A series of union lawsuits filed today in Superior Court — aimed at stopping the sweeping state pension overhaul enacted last year — shouldn’t come as a surprise, says Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island. He says opponents made their stance clear before the overhaul was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Lincoln Chafee.
“I was very clear and very specific to the treasurer, the governor and the leadership of the General Assembly that we should sit down and negotiate this. They chose not to negotiate this, they chose to unilaterally implement it in violation of the state Constitution.”
Walsh says the unions are in court “to win and get this entire thing thrown out.”
“After that, once they realize we were telling them the truth, that this was an illegal act and they could not do it, then there may be room for further dialogue based on the findings of fact in court and the financial condition of the state.”
The union litigation was first reported by Ted Nesi.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo has said the state has a strong case against this kind of legal challenge.
By mid-afternoon, Judge Sarah Taft-Carter denied a request for a restraining order to stop the July 1 implementation of the pension overhaul. She scheduled a July 16 hearing that is expected to center on procedural matters.
Meanwhile, supporters continue to hail Rhode Island’s pension overhaul. In an article published this week by The Economist, Josh Barro called it a national model.
Information in this post has been updated from an earlier version.