SEA/SEIU Local 1984 is one of a coalition of employees’ unions suing the state for the 2011 increases to the amounts public employees pay toward their pensions.
This case has been slowly making its way through the state’s court system and oral arguments from both sides were presented to the NH Supreme Court on May 15. This was significant as legal counsel believe the court will issue a decision soon.
The other lawsuits we have filed regarding the additional and drastic (most of which focus on employees with less than 10 years of service) changes made to the retirement system are stayed (put on hold) until the outcome of the first case is announced. The reason is the outcome of the first is likely to influence the outcome of the others.
For years, loyal and committed public servants have provided the services that keep the state, towns and municipalities running safely. Public employers offered a compensation package that was specifically designed to pair future benefits that taxpayers didn’t have to pay for in real time, such as the pension, with lower pay and good health benefits. Public employers also mandated these workers to pay a fixed amount for those future benefits. With those promises made, public servants traded earning higher wages for the guarantee of good benefits, including a pension that would allow them to retire with dignity and maintain a comfortable standard of living. The 2011 legislative changes to the pension are widely viewed by public workers as a bait and switch, or at minimum, reneging on a contractual promise.
We are also still waiting for a decision regarding our suit against the state related to the elimination of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) for retirees and changing the definition of earnable compensation. This case is presently at the Supreme Court. Briefs have been filed and there have been many additional court actions regarding this case over the last several years. In July 2013, the Court issued a decision. Both parties appealed that decision. The next step for this case will be Oral Argument, which has not yet been scheduled.
Most recently, we have filed another lawsuit for declaratory judgment*, injunctive and other equitable relief against the State of NH and NH Retirement System (NHRS) Fund. This case relates to the elimination of COLAs and Medical Subsidy Annual Increase or Escalator, and the diversion of funds (robbery of your pension dollars) from the Special Account by the NHRS. This case presents a different legal argument about individuals who have been harmed by the changes made to the system. Again, this case has been stayed (put on hold) pending the decision of the cases that were filed previously.
We will continue to provide more information as it becomes available.
* Declaratory judgments allow individuals to seek a court’s direction at the early stages of a controversy. When there is uncertainty as to the legal obligations or rights associated with a potential future course of action, declaratory relief offers an immediate means to resolve this uncertainty.