Letter To Chamber Members About EngageRI Riles Some

Retired teacher Jim McCaughey sent out 196 letters because he wanted members to know that the EG Chamber was part of EngageRI – an organization that lobbied heavily for pension reform.

A letter from East Greenwich resident Jim McCaughey to 196 members of the has puzzled some and enraged others over perceived threats because of the Chamber’s stand on the recent pension reform legislation.

The Chamber is part of EngageRI, “a nonprofit organization committed to enacting comprehensive pension reform and advocating for sound policy decisions in the Rhode Island General Assembly,” as they describe themselves on their website. EngageRI spent $93,000 in November alone on advertising and other lobbying efforts, according to the R.I. Secretary of State’s website.

McCaughey followed the pension reform debate. He testified as a retired Providence teacher and pension holder. After the bill passed in the General Assembly in November and Gov. Chafee signed it into law, McCaughey said he waited to see what actions his “side” would take. When nothing happened, McCaughey decided maybe he was supposed to act.

“I’m sitting back and I have heard nothing from any organization,” McCaughey said. “Maybe I can do something myself.”

That’s when McCaughey sent out his letter (attached as a pdf, right). He wanted members to know that the EG Chamber had joined EngageRI to fight for pension reform. And since his pension was cut — by his own calculations — 42 percent, he thought business owners should know that he and others affected might not want to patronize them anymore. (Editor's Note: Patch is a member of the EG Chamber. We did not receive the letter because it went to the wrong address.)

“The big thing is, I think the vast majority of the businesses in East Greenwich did not know that they were members of EngageRI,” said McCaughey late last week.

“I’m just trying to bring attention to the members of the Chamber: do you want all those people to know that the businesses in East Greenwich are part of the organization that lobbied for them to get the 42 percent decrease in their pension?

“My goal, what I’m looking for, is for the Chamber to get out of EngageRI,” said McCaughey. “The fewer businesses and organizations that are in EngageRI, the less clout it will have. And I’m just doing what I can do in my hometown.”

Gary Anderson, owner of , is one of those who wasn’t aware of the Chamber’s EngageRI connection before he received McCaughey’s letter. But he’s not upset at the Chamber: “Why should I be? It’s about time we start to straighten the state out.”

Instead, he’s furious at McCaughey. “To threaten somebody I think is idiotic,” Anderson said.

He was responding to the final sentence of McCaughey’s letter: “Before I make it known to [other state retirees that Chamber members supported EngageRI], I want to give you a chance to leave the East Greenwich Chamber and/or EngageRI.”

In fact, Anderson said he was so disturbed by the letter that he might leave the Chamber if it doesn’t take action against McCaughey.

"If the Chamber doesn’t go after this guy, I’m going to go after this guy," he said.

The letter also angered Steve deLisle, owner of .

“I am outraged that someone can send such a letter and threaten the East Greenwich business community,” said deLisle.

Both men contacted Steve Lombardi, director of the EG Chamber, to voice their concern. Other members contacted Lombardi as well.

Lombardi said the Chamber had tried hard to inform members about its decision to join the EngageRI coalition in October, including through direct emails and a column that Lombardi wrote that ran in the in November. The Chamber’s governing board voted unanimously to support joining EngageRI, according to Lombardi.

Some who contacted him expressed initial fears about the letter, Lombardi said, “not knowing what it was.

“Other people felt from the very beginning that the Chamber did the right thing and they’re upset that about receiving the letter,” he said. While unhappy about the letter, Lombardi said he understands that pension reform is a difficult issue.

“It’s not lost on us that there are sacrifices that have to be made,” he said, “but overall the state’s future is at stake and that’s the big picture.”

McCaughey, who listed his address on the letter, said he received his first “hate mail” Wednesday, typed and unsigned. In it, he is called a “schmuck” and told that he is “well-versed in ... union thuggery.”

He is undeterred.

Felicia Revens, owner of , said she wasn’t angry at McCaughey, but she didn’t like his method.

“If I had a problem with the teacher, would I go to the students and expect them to not show up for class?” she said. “I would go to the teacher.”

She is sympathetic about the plight of teachers and other pension holders, but doesn’t think that they will hold her responsible for the state’s financial problems.

