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Council shoos out chanting retirees.

Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos

WORCESTER - About 25 municipal retirees were told to leave the City Council chamber Tuesday after disrupting the afternoon session of the council meeting, in protest of the increase in their health insurance premiums.

While the council was debating a proposal to look at merging the human resources functions of the School Department with the city's Human Resources Division, the retirees, seated in the balcony and wearing yellow trash bags to signify how they have been "trashed" by the City Council, began chanting for Section 19.

That provision of state law allows for coalition bargaining for health benefits for municipal employees and retirees.

Currently, retirees have no say when it comes to their health insurance benefits. The retirees have been pushing the City Council to adopt Section 19 since October.

When the retirees began their chant and disrupted the meeting, Mayor Konstantina B. Lukes banged her gavel and called for order to be restored. When the retirees persisted, Mrs. Lukes banged her gavel again and told them they would have to leave.

A police officer regularly assigned to City Hall for the council meeting immediately entered the council chamber and also called for the retirees to quiet down. When they refused, the officer also indicated they would have to leave, and he went upstairs to the balcony.

After the retirees finished their chant, they rose and quietly exited the balcony and City Hall without further incident.

The retirees are members of the Coalition of Worcester Retirees. Before the council meeting, the group demonstrated in front of City Hall.

"We've been trying to get this council to vote on Section 19 since last October," said Virginia Ryan, spokeswoman for the group. "Coalition bargaining will save the city millions, and both retirees and the city unions want it adopted. Without it, we know that our health insurance rates will be increased after the November election to solve the city's financial problems."

NAME: WORCESTER CITY COUNCIL
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 7, 2009
Words:325
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