Victory for the Unions?
This morning, Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter ruled against a summary judgement for the state and said there is an implied contract between the state and the unions with regard to their pensions. It seems the state was seeking to get a Council 94 lawsuit thrown out, via summary judgement, saying that because the pensions are not collectively bargained, there is no contract and as such, the state can do what it chooses with regard to the pension program. Not so fast says the judge:
Defendants envision an ERSRI [the Employees Retirement System of Rhode Island] under which the State may, with or without justification, significantly alter or completely terminate a public employee’s pension benefits at any time – even just one day – before retirement. In light of the major purposes underlying public pensions, as recognized by our own Supreme Court, such a construction of the ERSRI is untenable. …
The case law does not preclude but rather supports this Court’s holding that Plaintiffs, as ten-year veterans of the State, possess a contractual relationship with the State pertaining to retirement allowances and COLA benefits which are not subject to collective bargaining.
The full 39 page ruling is available thanks to Ted Nesi on his blog. As this ruling just came out in the last hour or so and I haven’t read it yet, I’m not going to pretend to know much more about it yet. But this sure sounds like there’s another huge hurdle for Gina Raimondo and the General Assembly to clear before they can make any huge changes.
I’m sure more details and discussion will be forthcoming.