MIAMI (CBS4) – Maggie Vancol Pena, wearing a red, “Save Jackson” T-shirt, sat on a bench at the hospital during her day off Tuesday and explained to CBS4 why she has put her name on a lawsuit challenging Governor Rick Scott.
The state has unilaterally imposed a three percent salary cut on workers who participate in the Florida pension plan. The salary savings will help pay for the workers’ pensions.
“Another three percent will definitely devastate the family,” Vancol Pena told CBS4′s Gary Nelson. “Have mercy. It seems like every time there is a crisis, it’s let’s go back to the public employees and take some of their paycheck.”
Vancol Pena is a social worker at Jackson, counseling the sick and their families and guiding them to various avenues of assistance. She currently works with patients struggling with HIV and AIDS.
The lawsuit challenging the pay cuts calls them a breach of contract and an unconstitutional taking of personal property. It was filed on behalf of hundreds of thousands of: teachers, police officers, firefighters, solid waste workers, nurses and other employees, but only eleven people are named plaintiffs.
Pena is among the eleven whose names appear in the lawsuit against Florida’s millionaire governor.
“It’s very hard, very hard, with the economy situation the way it is now, it’s very hard to make ends meet,” said Vancol Pena, a mother of two college-aged children.
She said she makes more than $50,000 a year, an income level reached only after 22 years at Jackson, and one that has dropped in recent years. Jackson employees gave up five percent of their pay this year to help keep the hospital afloat, and they have not had a cost of living increase in two years.
Governor Scott has scoffed at the lawsuit brought by Vancol Pena and her fellow state pensioners.
In a statement released Monday, the governor said, “Participation by people in their pension plan makes all the sense in the world…those who don’t work in government are required to pay into their retirement.”
Some taxpayers agreed with Scott Tuesday.
Adam Sierra, an auto service manager at a dealership in Doral, said he pays into a 401K retirement plan at work and public employees should help pay for their retirement, too.
“If they want it, they should contribute,” Sierra said. “If they don’t contribute, they shouldn’t receive it, just like anyone else.”
Public employees counter they generally make less than private sector workers, and their benefits help compensate for that disparity.
“We choose to be public employees because we want to be public servants. We don’t get the glamour that somebody in the private sector will get,” said Vancol Pena. “I’ve been a social worker, and I think I give more in love than I get back in money.”
The employees suing Governor Scott and the state pension system have asked the court to block the pay cuts while the lawsuit is being heard. Barring a restraining order, their paychecks will begin to shrink as of July 1st.