“I have friends and family who are teachers. I don’t think that they would expect me to quit the Chamber of Commerce,” she said. “[McCaughey] should have tried to get us on his side instead of upsetting us.”

2therightinri January 19, 2012 at 03:30 PM
OK let me get this straight.... Mr McCaughy threatens to expose Chamber businesses with the potential loss of business from a particular group. This group depends on the income derived from these businesses and their employees to fund their pensions. Reminds me of the joke, where a man has a gun to his own head and says "take one more step and I'll shoot"..... Brilliant!
Rob January 19, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I will proudly support all East Greenwich Chamber Businesses, this is a new reality a page turned for the states economic future!
NKRI Transparency January 19, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Thanks! Now I get it in that the minority expects all to continue as is with cloaks and daggers......cover up the issue to keep issues hidden and if the few don't like what the majority are saying, they will attempt to silence any objectors. Bottom line - unions prefer to maintain status quo while their customers and or bosses- taxpayers bleed.
EG Tom33 January 19, 2012 at 04:45 PM
NKRI.....Mr. McCaughey will be the last to human to leave RI and will blow the candle out when he exits!
NKRI Transparency January 19, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I too will support any business that is being threatened by thugs!
GameMaker January 19, 2012 at 06:11 PM
I don't think the poll question attached to the article is very useful. The question at issue here is not about what the legislature did last year, it's whether or not it is "fair" to try to "punish" or "get revenge" on people who were publicly involved in the discussions leading up to that decision.
byetimmy January 19, 2012 at 08:26 PM
Wrong on so many levels: 1. Didn't you (a taxpayer) vote for those same politicians? So why is it that those receiving the pensions are demonized and forced to bear 100% of this burden while you bear NONE of it. 2. Most employees pay into the pensions throughout the years. Why was there no money not to pay for those pensions? Because the politicians took the money, deposited it into the General Fund, and SPENT it. If they had done what they were supposed to do and put it into a separate fund, the state would be in a much better position today. But that would mean that the General Fund would have had less $$$ over the years and the politicians would have had to raise revenue (taxes). So, EVERYONE indirectly benefited from this system. But ONLY the retirees and being forced to sacrifice. Not fair... 3. Of ALL the financial problems with the state, why did they chose to go after pensions? What about all of the OTHER entitlements for the THOUSANDS of RI residents that have done NOTHING but drain the system? Why not reform those systems? I'll tell you why... because the elderly are an EASY target. It's easy to sway the unwashed masses into a fit of jealously pitting the working people against the retirees and in the process distracting everyone from the fact that the politicians caused this issue. The politicians knew that most elderly will not have the will or strength to REALLY fight this. How convenient. You, sir, are the joke.
byetimmy January 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
OK, let me get this straight... The Chamber businesses depend on the income of the retirees to fund their operations, yet they support an organization that took away a large percentage of the retirees' income... Reminds me of the joke, where a man has a gun to his own head and says "take one more step and I'll shoot"..... Brilliant!
GameMaker January 19, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Last I heard, the legislature enacted pension reform last year in response to a roughly $7.3 billion shortfall in the statewide pension system, over and above whatever other financial problems the state faced. So, the result that pensioners would have to share in the solution seems pretty straightforward. As far as the elderly being an easy target...ehhh no--they (we) vote. And gven the fact that it's a retiree and his wife that stirred up this local hornet's nest in the first place, I think the characterization that they have no will nor strength is far from the case. RI taxpayers will continue to pay increased amounts into the state pension funds--that was never an issue, so yes, everyone is having to put in to help solve the problem. And as far as I have seen, all state retirees will get back more than the money they put in in any case--again, the shortfall is due to the state assuming a guarantee on investment returns, which were rarely met.
EG Tom33 January 19, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Timmy, 1. I did NOT vote for the politicians you voted for...I voted for the one's that wanted to change the system because any one with a brain knew it was unsustainable. Even a retired providence teacher could do the math. 2. Again, as I can tell your a union member, your dues went to elect all these politicians for your sweet COLA's and Union Boss's pockets. How smart do you feel now. GO COMPLAIN TO THEM...NOT THE TAXPAYERS! 3.The pensions are the biggest problem with our deficit in our small state. I will agree that other issues need to be addressed but the pensions are the "CASH COW". Don't worry timmy, you will have to suck it up like the rest of us working stiffs and work a few more years, you will not be able to retire after 25 years of work and have your summers off. Welcome to the real world. As the old saying goes timmy "when it's tooooo good to be true, it probably is"
