president of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is now one of the biggest unions in America. Most of that union's great growth, really its coming into being as a major force in the union movement, took place under Jerry Wurf, who was really one of the great modern labor leaders."
Opening Remarks by Lawrence H. Summers, President, Harvard University: " Al Gore is going to speak to us about the strength of America. In a moment, I want to say a few words about the strength of Al Gore but, before I do, I want to say a few words about public service. I want to recognize Jerry Wurf, someone I knew well as his family vacationed near mine in Wellfleet, Massachusetts and someone who I admired for his commitment to doing the right thing by the people he represented and doing the right thing by this country. Jerry made what I think is a point that none of us at the university can make often enough or strongly enough and that is the importance of public service. There was only one group of people who were going up the stairs in the World Trade Center on September 11 and those were public servants. Public servants. People who are paid by taxes. People who were workers in the government of New York City, workers in the government of New York State and workers in the government of the United States. Anyone who wants to say that government work is wrong or that government is wrong or that government is bad should think about those people going up those stairs at that moment."
"Some time ago in Vienna, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Bruno Kreisky's speech when he retired as chancellor and leader of the Austrian Social Democratic Party. As we in the audience sat there listening, we expected to hear an account of his long and eventful life and of his wide-ranging and successful political experiences. But not at all! Bruno Kreisky talked only about the future. At his retirement from official life, the whole of his thinking was looking forward..."