Lawsuit accuses Shelton of underpaying union workers' retirement plans

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Exterior of Shelton City Hall, in Shelton, Conn. Jan. 11, 2021.

Ned Gerard / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — The city has failed to properly fund six union workers' retirement plans, according to a lawsuit filed by the New England Teamsters and Trucking Industry Pension Fund. 

The fund, which represents Teamsters Union 145, filed the lawsuit on Oct. 24. It seeks to recoup the unfunded retirement contributions, interest, liquidated damages and legal fees, according to court documents. 

“The goal of the suit is to get the full contributions owed and have them pay the correct rate going forward,” said Matt McQuaid, a spokesperson for the union.

The total owed as of late August is $5,689, McQuaid said. The contributions go toward six Teamsters Local 145 members employed by the city at the water pollution control facility. The union has 33 total members, but the other members are part of a separate pension plan, McQuaid said.

"This does not include the interest, liquidated damages, or attorneys’ fees,” he added. “It also doesn’t account for the months of September and October, if any outstanding monies are owed for those months.” 

He said the union has sent letters about the pension fund, "but they were ignored."

Mayor Mark Lauretti said he had no comment on the suit as he has not seen it, adding only that if a pension payment is owed, it will be honored.

"This is all posturing," he said.

“It’s shameful that these hardworking men and women should have to worry about their retirement,” said Dennis Novak, Local 145 Secretary-Treasurer. “When the city fails to comply with federal law regarding pension obligations, it hurts not just these workers and their families, but the entire community.” 

The lawsuit comes as the city and union negotiate a contract. McQuaid said they have been working without a contract since July 1, 2018. 

Eddie Deptula, an operator who has been with the city for more than 30 years, said the union is seeking the best possible contract. 

“When honest, hardworking public servants are not only forced to work without an agreement for a long time, but don’t receive pay increases that keep pace with the cost of living, that’s patently unfair,” Deptula added. “On top of that, the city isn’t paying the total pension contributions.” 

The city has been on the receiving end of other unfair labor practice complaints, Novak said, including at least one instance where a state labor board found Lauretti threatened city workers for seeking to join the union

“Collective bargaining is supposed to involve both sides coming to the table with clear demands,” Novak said, going on to blame Lauretti for the lack of contract. "The Teamsters have come to the table in good faith and are seeking an agreement that is in the best interest of city workers and the residents of Shelton.”

Lauretti in turn laid blame for the contract delay with the Teamsters 145 and Novak. 

“We’ve never had this situation before," Lauretti said about the Teamsters 145 contract. "Before he showed up, we always had a contract.”