ALEC Targets Healthy Pension Plan in Rhode Island

In an op-ed published in The New York Times, columnist Joe Nocera outlines what happens “When ALEC Takes Over Your Town.”

ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing front group that doesn’t just influence laws, it writes them. Their so-called “model bills” reach into almost every area of American life, aggressively promoting a conservative agenda to destroy unions, undermine environmental protection laws and give tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy.

Nocera highlights ALEC’s corrosive influence in the town of Woonsocket, RI. The city faces a $10 million debt in which its two conservative state representatives – one of which is on ALEC’s national board – place the blame solely on the jobs and pensions of hard-working public-sector union workers – police, firefighters and teachers. The legislators refuse to vote on the issue and are instead opting for a receivership.

“A receiver may have to be appointed — which is to say, a person not beholden to the voters, who would nonetheless have the power to abrogate union contracts and do whatever else he or she deems necessary to erase the deficit,” wrote Nocera. “Shrinking government sounds appealing. But struggling municipalities like Woonsocket don’t have a lot of fat; cutting means reducing or eliminating programs that citizens depend on.”

Worse, Nocera goes on to explain that public employee pensions are on the chopping block, despite having very little to do with the town’s deficit in the first place. “Pensions are not the core problem in Woonsocket,” he wrote. “Yes, Woonsocket has a pension shortfall, but it is more manageable than many other places and has almost nothing to do with the current crisis.

“In any case, in a democracy, the decision of what — and whether — to cut should rest with elected officials who are responsible to voters, not to an unelected receiver using bankruptcy law to unilaterally make cuts. That may be the ALEC solution, but it shouldn’t be ours.”

To read the entire article, click here.