RI unions get set to meet, vote on pension settlement deal

J. Michael Downey, president of Council 94, Rhode Island’s largest public-employees union, sent an email to his members Thursday laying out what happens next in the pension settlement process.

Downey reports that every eligible worker or retiree “will soon receive a mail ballot” allowing them to vote on whether to proceed with the settlement, though he didn’t provide any specific dates or deadlines. There are six blocs of voters, including state workers and teachers, and if more than 50% of members of any of the six blocs vote against the settlement, it’s off.

“Consistent with class action litigation, members who accept the proposed settlement are not required to take any action, as unreturned ballots shall be considered as agreeing with the settlement,” Downey also notes – meaning anyone who doesn’t return a ballot will be counted as a “yes” vote on the settlement.

Here’s the full text of Downey’s email (emphasis mine):

There’s been much conjecture about the details of the proposed settlement agreement regarding our legal challenge to the changes made to the pension system and I wanted to send along a quick note letting you know that we’re working to provide members with the information they need to make an informed decision.

Tomorrow, a first round of informational meetings will be posted at www.ripensioninfo.org. I invite you to find a time and location that’s convenient to learn more about the details of the settlement.

The bottom line is that you, as an impacted member, who is eligible to vote, will have the initial say in determining if we move forward with forming a class action for the purpose of settlement.

The balloting process is consistent with how class action lawsuits are settled. Every eligible member will soon receive a mail ballot, that includes prepaid return postage. Mail balloting ensures that every affected member will have an equal opportunity to participate. Consistent with class action litigation, members who accept the proposed settlement are not required to take any action, as unreturned ballots shall be considered as agreeing with the settlement.

If more than 50 percent of the members of any voting block disapprove of the agreement, the litigation would continue. There will be a second round of voting if class action is approved by the Court. Finally, in addition to the two rounds of voting, the Court will conduct fairness hearings at which any class member is entitled to be heard and can raise objections to the terms of the settlement or the voting process.

The balloting process will be conducted by an independent, non-profit company. The same company will tally the ballots and report the results to the Court.

We’ve worked hard to not only increase some of the benefits members lost through previous years’ legislation, but also lay out a transparent mechanism that gives everyone the chance to have their voice heard and respected.

I am supporting this agreement because I believe it is in our collective best interest. In addition to improving some benefits, it offers immediate certainty and stability to allow members to plan for the future.

In Solidarity,

J. Michael Downey, president
Rhode Island Council 94

Do you have questions about the pension settlement and the voting process? Leave them in comments.

Ted Nesi ( tnesi@wpri.com ) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com and writes the Nesi’s Notes blog. Follow him on Twitter: @tednesi

• Related: 10 ways to look at the proposed RI pension settlement (Feb. 20)

43 thoughts on “RI unions get set to meet, vote on pension settlement deal

  1. Question: These “informational meetings” will only be for those represented by a union, or will affected members who are not union members (or were not member while still employed) as well?

  2. Colleen, even though you are not currently represented by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit, you are still affected by it and should attend one or more of the meetings. I am in the same position as you, a retiree unaffiliated with a retiree association, and I will be at meetings. As Ted explained in reply to you on another post, you will have a chance to vote if the Judge certifies all workers. You may want to go to a meeting to be informed and ask questions.

    • I definitely did wish to attend a meeting to learn what I can, but was unclear if the unrepresented retirees would be admitted. It would seem more expedient to allow all to attend at one time, but if these meetings are for union members I could see that they may want to restrict it to their members only. Since non-represented retirees will only be allowed to vote later on, if this makes it that far in the process, perhaps we will have to wait it out. I was hoping for that point to be clarified – if I could attend sooner I would.

  3. Who is going to handle retired teachers were were not part of any of the unions? The Treasurer’s Office? Like Ms. Derjue asked, who is going to provide these retirees the information needed for voting?

      • Will any of these informational meetings be available online? Would make a lot of sense for elderly retirees who can’t make it to these meetings. Even if taped and put up on Youtube, Capitol TV, etc. Would provide insight for retirees. Since the weather has been so great this year, elderly retirees may not venture out fearing falls, car accidents, etc.

  4. “I am supporting this agreement because I believe it is in our collective best interest. In addition to improving some benefits, it offers immediate certainty and stability to allow members to plan for the future.”

    Where is the immediate certainty and stability to allow members to plan for the future when the GA can still make pension changes going forward regardless of this settlement?

    Also, as a member of Council 94 Retirees, I received no e-mail at all regarding this which shows how much confidence I have that ballots will be sent to the right places or sent at all which gives them a definite ‘Yes” vote. I don’t know what or how much you’ve been smoking Mike Downey, but I can certainly tell you that it’s illegal in RI.

