Local 4's Rod Meloni is blogging from inside Detroit's bankruptcy trial

9 a.m.

There has been a motion hearing regarding retiree health care this morning. Both the city and the objector unions made their cases. It just ended and it was complicated… will need a minute to pull everything together on that.

In the meantime the city is now cross examining AFSCME National Vice President in charge of negotiating.

9:45 a.m.

The motion hearing had to do with retiree health care, and a city request to delay a hearing on a preliminary injunction by two weeks in order for a negotiated settlement to be reached here in federal court mediation to come up with a resolution on health care plans.

Retirees received some erroneous information from the city and there is a need to fix this.

Jones Day attorney Heather Lennox argued on the city’s behalf to have the delay. She laid out a number of different plans the city is working on to ensure retirees get health care benefits. She said, “regardless of the rhetoric, the city is doing its best to manage this situation.”

Of health care benefits, nothing is going to be changed at all between now and January 1, and she said the city has decided to extend that date to January 31 because of the delays in the affordable health care act website.

She said Medicare retirees have the choice of three plans … two are free with no premiums, one with a $30 a month.

She reiterated that if a retiree elects a new plan in the next few weeks, there will be no premium until January. If a retiree makes no choice at all, they automatically roll over to a new plan “with no chance of not being covered.”

She said using Obamacare parlances the new Medicare plans that are gold and platinum plans. She said retirees have the platinum plan.

The objector unions, through attorney Sam Alberts of Dentons, represents the retiree committee. He told the judge there was no reasonable basis for delaying the hearing for preliminary injunction .

He argued there will be prejudice to retirees and he said he was fearful that retirees are option out of coverage based on the false information the city gave them.

He said of the negotiations in mediation, “there is a monologue, not a dialogue” between retirees and the city on health care and “retirees are being put in a very difficult box.”

The city’s attorney responded by saying its attorneys are too busy preparing witnesses for trial to do this hearing, but also told the judge the city is prepared to proceed should the judge decide not to give any delay.

That is precisely what the judge did, he denied the delay in the hearing saying:

“It seems the overriding interest here is our interest in minimizing confusion on the part of the retirees in regard to maintaining and obtaining health care benefits. That interest is best served by proceeding here. There is enough confusion in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act to add to it or compound it in the way the city proposed here is not fair to retirees. We will proceed with the hearing when we conclude the eligibility trial, trying to get the courtroom facilities for next week.”

The judge scheduled the hearing on this issue immediately after the closing arguments in the bankruptcy eligibility trial, likely to come on Friday. If they go long, then this hearing will happen next week.

10 a.m.

The city of Detroit conducted its cross examination of AFSCME national vice president for negotiation Steven Kreisberg; doing that cross examination was Jones Day attorney Geoffrey Stewart. Stewart pushed Kreisberg hard on the issues of whether the union locals Kreisberg represents in the city never once offered a counter offer to the city’s turnaround plan offered on June 14, 2013. Stewart wanted to know whether Kreisberg felt AFSCME was in the position to represent its membership and retirees. 

Stewart: Is it correct that AFSCME could not represent retirees?

Kreisman: That is not the case. 

Stewart then pulled up the text of Kreisman’s deposition where he had previously had been interviewed under oath. In that setting Kreisman said he believed AFSCME could represent retiree interests.

Stewart: Was your testimony in the deposition truthful?