New California Assembly Bill Would Exempt Public Transportation Workers from PEPRA Pension Act

A newly introduced bill in the California Assembly may limit the number of public employees who will face pension rollbacks and higher pension costs under the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA). 

The new bill, AB 160, if passed would exempt thousands of public transportation workers from PEPRA.  The bill's author, Watsonville Assemblyperson Luis Alejo, says that the exemption is necessary to preserve transit employees’ collective bargaining rights.  Under the Federal Transit Act, if the U.S. Department of Labor determines that those collective bargaining rights are not being protected, it can withhold certification of mass transit projects, jeopardizing California’s receipt of federal grant funds tied to such projects. 

Organized labor has argued that PEPRA prevents many transit agencies from maintaining the existing collective bargaining rights of employees because it removes or limits mandatory and/or traditional subjects of collective bargaining from negotiations by the parties.  As written, PEPRA may even impair existing labor contracts.

The bill would also exempt “Taft Hartley” multi-employer, ERISA-regulated plans from PEPRA if the employer began participation in the plan prior to January 1, 2013.

By Russell Naymark

Legal Developments