State employee relations board rules pension reform initiative ‘unfair’

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The California Public Employee Relations Board ruled
Monday that a pension reform initiative set for the June ballot in the city of
San Diego amounts to an unfair labor practice.

The decision by the board will lead to a lawsuit to try to remove the
measure from the ballot.

The initiative — if passed — would give most new employees 401(k)
plans instead of enrolling them in the debt-ridden pension system. The measure
would also figure only base compensation over the next five years into the
eventual retirement pay of workers.

City unions contend that the initiative is sponsored by the city, since
Mayor Jerry Sanders and Councilman Carl DeMaio are two of its leading
advocates, requiring union bargaining.

The unions state in their unfair labor practice complaint that the city
did not engage in the meet-and-confer process as required.

Initiatives from private citizens do not carry the meet-and-confer
provision, so whenever Sanders and DeMaio appeared at news conferences or
events to gather signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, they
stressed they were acting as private citizens.

“(The ruling) adds credence to what we've been saying all along during
this initiative process, that it is a city-sponsored initiative and there is no
way Sanders was acting as a private citizen,” said Joan Raymond, president of
the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 127 in
San Diego.

The blue-collar workers she represents engage in back-breaking work and
deserve the guarantee provided by a pension, Raymond said.

Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, said the measure was “wrong-headed,
unfair and ineffective.”

Filner, who is running for mayor, said he had planned to introduce his
own pension reform plan to the City Council on Tuesday, but instead might wait
an extra week to monitor the fallout from the PERB ruling.

Sanders, who held a news conference today at the National Press Club in
Washington, D.C., to tout pension reform progress, said the initial decision by
the PERB board was unfortunate.

“The bottom line is this measure has rightly qualified for the
ballot,” Sanders said. “The public deserves the opportunity to vote on this.
We will vigorously fight to give voters the right to decide this matter.”

DeMaio, another mayoral candidate, said it was no surprise that the
state labor agency would side with city workers.

“I am completely confident that the courts will dismiss this desperate
lawsuit and uphold the constitutionally protected right of citizens to place
measures on the ballot through the initiative process,” DeMaio said.

“It is outrageous that government unions and their Sacramento defenders
are trying to claim they can veto the citizens' constitutional rights in this
matter, but it provides yet another example of the contempt the government
unions have for the taxpayers of San Diego and the lengths they will go to in
protecting their unsustainable pension payouts,” he said.

The city has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit. The PERB has scheduled
an informal conference on the issue on Feb. 23 in Glendale.

Categories: KUSI