The State Worker

Chuck Reed asks California lawmakers, ‘Call me’

As reported earlier this week, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed recently sent a letter to more than a dozen public employee union leaders, asking for a sit-down to talk about his pension proposal for the November 2014 ballot.

We’ve since learned that the mayor also sent a similar letter to California legislative leaders.

Reed’s measure would give public employers in financial emergencies the clear authority to impose lower pension benefits on current employees. A body of case law suggests that government employers can’t downgrade a pension benefit once promised to an employee without replacing it with something of comparable value.

“The irony is that governments can lay off employees and freeze or cut salaries,” Reed wrote in his letter to lawmakers, “but it’s unclear if we can negotiate future changes to retirement benefits.”

A 2011 Little Hoover Commission report suggested there’s legal wiggle room to challenge the precedent. Reed’s measure would eliminate any ambiguity by changing the California constitution.

Reed’s letter, addressed Oct. 26, went to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, both Democrats, and their minority party counterparts, Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff and Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway.

Like his letter to labor, Reed concluded his missive to lawmakers with a phone number and a request: “Please feel free to contact me ... if you are amenable to a meeting.”

Letter from Mayor Chuck Reed to the Legislature