Supreme Court takes up gainsharing, “UCOLA” pension cases tomorrow



gavelWe’re finally getting our day in the Supreme Court tomorrow (Oct. 24) on the gainsharing and PERS 1 uniform cost-of-living adjustment (or “UCOLA”) cases.

The high court takes up the gainsharing case at 9 a.m. at the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

The justices at about 10 a.m. will then hear the UCOLA case.

Both hearings will be telecast live by TVW and webcast live around the world, including to members of the Armed Forces overseas. Check your local cable listings or go to the TVW website to watch live (or watch it later on archive): http://www.tvw.org/

It’s believed the case will be watched closely around the nation, if not the world, as more and more public employers look for ways to chisel away at public employee pensions.

If you want to read the briefs filed by both sides on each case, you can go to the Supreme Court’s briefs page at: http://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/coaBriefs/index.cfm?fa=coabriefs.briefsByCase&courtId=A08

Look for briefs by case number:

  • Gainsharing is case #87424-7.
  • UCOLA is case #88546-0.

To recap the cases:

GAINSHARING

Gainsharing started in 1998 to encourage state employees to join the then-new PERS 3 system. Under it, PERS 3 retirees would share extraordinary investment gains based on a set period of time and exceeding a certain percentage.

But the Legislature repealed gainsharing in 2007 and created earlier retirement benefits for PERS 2 members so they could retire at age 62 with 30 years of service with no benefit reduction.

The union went to court to restore gainsharing and retain the earlier age 62 retirement for PERS 2.

A King County judge ruled for the union to restore gainsharing but against it on the earlier retirement.

UCOLA: PERS 1 UNIFORM COST-OF-LIVING ADJUSTMENT

The state sought the direct review of the PERS 1 case, often referred to as the “UCOLA” case.

A Thurston County judge in November 2012 agreed with the union that the Legislature’s 2011 repeal of the uniform PERS 1 COLA amounted to an illegal impairment of contract. He dismissed the class of employees who retired before 1995.

The Federation filed the lawsuit in October 2011 to stop the state’s repeal of the uniform cost-of-living adjustment promised to those in the PERS 1 retirement system.

The PERS 1 Uniform COLA is an automatic, annual COLA for PERS 1 retirees. It is paid in the first calendar year in which the recipient turns age 66 and has been retired for one year. The amount of the payment is a fixed dollar amount multiplied by the member’s total years of service.

PERS 1 covers state employees hired before October 1977.

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