As America’s workers look forward to the long Labor Day weekend, we take a moment to acknowledge the 45th anniversary of the enactment of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. ERISA! It’s the acronym heard daily as human resources professionals and benefit managers work on behalf of their companies and employees.
President Ford signed ERISA into law on Labor Day 1974, and the focus then was on the R – retirement:
“Today, with great pleasure, I am signing into law a landmark measure that may finally give the American worker solid protection in his pension plan.” – President Gerald R. Ford, September 2, 1974
1974 also was the era of wild fashions and avocado-colored kitchen appliances. Barbra Streisand was singing The Way We Were, Arthur Fry invented the Post-It Note, the Nixons left Washington in a helicopter, and the Supreme Court would remain all-male until the next decade.
ERISA was enacted to protect workers’ rights in benefit plans sponsored by non-governmental employers by:
Over the past four decades, the fundamentals of ERISA have not changed but the law has been amended and expanded many times as the country and the needs and expectations of its labor force have evolved. Traditional pension plans have become rare, 401(k) plans have surged as the most popular retirement savings vehicle, and workers typically cite health coverage as their most valued benefit as medical costs have soared. As ERISA has changed with the times, several other major laws also have been enacted:
Wishing America’s workers and employers – and the dedicated HR and Benefits professionals who support them – a happy Labor Day weekend!