DETROIT, Nov. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 2,500 members of the Detroit Retired City Employees Association (DRCEA) gathered at two special meetings this week to receive the information on the City of Detroit's agreement to extend current health-care benefits for retirees through next February.
Speaking to overflow crowds, Shirley V. Lightsey, DRCEA president, and Ryan Plecha from Lippitt O'Keefe, PLLC, the DRCEA's chief counsel, told retirees that the association working with the Official Retiree Committee and the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association will negotiate with the city in an effort to strengthen health-care benefits for 2014 and beyond.
"We have to start the negotiation process immediately in order to have a final agreement in place before current benefits expire on February 28th," said Lightsey. "The plan proposed by the city is totally inadequate for our membership, but we will work together with the city to reach a plan that will be fair to both parties involved."
The DRCEA and other plaintiffs negotiated the extension of health-care benefits in exchange for withdrawing their lawsuit challenging the city's proposed health-care plans. Current health-care coverage and retirement benefits will continue uninterrupted while the city and the court-appointed retirement committee continue negotiations prior to the deadline.
Plecha also gave retirees a summary of the DRCEA's involvement in the bankruptcy case and eligibility trial. "We feel very strongly about the rights of city retirees," he said. "The testimony of city retirees is very difficult to disregard. We are prepared to take this case to the highest court if that's what it takes to ensure that the pensions of former city employees are preserved."
The DRCEA, through its attorneys, had been advocating for general city retirees even before the city filed for bankruptcy on July 18, 2013. In fact, the DRCEA has made multiple requests to the city to discuss and negotiate retiree issues.
"Unfortunately, the DRCEA's requests went unanswered and the city filed bankruptcy," Plecha noted. "Ironically, the city then said that it was impractical to negotiate with retirees in hopes of satisfying the requirements to be a debtor in Chapter 9.
"The cross-examination of Mr. Orr and the direct-examination of Ms. Lightsey made it clear that the city did not negotiate with the retirees and that they had no real desire to do so. Instead the city attempted to blame the unions for not accepting invitations from the city to represent retirees.
"Michigan law is clear -- unions do not represent retirees because they are no longer members of the bargaining unit. It is important to note that the DRCEA is not a union, despite often being lumped together with the unions. The DRCEA is an association dedicated to advocating for and representing retiree issues, but the city did not even ask for or give the DRCEA an opportunity to present its position."
DRCEA – The DRCEA was founded in 1960 and over the past 53 years has played an active role in improving and protecting retiree pensions and benefits. The DRCEA maintains a watch on the city administration, mayor, city council and GRS board of trustees, continually monitoring actions that may affect pension and other retirement benefits.
Today, there are approximately 12,100 City of Detroit non-uniform retirees of whom approximately 65 percent are dues-paying members of the DRCEA. In addition to those dues-paying members, it has always been available to assist all retirees with retirement-related issues, regardless of whether they are members of the DRCEA.
Further information regarding both associations is available at www.drcea.org.
SOURCE Lippitt O'Keefe, PLLC