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Major Union Questions PA Pension Fund, Calls on PSERS to Protect Workers, Retirees

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eileen Connelly, Executive Director of the Service Employees International Union's Pennsylvania State Council, today called on the Pennsylvania School Employees' Retirement System (PSERS) to protect retiree pension dollars and workers' rights by steering clear of an investment management firm affiliated with Lazard, Ltd., a troubled firm whose affiliates have lost money for PSERS annuitants and whose past is replete with union-busting and scandals.

On June 23, PSERS' Board of Trustees announced that it would entrust a Lazard affiliate with $350 million of PSERS participants' retirement assets. The Board did so despite the poor performance of its Lazard-managed investments. PSERS's sole investment with a Lazard-affiliated entity -- as a investor in a real estate fund called "Lazard-Freres Strategic Realty Investors Fund II" -- has consistently underperformed and failed to meet performance benchmarks.

That Lazard fund's largest asset is Atria Senior Living, a national assisted living provider which operates more than 130 facilities in 26 states, including 4 in Pennsylvania. Elderly residents and workers have cited wide-ranging concerns at Lazard's Atria, such as poor patient care, poverty wages for employees and skyrocketing rent increases. Legislators in multiple states have called on Atria to stop gouging residents and respect its employees. Instead, Lazard's Atria has retaliated against low-wage, predominantly minority workers struggling to form a union to improve their pay and the quality of resident care.

Connelly committed to mobilizing SEIU and other union members, many of whom have their retirement savings in PSERS, to call on the fund board to take action. The letter is the first step in a campaign to convince PSERS to reflect the values of its members and retirees. SEIU plans to communicate directly with Pennsylvania teachers around this issue and mobilize its members that participate in PSERS to protest the fund's dealings with Lazard at PSERS' Board Meeting on August 14, 2008.

More information on SEIU's efforts, Lazard's history, and a copy of the letter:

SOURCE SEIU Healthcare
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