California Professional Firefighters

San Jose Mayor Launches Statewide Campaign to Gut Retirement Security

With an Enron profiteer and an anti-worker billionaire in his corner, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed this week launched a statewide campaign to cut the heart out of retirement security for millions of firefighters, teachers and other public workers.

Touting a small cadre of mayors from troubled cities, Reed formally submitted ballot language on an initiative that would roll back vested pension rights, eviscerate the right of employees to negotiate retirement and enforce a funding standard that could ultimately be the death knell for secure pensions. The proposed initiative, submitted to the Attorney General's office for title and summary, is being targeted for the November 2014 ballot.

"Once again, an attention-seeking politician wants to use our members and other working people as the rungs for his climb up the ladder," said CPF President Lou Paulson. "Mayor Reed hopes to do at the state level what he has, so far, failed to do in San Jose -- break the promises made to current employees to the benefit of Wall Street special interests."

Reed has become a celebrity in the anti-pension world after ramming through a pension "reform" package specifically written to be unconstitutional. San Jose's Measure B openly attacked the legal vested benefit rights of public employees, prompting what has already been an expensive, and likely futile, legal fight. Reed was the star attraction at a recent secret strategy session convened by hard-line pension ideologues, including some with ties to the Koch Brothers. 

"After wasting millions on legal fees, all the while knowing that his Measure B was unlawful, Reed now wants to change the Constitution so that he can break promises made to city workers," said San Jose Fire Fighters Local 230 President Robert Sapien.

Reed's initiative is expected to benefit from the bankrolls of deep-pocketed ideologues from outside of California as well as inside. Texas billionaire hedge fund manager John Arnold has made clear his desire to roll back public employee retirement security. Arnold made his name as an Enron trader before that company's dissolution stole the retirement security of thousands of Enron workers and revealed a cesspool of corporate corruption. His foundation contributed $200,000 to help research Reed's proposal and helped convene a campaign strategy session on the proposal earlier this year.

Also expected to be a part of the effort is Charles Munger, the hardliner who helped bankroll the unsuccessful campaign to pass Proposition 32 last year.

Reed's announcement comes in spite of new polling information suggesting that Californians are reluctant to break the promises made to their employees. By overwhelming margins, Californians oppose taking retirement away from those who have earned it and strongly support resolving pension issues at the bargaining table, rather than the ballot box.

"Californians have constantly shown their distaste for measures put on the ballot by Texas interests and secret out-of-state contributors," said Dave Low, chair of Californians for Retirement Security -- a CPF-backed coalition supporting pensions. "We expect this flawed proposal to be no different."


READ: "San Jose mayor launches pension reform initiative" -- Reuters

READ: Californians for Retirement Security response to Reed initiative

READ: CalPERS response to Reed anti-pension initiative

READ: "Mayor's pension measure gets cool response in poll" -- San Jose Mercury News

READ: "Slash and Burn: The War on California Pensions" -- Frying Pan News

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