Jeff Keithline January 19, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Alan you are making my point
2therightinri January 19, 2012 at 10:38 PM
HEY EG Tom33, It seems simple logic causes timmy to fall silent...he must be in snow mode.
Alan Clarke January 19, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I guess I am making your point, Jeff, except when I add that some of us saw this coming years ago: the two organizations mentioned, and anyone who seriously gave it some thought. My votes seldom went to incumbents and almost never to those who won.
byetimmy January 19, 2012 at 11:12 PM
@GameMaker - There was a $7.3 billion shortfall BECAUSE THE POLITICIANS SPENT IT! And you say the taxpayers will pay increased amounts, but where is that? I don't remember a tax increase passed along with the reform bill.
byetimmy January 19, 2012 at 11:38 PM
@Tom - Wrong again (seems to be a theme with you). I am not, nor have I ever been, in a union. So you're whole attack against me is based on an incorrect assumption. So you can just drop those personal attacks. No matter WHO you voted for, they ALL contributed to this mess. Lie to yourself all you want, but if you voted in your life, then you've voted for a politician that either contributed directly to the problem, or ignoted it (just a bad). The system wasn't sustainable because the politicians didn't manage the money properly. Bottom line: if the money was put into a SEPARATE fund, we would not be in this position. You say that this is the "cash cow". What about the nearly $2 billion/year the state spends on welfare and other entitlements? Now, I'm not saying that these programs should go away, but I would think reforming those systems where none of the recipients contributed would take higher priority than a system where nearly all of the recipients put money into it and were decent, hardworking, contributing members of society for their whole lives. Call me crazy, but I'd want the lady with seven kids that's been on welfare and section 8 for 30 years to sacrifice before the cop, fireman, and teacher that served, protected, and taught those seven kids during that time.
jennifer T January 20, 2012 at 12:21 AM
1. The state is in a tough situation. A 42% pension cut to retirees doesn't seem like a balanced solution to me. If cuts/savings were distributed more equitably, I could support some pension cuts. 2. How much did the EG chamber contribute to EngageRI? What % of spending was it? If this is a tiny amount of chamber spending, and they're spending more on other items that contribute to the community, then I wouldn't not patronize a chamber member. I think most people feel the same way. If the chamber's main focus is on state-level political issues, then I would question the judgment of chamber members. 3. I'm past questioning Mr. Anderson's judgment. To suggest that sharing publically available information constitutes a threat, say that to threaten is idiotic, and then in the same breath ACTUALLY THREATEN to "go after" Mr. McCaughey is beyond ridiculous and unprofessional. Over the years, I've spent a lot at Mr. Anderson's shop and have referred friends to him over big box stores. I'll find another small local business to patronize next time I need new equipment. 4. A bit of advice to chamber members: If you support EngageRI and can rationally and professionally defend that decision, you don't have anything to worry about. If you didn't know the chamber was supporting EngageRI, than you can thank Mr. McCaughey for informing you and make a decision about what is best for your business. Either way, take a cue from Ms. Muzalewski, not Mr. Anderson.
GV1953 January 20, 2012 at 12:25 AM
After reading some of these posts it has become obvious that EG TOM33 has no real ability to argue any side of the discussion. Twice in this discussion he has used "be the last to leave/turn the light out/blow the candle out" in wildly inaccurate ways, and his complete misuse the phrase "CASH COW" is nothing short of shocking and sad. His only saving grace is his apparent psychic abilities to tell who you voted for (because he's sure he voted for the OTHER GUYS!) and who's a union member and who isn't.
NKRI Transparency January 20, 2012 at 01:15 AM
Central Falls, East Providence, Woonsocket, West Warwick.....shall I continue?? How about union suggestion of giving them Twin River to subsidize their pensions. How about the union suggestion that the state raise taxes to subsidize pensions. How about the union telling members not to contribute to charities that supported EngageRI....do they know who they are actually hurting, do they care? Attitudes of the minority are simply amazing. Can you say "true colors"?
ChiPat January 20, 2012 at 02:34 AM
