International Association of Fire Fighters and AARP have filed briefs in support of public retirees in the ongoing dispute over the cutting of cost-of-living adjustments for current retirees; a case now before Oregon Supreme Court.
The AARP and the International Association of Fire Fighters have both filed briefs in support of retirees who have sued the State of Oregon over cuts made last year to the Public Employees Retirement System.
Two bills passed by the Legislature, Senate Bill 822 and 861, are before the Oregon Supreme Court. Both reduced the cost-of-living adjustment for retirees in the PERS system; SB 822 also ends a payment originally meant to compensate out-of-state retirees paying Oregon state income taxes.
Basically, they argue that a contract is a contract, and the state can't arbitrarily change the terms of the contract any more than they can contract with a construction firm to build a road and then, after the work is completed, decide that they're going to pay the firm less than what was agreed to. They argue that the state can certainly alter the terms of the PERS contract for new employees, but cannot retroactively impose those terms upon current retirees.
The cuts made were not to address a problem with the PERS fund but to simply save money for the government to spend on other programs, and that is not a suffcient reason to break a contract, the brief argued.
"The changes were made not to address funding problems with the plan, but rather to provide public employers with greater financial flexibility in the 2013-2015 budget as well as future budgets," the brief said.
Given that the justices are themselves PERS members, it seems somewhat unlikely that the state will prevail in this particular case.
But in other news, Oregon's largest public employee union, SEIU local 503, has halted collection of "dues" from home-health workers in the state; a response to the recent SCOTUS smackdown of the Illinois SEIU relating to "dues" collections from home-health workers. In so doing, local 503 has taken the unprecedented step of making formerly forced union membership optional; effectively turning this segment of workers into a "right to work" industry.
Obviously, they're none too happy about it, but given the SCOTUS ruling, they recognize that they really don't have any choice but to allow members in this industry the right to decline membership. It's a bitter pill.
There are some bizarre claims made, however:
Union members pay monthly dues that pay for two different services: the union’s administrative functions, such as negotiating contracts and handling grievances, and political actions, such as donating to campaigns.
However, some people choose not to be full union members because they don’t wish to support the union’s political function. They pay only the portion of dues that go toward administrative functions because they still receive the same benefits.
Um. Well, no, it really doesn't work that way. Sure, they say that's how it's done, but the reality is quite different; it is simply not possible, short of hiring a lawyer and taking legal action, for a worker forced into union membership to recover the "political portion" of the money taken from them monthly. The unions simply claim that 100% of the extorted funds go to cover administrative costs. Cross their little hearts and hope to die, none of the funds taken from those who object to their political activities are diverted to political activities. That, of course, is a bald-faced lie.
One that at least one fortunate group of workers no longer has to tolerate.