    • Mike:
      Read the settlement agreement at ripensioninfo.org. Union leadership that were involved in the mediation have to support the settlement. That was part of the agreement. If I read it correctly they also have to respond to any anti-settlement comments that it is not the official position of the union.
      That being said, we are all adults that will be voting and and can and should make our decisions.

      • I am well aware that as per the agreement, they have to push for it whether or not they like it, I am just trying to make a point or two so that maybe others will understand what’s happening here. I still have not received an e-mail either, so I’m wondering how many that there are like me who haven’t been informed? While e-mail is convenient for him, there are plenty of older retirees who don’t use e-mail as their primary method of contact, I guess the thinking is that the less that people know, the better the chances of passage.

    • Now that is just silly. Ted, really, you are just going to allow people post any kind of bologna up here now. What’s next…Gina tell’s the truth?

  5. This is a settlement, as class action trial has not taken place. Voting should be conducted using a process comparable to that used for all union business. I do not live in Communist Russia, and would like to vote in a fair process that is not rigged. How is it fair that I, with many of my fellow retired colleagues, who are not eligible for Social Security will live in poverty I our pensions are essentially frozen at the levels they are today? I would rather take my chances on this going to court. Our union officials have betrayed our trust and all ought to be recalled.

  6. These meetings are usually rigged. The leadership will hang the rank-and-file member out the window. The leadership wants this deal as they know they will lose in court. Tell them to SHOVE IT.

    • you are absolutely correct in your assessment. The ballot is rigged with only a reject box. The leadership are in bed with Gina and the lawyers made all the money on this scam Settlement Agreement. Go for broke…go to court

  7. I remember the days when union officers would take an oath and not compensate themselves at a level higher than the highest paid union member.

    They would not sit on non-profit or corporate boards or receive compensation for doing so.

    Enough said!

    • To add to your statement, back in December of either 2008 or 2009, a front page Pro-Jo article was addressing the stock market issues of 2008 and the corresponding decline in the pension fund. In this article which was basically an interview with then General Treasurer Frank Caprio, the Treasurer stated that even after all of the losses, “the fund was solvent for the next 30 years even if it never earned another dime”. We know quite well that the fund has indeed earned another dime and then some in the years since. The fund declined mainly due to ridiculous numbers used by the fraud Raimondo in obtaining the actuarial opinion which painted a bleak picture. Those numbers that I speak of are using the age of every retiree living to the age of 85 instead of the actual lifespan in the State of Rhode Island of just over age 77 for men and just over 79 for women, this is actual data from the CDC for 2010. When you add 6 and 8 years to each retiree, you then create an obvious problem.

      • Thanks for your reply Matt D,but a report I read (of course, can’t find it now) stated that the fund experienced a rapid decline after 2000, well before the Raimondo ” cooked the books.” One thing that happened is Carcieri’s retiree healthcare fiasco, but I’m not sure if that was the only problem.

        To add to your average RI lifespan comment, many retirees, especially in the past, retired earlier than 65. Measuring the lifespan of a person 65 adds many more years than measuring that of a 55 year old. The actuary used age 65 which skewed the data.

  8. Hey Mike, how about responding to my email the other day about this language below in the AFSCME International Constitution. Sounds like you and Ken are violating the Union Constitution even though you swore uphold it.

    7. Members shall have the right to full participation, through discussion and vote, in the decision making processes of the union, and to pertinent information needed for the exercise of this right. This right shall specifically include decisions concerning the acceptance or rejection of collective bargaining contracts, memoranda of understanding, or any other agreements affecting their wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of employment. All members shall have an equal right to vote and each vote cast shall be of equal weight.

  9. Mike, please do every union member past and present a large favor and resign your post as president and take Ken D. with you. During your tenure as president the members have done nothing but lose take home pay and many of the benefits that made up for the lack of a viable raise in any contract you have negotiated for us. The only way you will see ratification of this agreement is if you fix the vote tally toward it. Judging from the method of voting even a blind man can see you are attempting to do just that. Lastly by a rough calculation ratification would mean an additional 6% in your own personal payout when you retire. Please step aside.

  10. This is total BULL!! Go to court, what do state workers have to lose by going to court? 5%? They will take that in a few years also if we let them get away with this. Vote ALL union heads OUT! They are in bed with Administration. Philip Keefe gets voted OUT! Should be ashamed of herself, yes HERself!

    • Agree Ken, Phil Keefe is a joke as President and has been since being elected. Unless Local 580 wakes up, this poor excuse will continue to get voted in just like former President Nancy Reed did for years. They control one block of votes and make sure that those people get out to vote on union election day, the rest of the members don’t bother to vote at all which is why he continues to get elected.

