Issued August 27, 2021
(San Juan, Puerto Rico): Today, The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed a legal brief in defense of the Law for a Dignified Retirement (Law 7) before the court that hears the case of the bankruptcy of the government of Puerto Rico.
The United Auto Workers (UAW) has also filed papers with the court seeking to join the SEIU’s position on Law 7.
Last July, the Fiscal Control Board sued Governor Pedro Pierluisi in federal court; the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives, José Luis Dalmau and Rafael Hernández Montañez, respectively; and the Financial Advisory Authority and Fiscal Agency (AFAAF), trying to get the court to stop the implementation of the Law for a Dignified Retirement, which was approved unanimously by both legislative bodies and signed by the Governor.
In its pleading, the unions maintain that "Act 7 does nothing more than articulate a series of public policies of the Commonwealth and declare that the Commonwealth will not take legislative or other steps to implement a plan of adjustment inconsistent with those public policies.”
“This litigation raises a fundamental question about the extent of the Oversight Board’s authority under PROMESA. Specifically, it raises the question whether the Oversight Board’s authority is so all-encompassing that it divests Puerto Rico’s elected representatives of the power to declare under what circumstances they will cooperate with the Oversight Board’s reorganization plans. PROMESA’s language, and this Court’s case law interpreting it, provide a clear answer: the Oversight Board’s power does not reach that far”, says the brief.
The 19-page document concludes that the Law for a Dignified Retirement does not conflict with PROMESA, as the Board alleges, since Act 7 remains within the area of power that was delegated to the government by Congress.
The unions state that even if the court finds that the Law for a Dignified Retirement conflicts with PROMESA in any of its parts, it should repeal those parts and maintain the rest of the statute.
“Since last year we have supported the approval and signing of the Law for a Dignified Retirement. We understand that it is the best alternative that the governor and the legislature have to achieve greater cuts from bondholders and guarantee the payment of pensions to workers in the public sector, both current and future,”said Roberto Pagán, SEIU International Vice-President and President of the Puerto Rican Union of Workers, SEIU Local 1996 SPT.
For her part, Beverly Brakeman, UAW Regional Director for Region 9A stated that “as a representative of thousands of active workers in Puerto Rico, the UAW supports the Dignified Retirement Law as it creates public policy to protect pensions and essential services and commits both the Executive Power and the Legislature to NOT approve cuts to pensions”.
The SEIU has two affiliated locals in Puerto Rico: the General Union of Workers, Local 1199 UGT and the Puerto Rican Union of Workers, Local 1996 SPT, which together represent an enrollment of over 20 thousand public and private sector employees.
For its part, the UAW has a membership of 5,000 active workers in Puerto Rico.
Both the SEIU and the UAW and their locals make these statements on their behalf, and not on behalf of any Committee or party that participates in the proceedings under Title III of PROMESA.