San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is mounting a major attack on educators’ pensions. He has filed a voter initiative with the Secretary of State and may start collecting signatures in early 2014 to qualify it for the November ballot.
The initiative aims to repeal the vested rights of public employees and allow government employers to cut, change or eliminate the retirement benefits and retiree healthcare benefits of current employees. Members of CalSTRS, CalPERS and UC retirement plans would be affected.
Four mayors of California cities have joined Reed, but others have voiced serious opposition. Nineteen mayors signed a November 26 letter urging that Reed abandon his effort to force public employees to pay more toward their retirement.
Some of the initiative’s most onerous proposals would:
• Allow any government employer that finds its pension or retiree healthcare plan is substantially underfunded, or declares a fiscal emergency, to: 1) increase the retirement age; 2) require employees to pay a larger share of the cost; 3) reduce retiree pensions, healthcare benefits, and cost-of-living adjustments; and 4) reduce benefits agreed upon during collective bargaining.
• Deem invalid any labor agreement executed within 12 months before the effective date of the initiative if it is inconsistent with the measure.
• Remove oversight authority provided by the Public Employment Relations Board for all retirement and retiree healthcare issues and give courts exclusive jurisdiction.
• Empower the Legislature to serve as government employer with respect to pension benefits of CalSTRS members, and districts as government employer with respect to retiree health benefits.
Californians for Retirement Security, a multi-union coalition in which CFT is a partner, is monitoring the initiative and says cities and the state of California have already done plenty to cut back pensions and that voters should not weigh in on an issue best decided at the bargaining table.
Learn more at LetsTalkPensions.com.