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What Cinda Klickna doesn’t say about SB2404. Why we are not somebody else’s constituency.

May 18, 2013

Here’s is IEA President Cinda Klickna’s message to IEA members about Senate Bill 2404.

She attacks the IRTA as a “single constituency advocacy group.”

Of course, the single constituency she means are the retired members of the IEA in TRS. We are a rather important constituency when discussing pensions.

The stuff about administrators is silly.

IEA-Retired has retired administrators as well.

I was speaking at a luncheon of the IRTA last week. When I asked for a show of hands as to how many had been in the IEA or were IEA-Retired, half raised their hands. The other half had been in the IFT.

We are the same constituency, Cinda.

The real problem with this letter to members is what it doesn’t say.

There is no mention of John Cullerton’s last minute addition to SB2404 which may require us to pay 100% percent of health insurance premiums. It would more than double the cost of health care premiums to those who are already taking a two year freeze on their COLA.

Some might want to ask President Klickna and the other members of the We Are One coalition why she doesn’t mention this?

To: IEA-R Members

From: Cinda Klickna, Kathi Griffin, Al Llorens

RE: SB2404

By now you have heard about SB 2404, the pension bill negotiated and agreed to by the We Are One Coalition (WAOI), of which IEA is a member. The other members of the coalition are other public employee unions.

We would like to take this opportunity to clarify the agreement to help you understand why the coalition agreed to SB 2404.

SB 2404 is backed by IEA elected leaders, retirees

IEA leadership entered into negotiations with Senate President John Cullerton with the full approval of the IEA Board of Directors. The board’s direction to us was to negotiate, if possible, to get the best outcome for our members.

Secondly, after the details of the Cullerton-Coalition bill were made public, the IEA Retired Council reviewed the provisions and voted to approve the agreement.

We know many of you have dual memberships in both IEA-R and IRTA and have wondered why the two organizations have two different positions. We will explain.

Unions vs. single constituency advocacy groups

IRTA solely represents retired school employees, including administrators. IRTA is not a union. It is an advocacy organization for retirees.

IEA represents a much larger, far more diverse group, made up of retirees and active employees working in higher education and in k-12 education. We also represent ESPs.

We represent very few administrators.

Every day, IEA leaders are dealing with the impact of the state budget on our members; ESPs are losing jobs, k-12 employees are being RIF’d and/or taking freezes. Higher ed members have had their classes cut, affecting their take home pay.

No one can dispute that the pension systems are in financial trouble. There is simply not enough money to sustain them for the years to come.

We, as an organization, are committed to fighting to make sure both our active and retired members get their defined benefit pensions.

Constitutionality

SB 2404, the Cullerton-Coalition bill, is a choice model proposal that asks active and retired members to accept a benefit change in exchange for something of value. That concept is what gives the bill the greatest chance of being constitutional. And what retirees are getting in exchange for a two-year, non-consecutive freeze on their COLA is enforceable contractual access to state-provided healthcare.

IRTA and IEA have different views on its constitutionality.

The bill, which is 190+ pages, only became public on Monday, May 6. Immediately, IRTA claimed it had an opinion which says that that the bill is unconstitutional. And while opinions may differ as no court has directly decided the constitutionality of such a choice proposal, the IEA General Counsel, the WAOI attorneys and the Senate president’s attorney, who have had time to write and review every word of the proposal, however, have all agreed that the union-backed plan has the greatest chance of being found constitutional.

It is important to emphasize that enforceable contractual access to state-provided healthcare is not currently a contractual right.

The state could decide at any time to end access to state-provided healthcare. In addition, written into the bill is language that forces the state to fund the pensions, something they have not been required to do before, and makes that requirement a constitutional obligation.

This is the choice affecting current retirees (and Tier I Actives Already Set to Retire as of 1/1/2013)

Choice A

  • No change to 3% compounded COLA, except that COLA is subject to 2 non-consecutive 1-year freezes, and then return to 3% compounded COLA for life
  • Receive retiree healthcare access

Choice B

  • No change to 3% compounded COLA
  • No retiree healthcare access

We appreciate that retirees and actives are being asked to sacrifice, but we believe that this bill will help ensure that every IEA member will get the pension they have been promised.

We are a union. We must look out for each other.

It is regrettable that the IRTA won’t join with organized labor and support SB 2404.

As a union that is part of a labor coalition, we do not have the luxury of just saying “no” to any changes. A tremendous amount of work has gone into making sure this proposal is constitutional and fair to all.

Please tell your state Representative to VOTE “YES” on Senate Bill 2404, the Cullerton-Coalition pension bill. Stay informed about the latest developments by regularly checking the IEA website.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Joyce Siska permalink
    May 18, 2013 1:30 pm

    See–they already changed it! And this will continue…if anyone believes it won’t, they are drinking the koolaid!

    Famous last words… What difference does it make??? Sent from my iPhone

  2. Victor Patrick permalink
    May 18, 2013 2:22 pm

    You have to love IRTA’s Dragnet message of “Just the facts Ma’am”. They don’t belittle differing opinions because they have nothing to hide. On another note, I’ve got a bit of time on my hands, where can I get a copy of the 190+ page bill that was made public? What does “access” really mean and what will “healthcare” look like–distribution of a band-aid and hot water bottle? I’m beginning to think that IEA is nothing more than an acronym for Idiotic Episodic Absurdity!!

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      May 18, 2013 2:23 pm

      Link to the bill is on Glen’s “Trojan Horse” post.

