February 7, 2012

Negotiate And We Won't Litigate: NEA-RI Brandishes a Paper Tiger

Monique Chartier

In light of recent court judgements which have failed to uphold changes to public employee retirement benefits and the corresponding possibility that last session's pension reform law will eventually be deemed illegal by a court, NEA-RI's Robert Walsh has a suggestion, via WPRI, for the state: negotiate.

That’s why the four state leaders who pushed through the new pension law should start formal negotiations with union leaders on an alternative overhaul of the system before they lose in court, according to Bob Walsh of the National Education Association Rhode Island.

“The legislative victory that the folks who supported changes in the pension system achieved is going to be short-lived – because it was illegal,” Walsh told WPRI.com on Tuesday. He suggested state leaders should appoint a neutral mediator such as former R.I. Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank Williams to start talks between the two sides.

Surrender, Dorothy!

The complication here is that the specter of yet another unfavorable court ruling may not be as threatening as Mr. Walsh believes. The problem, as we have discussed, is not the unfavorable ruling itself but the reality of its aftermath. Courts can rule all day long that the original, promised benefits - however extravagant and inequitable - are legal. But the court cannot create the ability to pay the benefits if the employer (the state and/or the municipality) simply lacks the means to do so.

The pension reform passed last session by the G.A. fell far short of real reform and represented a substantial victory for labor, as witnessed, in part, by the support it garnered from pro-labor legislators.

It appears that Mr. Walsh is hoping to expand on that victory. If, however, the state were so ill advised as to act on Mr. Walsh's suggestion, the most likely end result - the promulgation of another precursor to one more perfectly legal and unenforceable ruling - would be an ephemeral victory at best.

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RI to Unions: Negotiate a pension deal before you lose in [bankruptcy] court.

Posted by: Sent To Coventry RI at February 7, 2012 8:02 PM

Hah! These union punks like Walsh kill me.
They are such egregious pigs that they can't see that change is coming, despite what any court rules.
Personally, I'd like to see bankruptcy jam it up his a$$.
They make it so easy to hate them.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 7, 2012 8:59 PM

Have it your way. Bankruptcy court, ho.

Walsh and his gangster unions may own RI in their back pocket, but the Federal bankruptcy judge is going to take one look at the outrageous union contracts and tear them up like Kleenex at a snot party.

Then all the unions down in unionville will all cry, "Boo hoo."

Posted by: Dan at February 7, 2012 9:41 PM

I'm betting that the state, or Providence does not go bankrupt. And, I never lose.

Posted by: michael at February 8, 2012 8:53 AM

Oh, michael, that's too funny!!
You won't lose anything? Really? Are you that delusional?
Have they brainwashed you that badly?
Now you are sounding pitiful. OMG!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 8, 2012 9:15 AM

Oh, michael, that's too funny!!
You won't lose anything? Really? Are you that delusional?
Have they brainwashed you that badly?
Now you are sounding pitiful. OMG!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 8, 2012 9:16 AM

Michael - Amazing. You are an emergency medical services expert, a firefighting expert, an economics expert, a sociology expert, a legal expert, now a financial forecasting expert... is there any field in which you do not have expertise?

States cannot file for bankruptcy protection, so the first half of your comment is just stating the obvious. As for the latter half, I do not take seriously predictions from forecasters without a proven track record in the subject matter. Did you accurately predict the Central Falls bankruptcy outcome? How about the East Providence state fiscal takeover? When you retire from firefighting in the near future and start collecting pension at age 50-51, your second career can be with the IMF. Their economic forecasts have been wrong for the last 5 years, but they've got a really good feeling about their forecasts for 2012 and 2013.

I have a couple of forecasts of my own, as a matter of fact. The 3-6% automatic COLAs will end. The $100k salary and overtime payouts will end. The 58% disability retirement rate will end. The nominal pension and health insurance co-pay rates will end. The retirement age requirements will go up. I'm not clairvoyant, mind you, but I understand some introductory-level economics concepts and I can do basic math.

Posted by: Dan at February 8, 2012 9:22 AM

I would really like to see a law passed so that there can never be language in any public labor contract that guarantees any benefit "for life." (thinking of the PVD lifetime BC/BS medical coverage for life) I recognize that employees who have been promised different things are rightfully angry at the idea of those promises being broken, but really - how in the world could any elected offical/government negotiator be empowered to make a promise "for life"? Politicians come and go, they and employees retire and pass on, but these promises will outlive us all!

Posted by: Bucket Chick at February 8, 2012 6:08 PM

Monique has outdone herself. Monique uses as evidence that the pension reform that was passed by the General Assembly was a win for labor, one of her previous posts. And if that in of itself doesn't persuade you she also uses one of Justin's opinion pieces. IN an effort to pile on she pulls out all stops and includes the strongest piece of irrefutable evidence. Legislators she believed would not vote for the bill in fact did. Therefore the bill that was bitterly opposed by a coalition of labor unions must in Monique's world be evil if those evildoers in the General Assembly would vote for it. Too bad she left out any analysis from the Scarecrow.

Posted by: Phil at February 9, 2012 8:02 AM

The unions distance themselves from ordinary Rhode Island families with every utterance from their bosses.

Posted by: Art at February 13, 2012 8:52 AM
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