A Modest Proposal " I voted for the one's [sic] that [sic] wanted to change the system because any one [sic] with a brain [Swiftian level ab absurdo satire or merely (sic)] knew it was unsustainable. Even a retired providence [sic] teacher could do the math... Again, as I can tell your [sic] a union member, your dues went to elect all these politicians." You've convinced me. Any teachers who were paid to teach you to express yourself in such excremental diction deserve to have their throats, and not merely their pensions, cut.
Carl I. Hoyer January 20, 2012 at 03:57 PM
All of this reminds me of the old expression "Be reasonable, do it my way". Also, I wonder about the excellent salaries and benefits the union officials get. Are they going to share in this dilemma in any way? I doubt it. Instead, Mr Walsh (NEARI)promotes the guy who was convicted of cyberstalking. I think the union needs a good PR guy/gal as "You get more with honey than with vinegar" or, so it is said. I'm also reminded of another expression "It all depends on whose ox is being gored".
GameMaker January 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Agreed. I think the Unions will quickly come to regret strategies like "anyone who supported EngageRI better be prepared to pay the price!" Or the "Raimondo is cooking the books--there _is_ no crisis!" approach. Particularly if they're asking taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets--they need sympathy and support, not irriatation and disbelief.
GV1953 January 20, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I'd like to point out that this article never mention NEARI, and the only reference to any union is a quote from the anonymous hate mail that Mr. McCaughey received. In fact, Mr. McCaughey expresses his displeasure at the people fighting to save his pension: “I’m sitting back and I have heard nothing from any organization,” McCaughey said. “Maybe I can do something myself.” I assume Mr. McCaughey is a union member, but even that simple fact is never mentioned in the article. The article never asks if NEARI approves or disapproves of this letter writing campaign. This article depicts the action of one man who worked his entire life for a state that promised him certain rewards upon his retirement, but is reneging on those promises and contracts years later. To wrap this up as union vs. taxpayers undermines the whole premise of the article. That arguement has been talked out on websites, tv, talk radio, and every other local media outlet. This is the story of single individual taking a stand on his own and getting hate mail and threatened for it.
NKRI Transparency January 20, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Projo article - Chafee prepping us for both tax increases and cuts. I'm looking forward to increased cuts without tax increases........this state needs to stop raising taxes to promote business and growth. Also on his agenda - addressing individual town and city pension issues. I was also appreciative of unions stance that the state does not need to become invloved with town and city pension issues. Probably best to allow the unions to squeeze all they can until all is similar to Central Falls.
GV1953 January 20, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Again, your comment has not very much to do with the article you're commenting on. And it's also nonsensical and full of mistruths. The article is here if anyone wants to read it, just to see how off-base this comment is. http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/ProJo/
NKRI Transparency January 20, 2012 at 07:54 PM
GV1953 - I have personal knowledge of each point I have indicated. Your indications to the contrary very much show either your lack of knowledge or ignorance. Either way you are a representation as to why the average tax paying resident should be concerned..... very concerned. If you follow suit as others such as yourself, you will now disappear now that you have been exposed.
Jeff Keithline January 20, 2012 at 08:12 PM
ahhh civil dis-coarse (before I am corrected - I meant to spell it like that) this thread has reminded me that many of us are pretty angry and, apparently, bear no responsibility for the mess we're in. How about all you folks with all this important information posting under your real names?
Heather Larkin January 20, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Doesn't matter how we got here, we're here. All this finger pointing is wasted energy.
EG Tom33 January 20, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Sorry ChiPat "The Keats of RI " with "Ode to a Union Thug", I didn't know you were the RI Poet Laureate. Excuse me. byetimmy, GV1953, ChiPat...see no evil...hear no evil...speak no evil. They are the voters of RI.
M Berg January 20, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Sorry Heather Larkin I can' disagree with you more. It absolutely matters how we got here and only it would be foolish to ingore the facts. Our state can only recover if we do not make the mistakes of the past. Our state and livelhood (our childrens also) is at risk of going down the drain. I agree that the nastiness is wasted energy, but we can't just continue to give away the store with the unions and their members. I agree the sacrifice must be shared!
NKRI Transparency January 20, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Angry - yes. Responsibility is mute, what is important is that it is fixed. Unfortunately the few do not feel the same.


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