Unions file lawsuit in San Francisco to block Adachi’s pension reforms

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 11-Aug-2010

In San Francisco, public employee labor unions are moving aggressively to strip from the November ballot an initiative effort to reform the city’s dysfunctional and debt-ridden public employee pension system. The initiative has garnered nationwide attention as a possible approach to reform steps for state and local pension plans nationwide, including Oklahoma’s state retirement plans.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi‘s Sustainable City Employees Benefits Reform Act qualified for the November ballot last week, but several city employee labor unions have filed to bump the initiative from the ballot.

The suit was filed Tuesday (August 10) by San Francisco Fire Fighters, Local 798, International Federation of Professional & Technical Engineers, Local 21, Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, the San Francisco Municipal Executives’ Association, and the San Francisco Police Officers Association. A press release from Adachi sent to CapitolBeatOK asserted the suit is an attempt “to discredit the Civil Grand Jury, the Department of Elections, the City Attorney and the rights over 77,000 San Franciscan’s who signed the petition and Adachi.”

“The law has very specific requirements that must be followed in order to receive the approval from the Department of Elections for a measure to qualify for the ballot,” said Adachi in his comments sent to CapitolBeatOK. 

“The democratic process by which The Sustainable City Employees Benefits Reform Act was approved both by the City Attorney through granting title and summary to the petition and by the Department of Elections when the signatures of 49,178 San Francisco voters were verified and accepted.  We as Americans have the freedom afforded to us by the Constitution to have our choices heard at the ballot box and the taxpayers have the right to address how their tax dollars are spent in San Francisco without interference from special interest groups.”

In previous comments to CapitolBeatOK, Adachi reflected, “The Sustainable City Employees Benefits Reform Act is a reasonable and moderate step that San Francisco can take to bridge our escalating budget deficit and save $170 million per year. These savings can be used to preserve the services that people rely upon and the jobs that people depend upon.”

The lawsuit filed by the unions, in Adachi’s analysis, attacks the credibility of the Civil Grand Jury, the ability of the people of San Francisco who signed the petition to read, the City Attorney for granting title and summary to the measure, the rights of the voters to request that city employees pay into their own pensions. The legal effort to block the initiative also, in Adachi’s perspective, attacks the right of the people of San Francisco to be informed of labor union bargaining agreements that direct taxpayer money towards employees rather than the preservation of city services and jobs.

On July 6, Adachi submitted over 77,000 signatures, well over the 46,000 required, for an initiative to qualify for the ballot.  The Department of Elections qualified the measure for the November ballot on August 2.

If the measure is approved by voters in November it will save $170 million by requiring employees to contribute 9% into their own pensions, which will include elected officials, and police and fire to contribute 10%.

Adachi’s SF Smart Reform will maintain 100% medical coverage for all employees and allow a 50-50 shared provision for dependent healthcare.

NOTE: Editor Pat McGuigan contributed to this report.