Labor to accelerate pension lobbying
Organized labor is getting ready to announce plans for a big rally for Nov. 8 at the State House to get its message across on pension overhaul. Labor sources say the crowd will be much larger than the 350 or so the business-financed EngageRI group drew to the capitol last week to push for approval of the proposal laid out by state General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Governor Lincoln Chafee.
Both private sector and public sector union members will attend the rally. While labor leaders and union members realize that the pension problem is real, they are concerned that business and some Rhode Island politicians want the whole unfunded liability mess solved on the backs of the workers.
While the hearings continue this week, quiet negotiations among legislative leaders and union leaders have been ongoing. Among the elements that would make the pension overhaul package more palatable to workers: Stretching out the refinancing or reamortization schedule from 35 to 30 years and more gradually phasing in the 67 age to collect a full pension over a longer number of years, so that older workers would not be penalized. Also, State House sources say, there will be a move to protect in some manner the cost-of-living adjustments for lower salaried workers. While House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence has played the pension change proposal very close to the vest, his Senate counterpart, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed , D-Newport, has let it be known behind the scenes that she is concerned about the impact of abrupt changes on older and lower-paid state employees.