  11. Look at our union representation! Where did they learn to negotiate? They favor political cronyism and personal agendas over representing us union members. Since I became employed with the State of RI, I have seen my paycheck decrease regularly due to union dues increases and whatever the State deems fit to take out of my paycheck for one reason or another. I was employed in the private sector for more than 40 years prior to coming to the State for employment and NEVER had my pay decrease for any reason.
    With that said where IS my union representation? I am not going to be entitled to a pension (thank you Raimondo). But yet, I don’t have the option of choosing to have that money being paid to a hedge fund to be put in my paycheck instead. That is not what I signed up for at the pink palace when I was hired. I feel if I can’t be in a State Pension Fund, I want my money in my paycheck. Gino took my money and invested it. I don’t believe in any kind of investing of my money if there is a chance of losing it. I am not a gambler. Too many things happened in this country where people lost their retirement accounts because of bad investing. I didn’t come to the State to enjoy a pension. I came here to do a job. I will survive off my Social Security, something I worked hard for and paid into for 40 years. But I don’t like being told what I can and can’t do with the money I earned. I agreed to invest in the State retirement account, not Gino’s hedge fund. Since my money is now in her hedge fund, it earns $0.00 interest. I have it frozen as a savings account. And when I leave the State in the next few years, every penny will be returned to me. As far as the State contribution, well they can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. I plan on quitting the state when I retire officially, not retire from the state.

    With that said, let’s vote out all of OUR union representatives and get people who aren’t afraid to negotiate. I need a RAISE! ! ! ! ! !

  12. I want to say that I have NOT received any union mail for about a year now. So how am I expected to vote (NO) if I’m not going to receive a voting ballot? I do not want my vote to be considered a yes. I didn’t know the union increased it’s dues until a co-worker said something about it. I was to be notified by mail. That never happened. How many union members are in my situation? I already see a fraudulent voting process in the works here.

  13. This was never a class action lawsuit, but they are trying to apply class action voting rules. (?)
    According to Mr. Boudreau of the AFT, A member of the Board resigned because “she” could not support this agreement, and under its terms, all union reps must promote the settlement.

    Ted Nesi— please find out who this person is so that we can Congratulate her for having a spine and doing the right thing!

  14. VOTE NO !
    Let the RI supreme court be the final arbiter..
    It is hard to imagine that they would rule against plaintifs while judges have pensions and colas..More likely they would enact some type of compromise that would improve upon this settlement.

    If there is any light at the end of this tunnel it occurs in January 2015–when Gina vacates the Treasurer’s Office…
    that will be a
    Day of Celebration!

  15. To my knowledge, class actions allow you opt out of the terms of the settlement and file suit individually. Parties to the suit have no ability to opt out. The class action analogy is a false one.

  16. “I am supporting this agreement because I believe it is in our collective best interest. In addition to improving some benefits, it offers immediate certainty and stability to allow members to plan for the future.

    In Solidarity,

    J. Michael Downey, president
    Rhode Island Council 94”

    Where is the stability when this settlement, if accepted, codifies the pensions as statutory? If passed I guarantee the no-minds on the hill will again revisit the funds whenever there is a real, or as in this case, fabricated shortfall, to reduce our CONTRACTUALLY obligated returns. Let the suits continue . We have a 50% chance of establishing the correct CONTRACT nature of the 1936 law so that it will no longer be “implied”. Trying to buy me off with a gratis .005% bribe is insulting and demeaning.. I pay more than that in my friggin’ dues!! I am NotaSheeple but feel there are a lot of people in union MANAGEMENT and the RI treasury office AND the legislature that need to put out to pasture.

    • “Immediate Certainty” –of never having your promised 3% cola restored.
      The judge has already ruled that it’s not a gratuity!
      Why quit when you are ahead?

  17. I’m sorry, but to have no-votes counted as yes-votes is as corrupt of a vote as the elections in Venezuela! There better be a change in this decision or there is going to be a grassroots campaign to change this unfair and Unamerican excuse of an election process. I have been a teacher for 13 years and started in the profession when I was 22! How is it fair “fix” the pension on my back and make me pay much more than most into the system? I have to work 16 years longer and pay more for just so retirees can get more money? Yea, that’s fair! Where is my representation? I have to teach 43 years while people a few years ahead of me have to work 30? Where is the equity? Change in the voting process better come or the younger, silent, and underrepresented workers are going to be heard! Mark my words!


  19. janri,

    If you belong to a retiree group that is a party to the lawsuit, then you should receive a ballot. I heard the ballots might be mailed out the end of next week. Perhaps you could check with your retiree group to confirm this.

    If you do NOT belong to a retiree group that is a party to the lawsuit, you will only get to vote if the first group of retirees accepts the settlement. Then there will be a second round of voting, for those retirees who are ‘unaffiliated’ – not a party to the lawsuit. You will not receive a ballot during the first round of voting.

    Check this website for information:


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