Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

‘I Hope I Can Quit Working in a Few Years’: A Preview of the U.S. Without Pensions

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-25/09526f21-f034-4dc4-b7e4-0875ebdc9daf.pngThe pension plans that grew in popularity in the U.S. toward the mid-20th century now seem destined to become an artifact of American labor history. American Express offered some of the first pensions in 1875 when it was primarily a stagecoach delivery service. The implementation of pension for workers did not become widespread until union pressure forced companies to adopt the plans. By the ‘80s, the increasing number of pensions had profoundly reshaped the retirement landscape for many American workers. But, as union power waned and U.S. life expectancies continued to rise, executives at many large companies started looking at pension plans as a means to reduce costs and maximize stock prices. This trend is most clearly reflected in McDonnell Douglas’s plant closures in the early ‘90s that forced many of its workers near retirement into unemployment. While employees successfully sued the company for targeting plant closures at older employees close to earning their full pensions, the meager settlement left many looking for work. Even now, over two decades later, many former employees toil in their seventies because social security is simply not enough.

See Peter Whoriskey, ‘I Hope I Can Quit Working in a Few Years’: A Preview of the U.S. Without Pensions, The Washington Post, December 23, 2017.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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