Listen Again: June 9 Public Sector Tele-Town Hall

 

Topics & Call Overview:

  • Legal Report: Ira Mintz, CWA Attorney
    • COLA Case Decided
      • On June 9, in a 6-1 decision, the NJ Supreme Court ruled that the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is not part of the “non-forfeitable right”/ protected rights of workers to a pension benefit. The 2011 Pension and Benefits Law (Chapter 78) freeze on COLAs stands. Until the pension plan is restored to solvency, then there is a possibility of COLAs being restored.
      • Justice Albin sided with the unions and in his dissenting opinion he wrote that the language of the statute is clear that pensions were part of the COLA.
      • The NJ Supreme Court did make clear in their decision that workers do have a right to a pension benefit itself.
    • Increments/ Step Increases:
      • In April, an Appellate Court ruled in favor of the Unions, restoring decades of precedent of increments being paid after the expiration of a contract. The Township of Bridgewater, Atlantic County and Christie’s Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC) immediately filed with the NJ Supreme Court seeking for an appeal to heard. The appeal is pending and we do not know if the Court will take the case. CWA has filed a brief with the NJ Supreme Court asking them not to take the case.
      • The Township of Bridgewater/ PERC has asked for a “stay” to put the Appellate Court’s decision in favor of the unions on hold while the NJ Supreme Court is deciding to take the case. CWA is filing a brief opposing PERC’s ask for a stay.
  • Negotiations, Pension Campaign Update, Hetty Rosenstein, NJ Director
    • State Workers: Why Aren’t We Bargaining a Contract?
      • CWA made a strategic decision to focus on restoring increments, addressing healthcare through the Plan Design Committee, protecting the pension and the State Budget.
      • The State Worker Local Presidents decided as a committee that little could be accomplished at the bargaining table with the Christie Administration in getting a satisfactory contract.
      • Issue remains of Christie Administration not filing in time seeking negotiations. Grievances and Unfair Labor Practice on this are still in place and pending.
    • Our Campaign to Reduce Pension Money Invested in Hedge Funds
      • For the first time, there are 7 Labor Union Representatives on the State Investment Council (SIC). Adam Liebtag, CWA 1036 President and SIC Vice-Chair, made a motion to reduce hedge fund allocation from 12.5% to no more than 4% of pension investments. The motion was dead-locked when a representative from the State Police voted with management representatives.
      • Union representatives on SIC have called for a special meeting on divestment from hedge funds. We will keep members posted and ask members to come out to meeting for the vote on pension asset allocation.
      • Sign our petition to the SIC!: cwanj.org/SICPetition
  • Constitutional Amendment Update, Seth Hahn, Legislative and Political Director
    • On June 6, the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed a resolution (ACR109) which would place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this November to guarantee pension payments for the state’s public worker pension system.
    • NJ Constitution requires the Amendment to sit on the desk of every legislature for at least 20 days before the full Assembly and Senate can vote on it and that a public hearing takes place. Anticipate the final vote date on the resolutions to place a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot in November to take place on June 27.
    • Republican Assemblyman Declan O’ Scanlan has introduced a pension overhaul plan that would make more cuts to the public worker health care plans by forcing workers to pay more out of pocket for a lesser health care plan in exchange for a Constitutional Amendment which wouldn’t make a pension plan. His plan also proposes a “safety valve” where a pension payment be avoided when budget projections are off by 1.5%. Once again, asking workers for more concessions with a faulty guarantee that pensions will finally be funded. CWA is not considering this plan at all.
    • Every single member needs to call their legislator to support resolutions SCR2/ACR109 at 844-402-4286. Call three times to connect to your State Senator and two Assemblymembers.