Former Union Leaders Says Taveras Misleading Public
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
But not everyone was pleased with the ruling.
At least one retiree at the center of the opposition to the deal says the agreement is further proof that Taveras is “pulling the wool over the public’s eyes” with the true details of the reform package and, he says, the city can expect anywhere from 50-100 retirees to opt-out of the deal and continue fighting the matter in court.
“This was a dirty, dirty attempt to hoodwink the public and hoodwink the people and so far success is on their side,” retired firefighter Stephen T. Day said last night.
Monday’s ruling by Taft-Carter, in effect, says that the city can legally move forward with its plan that will cap all pensions for active and retired police and firefighters, suspend cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for a decade, move retirees to Medicare and eliminate five and six-percent compounded COLAs for good.
The plan came following a nearly two-year long battle by Taveras to pull the city of Providence out of fiscal ruin and chop away at the $110 structural deficit he inherited upon taking office.
Taveras called the agreement a “a laudable example for other municipalities to follow,” but retirees still have until the end of the month to opt-out of the agreement and contest the matter in a separate lawsuit against the city.
According to Day, however, many may not be able to afford to do anything but agree to the changes.
“It comes down to how much can you afford to fight?,” he said. “If you don’t have thousands of dollars to fight the fight and the city knows a lot of retirees don’t have that kind of money, it’s an economic wedge. It’s a very, very unfair situation that’s been put upon these retirees.”
Day says that all Taft-Carter’s ruling did was allow the possibility for retirees to take the deal and says “everyone knows it’s not fair.”
“There’s two definitions of fair and reasonable, the definition of fair and reasonable to the layman and what we’re talking about,” he saud. “Everybody’s said it’s not fair, from the judge to the mayor himself. They’re saying it’s not fair but we’re going to do it. The fair and reasonable we’re talking about is a standard that says if somebody else wants to do this, wants to sign off, it’s fair for them to do so.
That’s why there’s an opt-out provision. It’s not fair to take someone’s money, it’s not fair to take someone’s COLA that they paid into and everybody agrees with that. It’s a cute play on words that this isn’t fair.”
A Global Issue
Day’s objection to the deal, he says, is the nature by which it was agreed to.
The former firefighter union leader says that retirees and active police and firefighters all voted on the measures as a “global settlement” despite, what he calls, an unfair impact the deal would have on those no longer in service.
Day says that the vast majority, what he calls “95 percent”, of active police members and active firefighters are not currently eligible to retire in the next 10 years and, as such, won’t feel the true effect of the COLA freeze in their pensions.
Further, he argues, having active members have a say on whether or not all retirees move to Medicare is unfair because, following a federal law change passed in 1986, all current members have been paying into that system anyway.
“Active police, active fire, they’re already going there by contract,” he said. “Anybody hired after April 1986 has been paying into Medicare so all of the retirees like myself who were hired in 1980, 1979, who retired now, half of them never paid into Medicare or paid it enough.”
Day says that, because of this, the active police and firefighters were voting on an issue that “doesn’t affect them.
“They were already going to Medicare so by having a global vote and letting the active people vote, unless they were walking out the door in 2025 and they take a 10-year freeze in 2025-2035, that’s not a fair assessment,” he said. “I still believe it’s only public safety retirees who are taking it on the chin here.”
Day says he objects to how the pension reform package has been portrayed publicly.
“Taveras talks to the press and says the active firefighters have come to the table and the active police have voted on the active settlement,” he said. “To me, it’s just pulling the wool over the public’s eyes because that’s not fair. The public thinks they voted fair but they voted to hurt the retirees.”
A Personal Decision
Day says he hasn’t made up his mind whether or not he is going to opt out and believes many retirees are in the same boat.
“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” he said. “I haven’t made that total decision yet but I have to lean toward that now. I’m leaning that way but I haven’t made that decision and there are probably 50-60-70 people who feel exactly like I do and then there’s another probably 500-800 people who feel screwed but what are they going to do? They’ve been unfairly targeted and now they’ve just got to bear it.”
Day estimates that there will be “50-100” opt-outs altogether.
“The others are too afraid to do anything,” he said. “They’re afraid but they’re going to take the deal and they’re going to grumble about it for the rest of their lives. Some people are going to be hurt by this very badly.”
In the meantime, Day says, he feels it’s a shame the city “broke” its deal with its retirees.
“They’re breaking every deal they’ve ever made,” he said. “They’re breaking consent agreements, they’re breaking settlements, they’re breaking injunctions … I don’t trust the city one bit. One bit.”
Representatives for the city of Providence to repeated requests for comment for this story.
- EXCLUSIVE: Providence Pensions—Costs to Triple in 20 Years
- NEW: EngageRI Supports Providence Pension Reform
- NEW: Hassett and Igliozzi Call for Changes to Providence Pension Reform
- NEW: Taft-Carter rules Providence Pension Changes “Fair”
- Rob Horowitz: Providence Pension Deal Provides Model for All Communities
Enjoy this post? Share it with others.
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.