MBJ Client Victory: Court Denies Preliminary Injuction Sought by Union Over Health Care Plan Changes

Morgan, Brown, and Joy achieved a victory on December 24, 2009, when Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Christine Roach ruled in favor of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (“MBTA”).

In Local 589, Amalgamated Transit Union, et al. v. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, et al. No. 09-3954-B, Judge Roach denied a request for a preliminary injunction sought by a group of MBTA transit unions, as well as executive and retired executive employees.  The plaintiffs, headed by Local 589 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, sought to enjoin certain portions of the Transportation Reform Act of 2009 from taking effect on January 1, 2010.  The challenged legislation transfers a group of MBTA executive retirees from their existing health care plan to the Massachusetts General Insurance Commission (“GIC”) fund and requires a monthly contribution of 15%.  Unionized employees and retirees will be similarly affected when their labor contracts begin to expire July 1, 2010.  By placing all of these active employees and retirees into the GIC fund and requiring minimum premium contribution, the MBTA and the Commonwealth will realize significant savings, while retirees will continue to have their choice of quality healthcare plans.

The unions alleged that this transition violated the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights, the United States Constitution, various collective bargaining agreements, and certain federal grants.  Noting that the unions were unlikely to succeed on their claims and pointing to a lack of irreparable harm, Judge Roach denied their request to enjoin the statute.  The legislation remains viable and will take effect next week.  The transition to the GIC plan will begin the process of obtaining fiscal relief for the MBTA and the Commonwealth.

The decision has been the subject of various news reports, including the Boston Globe.

Morgan, Brown, and Joy attorneys Philip BoyleLaurence Donoghue, and Robert Morris represented the MBTA throughout the proceedings.  Mr. Boyle successfully argued in opposition to the unions’ motion at a hearing in Suffolk Superior Court on December 22, 2009.  Attorneys from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office represented the Commonwealth.