The Providence Journal reports, today, on the litigation of some Cranston government retirees who are suing the city because they weren’t willing to accept a compromise agreement over the city’s reduction of cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for fifteen years or so. The theme of the article is that those who testified would not have retired so early if they had known there was a possibility that their COLAs would be temporarily reduced during their retirements:
The 9 are among 76 retired members of the police and fire departments who sued, alleging that the city broke its word to them in a series of collectively bargained labor union contracts under which they lived faithfully. They seek a declaratory judgment that there was a breach of contract in violation of the U.S. and state constitutions and an injunction that would force the city to reinstate their COLAs retroactively.
Using the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s RIOpenGov site, which has 2010 pension data for Cranston, here’s some information about the retirees mentioned in the article:
- Deputy Fire Chief Vincent Matrumalo: Retired at 48 (around 55, now) and collected a $72,213 pension payment in 2010.
- Captain William Lynch: Retired at 43 (around 54, now) and collected a $72,050 (tax-free disability) pension payment in 2010.
- Detective Sergeant David Greene: Retired at 50 (around 62, now) and collected a $54,474 (tax-free disability) pension payment in 2010.
- Detective Edward Evans: Retired at 46 (around 60, now) and collected a $49,506 (tax-free disability) pension payment in 2010.
- Detective Robert Davies: Retired at 49 (around 63, now) and collected a $48,682 pension payment in 2010.
- Patrolman Charles Galligan: Retired at 47 (around 61, now) and collected a $46,560 pension payment in 2010.
- Detective Glenn Gilkenson: Retired at 47 (around 55, now) and collected a $45,095 pension payment in 2010.
- Detective Vincent Maccarone: Retired at 43 (around 54, now) and collected a $38,946 pension payment in 2010.
- Sergeant Edward Walsh: No information; must have retired after 2010.
All of these retirees are still younger than the age that is generally understood to be retirement age (even at the out-dated number of 65). With the possible exception of those with disability pensions, there’s a good chance that some or all of them have had other sources of income in the years since they retired. All of them had pension payments in 2010 that exceeded the median earnings for Cranston residents in 2013.
State and local governments should not be guaranteeing lifetime payments above area median earnings for around 40 years of former employees’ lives using an inherently unsustainable pension system. While it’s unfortunate that these men made decisions based on the false impressions about pensions that have been pushed by elected officials as well as labor unions, it’s just not right, and it’s just not fair, to make a struggling community continue to support such disproportionate benefits. That’s all the more true considering the role that labor unions play in electing the very politicians who set the law and then negotiate the contracts.