Retiree Benefits at Issue in Contract Talks, Lawsuit
Officials for three unions are negotiating to include retiree health benefits in new contracts with San Joaquin County, the Stockton Record reports. San Joaquin is one of only two counties in the state that does not offer health benefits to retirees.
Service Employees International Union Local 790 and the California Nurses Association have said members would strike if contract negotiations do not address retiree health benefits and other issues. Members of the county Correctional Officers Association legally are barred from striking, but the union also supports including retiree health benefits in upcoming contracts.
According to the Record, the cost of providing health care benefits to county retirees remains unclear.
About 6,000 county workers are covered under contracts with the three unions. The contracts expire Oct. 31 (Kane, Stockton Record, 10/3).
The Fresno Unified Retirees' Association last month filed a lawsuit against Fresno Unified School District seeking to require the school district to once again fully cover the cost of retirees' health insurance premiums, the Fresno Bee reports. School district officials in 2005 reached an agreement with unions that altered the benefit, a move that reduced the district's unfunded health care liability to $792 million from $1.1 billion, according to the district.
The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of about 3,500 retirees.
Charles Sakai, an employment and labor law attorney in San Francisco, said California has not had a major test case in the area of retiree benefits, noting that court rulings vary in such cases based on the specific wording of individual contracts (Vance, Fresno Bee, 10/3).