Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who covers criminal justice, terrorism and the courts for WNYC. She found her way into public radio after practicing law for five years, and can definitely say that walking the streets of New York City with a microphone is a lot more fun than being holed up in the office writing letters to opposing counsel.
Public Employee Unions Sue State Over Increased Healthcare Costs For Retirees
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Public employee unions for New York State workers are suing the Cuomo administration in federal court in Albany over the state's decision to raise health care contributions for current retirees. The bump-up would raise the employee share 2 percent for both individual and family plans.
According to the unions that means retirees will pay $150 more per year for individual plans and about $460 more for family plans.
The unions are arguing the increase is unconstitutional because the state does not have the right to "unilaterally" change the rates already governed by an existing contract.
"We think what the Cuomo administration is trying to do is just outright wrong. It's kind of like changing the rules in the middle of the game, and really, toward the end of the game," said Darcy Wells, spokesperson for the Public Employees Federation. She said the rate increase blind-sides public employees who consider healthcare costs when deciding exactly when they can afford to retire.
"They leave state service with one expectation of what those healthcare costs will be, and you can't now impose on them an additional cost when they're trying to budget on a fixed income," Wells said.
A Cuomo spokesman says the law allows the administration to apply new contract terms to retirees. The governor will have about a month to respond to lawsuits filed by seven state employee unions.
The unions say they collectively represent more than 100,000 current state employees. Retirees are no longer members of the unions, but the union officials say they are bringing these lawsuits because the increase violates contract terms they directly negotiated with the state before the current retirees left state employment.
Other defendants include New York State, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and officials of the Department of Civil Service.