Pension plan protesters bring out senior power - - The News for South Mississippi

Pension plan protesters bring out senior power

A protester holds some of the picket signs during Ocean Springs protest. (Photo source: WLOX) A protester holds some of the picket signs during Ocean Springs protest. (Photo source: WLOX)

Don't tell the seniors on the picket line in front of Ocean Springs Hospital that they need to be rocking on a porch at a retirement home.

The threat of losing their pension with Singing River Health System has galvanized the seniors and raised their anger and motivation, not just for themselves, but for current employees who can't speak out.

Senior power has been ignited.

“I'm a union member from way back, and I believe in my fellow man getting what he works for,” said Sammy Padgett, of Escatawpa.

Padgett has no connection with the health system, but this is the second time he has worked the lines.

“The only power the senior citizens have is in numbers,” Padgett added. “The more you get to support you, the better off you'll be. That's just the way it is. These people are really proud of their work. They want their retirement check. The bigger the number, the better chances we're going to get it back for them.”

In November, the trustees voted to terminate the pension plan after the system stopped contributing to the fund in 2009.

A stay order issued by a federal judge is keeping the pension from being dissolved until March 15.

Kitty Aguilar retired in September 2014, and just one month later, she learned that the system had not been paying into the pension.

“We're not just sitting. There's a lot of us. Some can't come out here because they're in too bad of health. I'm here with a cane. I've seen some out here in wheelchairs, and we're not giving up. We've worked too hard for our money, and the reason we worked was to have a future.”

Around 40 retirees lined the front of the hospital Friday, some venturing close to Highway 90.

Jean Manning worked for 22 years as a pediatric nurse, and she's angry.

“This is for the seniors, especially the retirees,” Manning said. “We're speaking out about our pension, and all the seniors, the taxpayers in Jackson County, need to come together and get behind us and support us.”

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