More labor troubles ahead

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – A state agency overseeing pension issues is ordering San Diego to reinstate the old pension system for 2,000 employees hired after 2012.

The passage of Proposition B shifted shot employees to a 401K pension plan.

Prob-B was a citizens initiative restructuring the debt ridden city pension system that was $2 billion in the red and growing.

The city’s labor unions challenged Prop-B before the public employee relations board and the board’s administrative law judge ruled Prop-B was illegal because it wasn’t a citizen’s initiative, but a city initiative written and negotiated by former Mayor Jerry Sanders and other city officials acting in their official capacity and therefore the city was required to negotiate with the unions before putting it before the voters.

The ballot went to the voters and was overwhelmingly approved.

"There’s no case in the history of the state which says because a Mayor supported a citizen’s initiative it now becomes a city initiative," said City Attorney Jan Goldsmith.

But the legal battle was far from over. The city will appeal this recent PERB ruling and this long standing battle over pensions will continue.

"We think the council would continue to follow the city attorney’s dismissive view of PERB at the city’s own risk, and we think a better course is to sit down and figure out how to resolve this dispute rather than continuing the uncertainty for both the city and its employees," Michael Zucchet of the Municipal Employees Association.

If the PERB ruling is upheld by the appeals court, millions of dollars are at stake to make 2,000 employees whole by reinstating the old pension system retroactively to 2012.

"Now we’ll figure out of the city wants to keep fighting that or sit down and work with us and figure out a way to move forward on this," Zucchet said. "That’s also in the interest of the city, the city is right now having a very hard time recruiting new employees and the main reason for that is because the city of San Diego is the only jurisdiction in the county of San Diego or the state of California that doesn’t offer a defined benefit pension to new employees."

Goldsmith will ask the council to authorize the appeal, to get this out of perb jurisdiction and into the court system. PERB is not a court of law.

Goldsmith is confident the city will prevail in court.

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