Unions nearly ready to file PERS lawsuits

Union attorneys representing the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) Coalition are finalizing legal challenges to House Bills 2003 and 2004 that were passed by the Oregon Legislature and signed into law two months ago.

“Technically the cases are not filed by the unions themselves, but rather on behalf of union members wronged by the changes brought about by the bills,” said Don Loving, spokesman for Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

In the meantime, a group of PERS members not part of the coalition have filed their own lawsuit separate from the PERS Coalition.

Greg Hartman, lead attorney for the PERS Coalition, said there will be six separate suits filed: one each challenging HB 2003 and HB 2004 in federal court in Portland, nearly identical suits filed with the Oregon Supreme Court in Salem, plus a pair of “placeholder” class action suits to be filed in state circuit court.

The legal process on these suits will last 18 to 24 months. Hartman noted that any and every PERS member has the legal right to file his or her own lawsuit by the Aug. 15 filing deadline.

“There could be 100” separate suits and the courts could conceivably combine some of the suits as well, Hartman told AFSCME e-lert.

“I’ve said all along that I’m much more concerned about filing the correct lawsuit that will ultimately win, rather than rushing in with a poor case,” said Hartman. “I know people are frustrated by the pace, but we intend to do this right.”

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