Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Puerto Rico State Insurance Fund workers sue to stop Promesa

By on May 31, 2018

SAN JUAN – The federal Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (Promesa) is based in the racist interpretation of the Insular Cases of the Constitution’s Territories Clause, eliminated the island’s self-government charters and constitutes a disenfranchisement of U.S. citizens, in a violation of the Declaration of Independence, the abolition of slavery and voting rights, a lawsuit filed Wednesday says.

The legal action filed by three unions representing State Insurance Fund Corp. (SIF) workers seeks to have Promesa declared unconstitutional. It is one of several filed as part of the Title III bankruptcy process that seeks to have Promesa and the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico it created declared illegal.

SIF employees also want to put the Title III process to an end through an order declaring that the island’s fiscal board “should stop holding hearings or sessions, obtaining official data or creditor information, issuing subpoenas, entering into contracts, enforcing any laws of the territory, recurring to judicial civil actions to enforce powers, conducting investigations or any other power or authority provided by Promesa.”

According to the lawsuit, the commonwealth’s fiscal plan, which was certified by the board, imposes a series of measures that affect workers by instituting a payroll freeze; standardizing the healthcare provided to public employees; asserting a hiring freeze with strict requirements for backfilling positions left open by attrition or workforce reduction; limiting paid holidays to 15 days annually; prohibiting carryover of sick and vacation days between fiscal years; prohibiting the liquidation of sick and vacation days; eliminating the Christmas bonus; and others.

“The April 19th Fiscal Plan is based on the assumption that the provisions of these Acts and budget cuts will continue to be enforced through the duration of the New Fiscal Plan. The agency efficiency measures included in the April 19th Fiscal Plan imposes [on SIF] a reduction of approximately [$]152 million personnel spend reduction out of a total of approximately [$]229 million costs reduction through the five years of the Certified Fiscal Plan. These measures will imminently impair Plaintiffs members’ labor rights and benefits,” the lawsuit reads.

President Barack Obama signs the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on June 30, 2016. (Screen capture of www.c-span.org)

After providing an account of the U.S. intervention in Puerto Rico starting with its 1898 invasion up to the enactment of Promesa, the lawsuit says the law violates the 13th and 15th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery and provided the right to vote, respectively.

It also claims that Promesa violates other treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

SIF is a government-owned corporation that provides workplace-related risk insurance.

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