CWA, other Public Worker Unions, file Lawsuit on Pension

NEWS FROM THE CWA

Communications Workers of America, District One
102 South Warren St. Trenton, NJ 08608

For Immediate Release: August 31, 2011

CWA ON PENSION LAWSUIT: “NEW JERSEY MADE A PROMISE”

NEW JERSEY – The Communications Workers of America, the largest union of New Jersey state workers, released the following statement today from Hetty Rosenstein, CWA’s New Jersey State Director:

“New Jersey made a promise to its public workers: work hard, serve the people of New Jersey, and take a salary that is less than what you might earn in the private sector – and you can look forward to a secure and stable retirement. It is not lavish: the average state pension, including managers, is $23,000 a year; and just $14,000 for local government workers. But hundreds of thousands of public service professionals planned their lives around that deal."

“The State of New Jersey, however, has not lived up to its end of the bargain. For over a decade, state workers contributed billions of dollars of their hard-earned wages into the pension system while Trenton skipped its payments and piled up I.O.U.’s. Now, Trenton politicians want workers and retirees to pay the price for this irresponsibility by eliminating decades worth of future cost of living adjustments for state workers, even while needed pension payments are delayed for another seven years . The result will be slashed benefits and an ever increasing mountain of pension debt."

“Retirees and long-term public workers, who in many cases have devoted their entire working lives to the State of New Jersey, can’t go back and choose a different path. They earned every penny of their pensions, and if Trenton politicians won’t keep their promise, we have no choice but to go to court to force them to uphold their end of the bargain.”

Facts on the Public Pension Lawsuit:

The lawsuit alleges that portions of the recent legislation violate both the United States and New Jersey Constitutions and asks the Federal Court to enjoin the implementation of those provisions. Public employees in New Jersey have rights to certain pension and health care benefits that have been promised, for which employees have fulfilled all requirements, and which by law cannot be reduced.

The lawsuit challenges:

1. The suspension of cost-of-living increases for current and future retirees because it violates the United States and New Jersey Constitutions by interfering with the contractual and property rights of current and future retirees to receive the pension benefits they had been promised and for which they are entitled.

2. The increase in pension contributions for current employees because it violates the United States and New Jersey Constitutions by interfering with the contractual and property rights of current employees to make pension contributions at the levels previously established by statute.

3. The State’s continued underfunding of the pension system to the extent that it has caused the unconstitutional suspension of cost-of-living increases and increases in employee pension contributions.

4. The delegation to Pension Committees of the authority to change benefit levels and eligibility requirements in ways that would unconstitutionally interfere with the vested, contractual and property rights of public employees and retirees.

###