  3. May 18, 2013 2:39 pm

    Nothing yet form Ol’ Haisman on this yet… Hmmm… Is Cinda still his hero?

  4. May 18, 2013 2:52 pm

    “As a union that is part of a labor coalition, we do not have the luxury of just saying “no” to any changes. A tremendous amount of work has gone into making sure this proposal is constitutional and fair to all.”

    Hey Cinda, Kathi and Al…

    HELLOOOO in there! I am NOT a member of IEA so that I can sit by and watch my leaders say that they don’t have the luxury of just saying no when it comes to benefits that are protected BY LAW because they decided to join a coalition the acts more like an advocacy group than a union. No, in this bizarro world it would appear that the advocacy group(IRTA) is much stronger than the unions.

    As for OUR union leaders and the union leaders of the coalition, well… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdFLPn30dvQ

  5. Bill permalink
    May 18, 2013 3:03 pm

    So what part of the word access do you not understand? Trip premiums vary based on cost. Employees, employers, and the state kick in toward the cost and the remainder is picked up by the retiree. The state can cut its subsidy at any time now. That’s why premiums increase now. If the GA pulls the state subsidy altogether which it can do now, or anytime, the retiree’s premium will go up. The choice is access nothing more. If you don’t want it you can keep your COLA. There’s no conspiracy, no lies. They described the bill exactly and correctly. Sorry you read it wrong.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      May 18, 2013 3:08 pm

      Where is the consideration?

      • Bill permalink
        May 18, 2013 5:37 pm

        The consideration is access to a group health plan which may be worthless to someone who is medicare eligible. For those not medicare eligible they can make a choice to go into the Obamacare exchange in January and keep their COLA or stick with the state plan and give up 2 years of COLA. Look, I don’t like it either but I would rather go to court with the lesser of the two evils. No matter what passes your new friends in the IRTA have promised to sue so if you are right about constitutionality it will get thrown out anyway, right?
        Remember this is not law yet. There are more changes to come if this ever gets called in the House. The coalition made clear that 2404 is the bottom line. If there are amendments they have testified that they will take themselves off the bill.
        Your hostility should be directed at the Speaker not your own leaders. They are doing the best that they can to make sure everyone, active or retired, gets hurt as little as possible. I know you don’t like them. I’m not trying to change your mind. I just don’t believe that there is any conspiracy or that the coalition lied or tried to fool anybody. What would be the upside for them to do that? The easiest thing for them to do would be to just say no and gamble with everyone’s future.

      • Fred Klonsky permalink*
        May 18, 2013 6:01 pm

        Bill,
        Our Constitutional protection states that our pension may not be diminished or impaired. It means what it says.
        For most retirees under the age of 65, TRIP is their primary health insurance.
        Your tactical theory that it is better to go to court over the lesser of two evils was undermined when We Are One bargained this agreement. Now the state can claim that it was a modification of a contract.
        Much to our dismay, this actually makes the Madigan SB1 the more likely of the two to be found unconstitutional. It is actually you and the leadership that advocate playing the more dangerous game.
        Any changes to SB2404 by the House or in conference will certainly not improve it from the point or view of those on a pension.
        If you are a reader of this blog you would know that my hostility has always, always been directed at the Speaker. And the Senate President. And the Governor. And the Mayor of the City of Chicago. And even at the impotent Republicans.
        Since I don’t know them, accusing me of not liking the union leadership is silly. I have no ambitions for union office or power. I was a K-5 teacher for nearly 30 years. An unpaid local president for 10. I retired last June. I am about to turn 65.
        Trust me. There is no power in being a K-5 teacher. Or being a local president. Just ask yours.
        What personal gain could there possibly be for me to be critical of our leadership if it weren’t earned? Your assumptions of my evil intentions are not really supported by any evidence.
        I expect my union’s leadership to fight for the interests of its members. I do not expect them to surrender when our Constitutional rights are under attack. An aggressive defense of our rights is essential for every working citizen in Illinois, IEA member or not.
        Nobody ever claimed a conspiracy (except perhaps you). The facts about the Cullerton amendment 002, added the day before SB2404 was passed by the Senate, was not included on any of the information that went out to members.
        This is simply true.
        Facts are difficult things.
        -Fred

  6. TomTully permalink
    May 18, 2013 7:15 pm

    Fred,

    Question to the IEA Board of Directors this morning: Did you know about cutting off the subsidy to TRIP?

    I have browsed everywhere and I can’t find the language above that you posted anywhere in SB 2404. I can’t find anywhere that it says the state will not subsidize the retiree insurance and I can’t find anywhere that it states retirees will pay 100% of their premium?

    “Trip premiums vary based on cost. Employees, employers, and the state kick in toward the cost and the remainder is picked up by the retiree. The state can cut its subsidy at any time now. That’s why premiums increase now. If the GA pulls the state subsidy altogether which it can do now, or anytime, the retiree’s premium will go up. The choice is access nothing more.”

    Bill I agree with you.

    • Fred Klonsky permalink*
      May 19, 2013 12:01 am

      Tom,
      See Senator Cullerton’s amendment 002 to to SB2404.
      You can only dismiss the issue of the cost of health insurance by dismissing the issue of consideration. If retirees are forced to choose between COLA and access to TRIP and then must pay the full amount of the premium, then what is the consideration for giving up a constitutionally and contractual guaranteed benefit that is equal to or better than what we presently have?
      -Fred

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