Fifty on the bus for eight hours to Springfield and back. More drove down.
In preparation for our IEA Region’s occupation of Springfield, I had called ahead last week to Governor Quinn’s office.
Quinn didn’t answer the phone.
Instead I had a nice talk with a Dona Dalton, one of the Governor’s people.
I explained that a group of 60 teachers, both active and retired, would be in Springfield on May 2nd. I told Dona that we were planning to come by the Governor’s office at 1PM to share with him our thoughts about his proposals to destroy the teacher pension system as we know it.
I didn’t exactly put it in those words.
But you get the idea.
It’s a four hour bus ride from the Golf Mill shopping center where the bus picked us up to the Illinois capital. Four hours back. But we were on a mission.
After a quick lunch at the IEA headquarters on Edwards Street in Springfield, it is a quick walk over to the Capitol building. Some of our group headed off to visit their hometown legislators. Most of us waited to meet Park Ridge Senator Dan Kotowski outside the Capitol.
We shared our thoughts about the pension issue with Senator Kotowski, who has been supportive in the past.
Matt asked the Senator why teachers are being asked to pay more and get less, while corporations like Sears and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange are asked to pay less and get more?
Linda told the Senator that neither she nor any of the colleagues in her building understand how teachers have become the target, portrayed as greedy and uncaring.
“It makes no sense.”
We were on a tight schedule. So we thanked the Senator for his time and headed into the Capitol to the second floor where the Governor’s office is.
Those who had visited other legislators were waiting.
“They will only let one person into the office,” I was told.
I went in and tried to speak with the secretary. She kept holding up one finger (not that one), as she punched buttons on her phone.
Finally, I saw my opportunity to speak.
“We have a 1PM appointment with Dona Dalton.”
The secretary hit another button, spoke into her phone and then told me that Dona was in another building and was on her way.
“How long,” I asked?
I went through the double glass doors to let folks know what was up.
A short little fat man came up to me. He had a pin on his lapel and a curly wire coming out of his sleeve, like the secret service wear.
He looked like Ed Asner.
“They can’t come in here,” he told me.
“I thought this was the people’s office,” I said.
“But only one people,” I joked.
Ed Asner didn’t laugh.
Two more state police officers in uniform showed up to guard the Governor’s door.
Things were getting tense.
We kidded the state cops about why they needed all this for a bunch of elementary and middle school teachers who just wanted to talk to the governor of their state.
They didn’t find it as funny as we did.
Then Dona showed up. She was very young and clearly didn’t have a clue about what we were talking about.
She was accompanied by “Nick,” who was not the guy she would be able to get the clue from.
She explained that this was a work day, so that we couldn’t go into the Governor’s office. But that she would send around a legal pad for us to all put our names on and that there was a small conference room down the hall where she and “Nick” would meet with four of us.
I said that we didn’t have time to sign the legal pad. That we all had traveled four hours to Springfield and would be traveling four hours back. We were on a mission to give a message to the Governor. I said that we would give that message together and not leave until we had.
We had no intention of meeting with her in a conference room that held four people.
And we proceeded to share our message as Dona took notes.
We left, reminding Dona that the Governor was elected by only a few thousand votes.
Park Ridge Democratic State Senator Dan Kotowski meets with us outside the Capitol.
Linda asks Senator Kotowski, “How did we become the problem?”
Waiting outside the Governor’s office.
“Only one person is allowed in the Governor’s office”, says the security guy who looks like Ed Asner.
Dona takes notes.
This is “Nick.” I asked him if he knew that teachers receive no social security. He mumbled something that sounded like, “No.”