JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - As expected, a Jackson County courtroom was packed with Singing River Health System retirees Friday showing their solidarity.
Originally, Judge Neil Harris was supposed to hold a hearing concerning a temporary restraining order which is keeping SRHS from dissolving its employee pension fund. However, the judge said because of state law, he is bound to move the case to federal court, as requested by SRHS attorneys on Thursday.
After court was dismissed, some retirees talked about how they felt about the decision.
Some retirees said they'd like to see this case heard in state court because of their familiarity with the judge.
Others thought that going to federal court would lead to a more in depth investigation into how the pension fund was handled.
Most people said they don't care where the case is tried. They just want the kind of retirement payout they were promised.
About 100 people sat in on the proceedings. Many retirees said they gave decades of service to SRHS and what they're getting in return is worry about how they'll be able to pay their bills if the pension fund is terminated.
"I feel betrayed. I feel betrayed, and I feel all of us feel betrayed," said Ralph Drury. "For a lot of us, and for me, it could mean that we could lose everything we have. We have so much in medical bills and water and electrical and house note automobile note, and if we don't get a retirement check, we're not able to survive."
Dorothy Gillam's husband retired from SRHS after 33 years on the job.
"I think it's a disgrace to the employees, especially the retired employees who put the time in to make the hospital the system that it is today," said Gillam. "It's just not right for them to do what they're trying to do. I think it was deception. There's a lot of other things going on that need to be brought out. I'm praying that God will reveal and uncover what went on with the retirement plan, because there are people who were expecting that money."
The retirees are hoping by going to court they'll get the full benefits they were promised and, they're hoping to hear the full truth about how the pension fund has been handled.
"We just want people to know we're here. We're watching and we want answers and we want the retirement fully funded," said retiree Trudy Nelson.
"It should be all brought out. Everything needs to be revealed and uncovered. I don't know what court it should be in," said Gillam."
As they face an uncertain future, the retirees say they're leaning on each other for support.
"Just to have people to talk to in the same situation really helps and knowing you're not facing the battle alone," said Nelson.
Having worked together for so long, many of the retirees said they feel like family. Still, they are getting to know those who worked at different sites from themselves.
Nelson said people who were strangers have become close friends. For example, herself and Jean Manning.
"That's right, and we're not alone. All the retirees are united, and we're going to stay in there until the bitter end, as you might say," said Manning.
We are still awaiting word for when this case will go before a federal judge, but the retirees say you'd better believe they plan to be there.