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Labor union plans suit over pension initiative

Original post made on Apr 8, 2010

A union representing city workers intends to file a lawsuit to block a Menlo Park voter initiative that would scale back public pensions.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, April 8, 2010, 11:20 AM

Comments (20)

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 11:57 am

Go Pension Initiative! Go! Go! Go!

Posted by MJD
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Go pension initiative!!!

Posted by Louise
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm

If the residents of Menlo Park cannot have a say in how their city is run and whether it goes bankrupt because of unrealistic and expensive union contracts--then who can ever govern this city--the unions?!? It is time that the people of Menlo Park take back the reigns of government and stop this insane spending. Go Pension Initiative!!!!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:33 pm

This just goes to show how far out of touch the SEIU is with reality.

Legalities aside, to issue a press release that says that taxpayers should not have any say in their pensions is ridiculous.

It's time that the city council listened to the public and took some initiative on pension reforms.

Posted by Go Pension Reform!
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Apr 8, 2010 at 12:42 pm

To have union officials negotiate a pension plan that allows an employee to retire at age 50, at 90% of their salary, for the rest of their lives, from my perspective, should be "illegal" Ms. McAleavey. You should be embarrassed at the amount of money your union has "stolen" from tax paying citizens, shame on you! Under funded schools, underfunded parks, underfunded infrastructure, etc. but OVER funded retirees, is shameful!

Posted by emme
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I hate that unions are getting such bad press for protecting the large numbers of workers, while the few elite who feel entitled to bankrupt the citys retirement funds go scott free. Calpers, their retirement program is underfunded by $500 million, who has been dipping into that fund?

It is the same with all these corporations where CEO's hack everyones paycheck to pad their own, with MILLIONS, and the Union gets the bad press for fighting it? WTH????

Posted by Good try
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 8, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Good "emme". I know you are a union plant! Get real. The State is going broke because of run-away public employee pension costs. And, what do the unions always say -- "It's not our fault!". Grow up.

Posted by Ron Shepherd
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2010 at 1:30 pm

I have been contributing the maximum to social security since I was twenty and now receive the grand sum of $2,300 a month. Any union member who thinks it unfair to reduce their pension and other retirement benefits to an affordable amount can fund a social security payment to me representing 123.75% (45 X 2.75%) of my last year's salary.

Thank you.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 8, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Where in the world does SEIU gets its legal advice - you can't challenge a voter initiative until AFTER it has passed.

Where in the world does SEIU get its political advice - their law suit just gave this initiative a big boost.

Posted by beinformed
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 8, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I failed to read where it states SEIU was related to this action ?
Sharon McAleavey, a representative with the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, the union that represents Menlo Park middle managers, wrote in a press release that the union believes the initiative to be illegal

Posted by Clarifying remark
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

If you read the story, you will notice that it is AFSCME bringing suit, not SEIU. Please carry on.

Posted by Tired of It
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm

The initiative is only the beginning. Menlo Park employees are currently without a contract and the City should start replacing them with non union people as soon as possible. The governmental unions are too greedy.

These unions are the adversaries of the taxpayer. We don't need them. The workers are not being exploited in sweat shops and have earned more than they would in the private sector for the last thirty years.

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Apr 8, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I stand corrected, the union bring suit is AFSCME not SEIU.

Posted by new guy
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

Where do I sign?

It is interesting that initiatives that spend money can go ahead while initiatives to reign in spending are illegal.

Government at work again.

Posted by Roy Thiele-Sardina
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 11:31 am

"new guy"

Thanks for your support

We will have signature gatherers (collectors) in front of Draegers, Trader Joes, and Safeway tomorrow and Sunday. Or you contact us via the methods below and we'll arrange a time to meet you.

Contact us by email at:

Contact us on Facebook (find the group: Menlo Park Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform)

We are receiving TREMENDOUS support from the community for our drive, and appreciate your enthusiasm to help.

For more information on the initiate go to our website:

Roy Thiele-SardiƱa
Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 9, 2010 at 12:36 pm

"In the press release, Ms. McAleavey writes that California law prohibits public pension contracts from being changed through a voter initiative."

If she's right, then isn't this initiative just an exercise in futility?
A city initiative does not trump state law. It's not even clear if it were a state-wide initiative that it would over-rule a state law.
Does anyone on this site know what the law says on this matter?

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Apr 9, 2010 at 2:26 pm

Not to paint with too broad a brush but it's pretty clear that what has happened with public employees is that a "bubble" of liabilities has been created that is not sustainable. Wish as people may, there is no way to back weight the pensions such that generous returns are guaranteed independent of the economic circumstances. The demographics just don't allow for it. And if you fund a pension assuming 10% returns every year and guarantee that people get substantially more out than they put in, that essentially has the public guaranteeing returns for some at the expense of their public services. This is just beginning to play out as more and more, we will be in a situation of seeing our tax money go to fund retirements rather than actual service. Whether an intitiative is the way to change these liabilities or not, the unions better understand very quickly that people will not take kindly to higher taxation to fund what would appear to be very generous pensions, pensions that essentially will divide our socieity into those who have government pensions and htose who don't. If an intiaitive is not the right means, with social networking, people will very quickly realize the right mechanism to follow and the results may not be pretty. Consider mass tax revolts, massive migration of the richest out of California as their primary residence, etc. There are not enough "rich" people in the state to fund these liabilities so as with the unions of Greece, unions here better wake up and face reality or there will be nobody to "govern" left.
I much prefer California to Texas, but I exepct the census will show that I'm the exception as Texas is growing and Claifornia is shrinking population wise. Take a look at New Jersey as well. Cuts will need to come and if it means hiring non-union workers for government jobs, so be it.

Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 9, 2010 at 3:03 pm

The last I read, the petition only changes the retirement packages for new employees, not current one. I agree with Peter, were does the Union get their legal advice. I will be at Dragers Sunday to sing the petition. Time to get rid of the unions also.

Posted by halle
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm

As a teacher that taught full time for 30 years, beginning in Jan 1968, we couldn't retire til 60, now older and get full benefits.
hey also did not collect for social security out of our checks for a loing time.

I do not sympathize with the union and I still belong to two teachers' unions.

Of course , Menlo is foolish to even think about re-doin g Menlo downtown.

I still work at way beyond retirement age.

Get real.

Oh, and also the government of CA is now taking away a good deal of our pension! Don't cry on my shoulder!

Posted by Henry Riggs
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Apr 9, 2010 at 7:20 pm

The Menlo Park Pension Reform initiative does only address new employees, but you have to cut off the foolishness at some point. In the meantime, there should be no further commitments made by the city pending receipt of the voice of the people.

As for the AFSCME threat to sue, the initiative does not enter into contract negotiations, it instructs our council what the limits are. If the citizens cannot direct their council, we don't have a representative government - I for one am not worried that such a suite will prevail. We will absolutely collect our signatures and submit them to put this on the November ballot.

Thank you to everyone for your fantastic support.

Henry Riggs, Co-chairman
Citizens for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform

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