Yesterday, following the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling on the City pension case I focused on the contention by the City’s lawyers that an agreement with unions representing employees made the law constitutional
In its ruling the Court said the unions “were not acting as authorized agents within the collective bargaining process….Rather, ‘these negotiations were no different that legislative advocacy on behalf of any interest group supporting collective interested to a lawmaking body.’”
From that I drew the conclusion that the public employee unions could not bargain away our benefits as the IEA, IFT and other public union leaders tried to do when they bargained SB2404 with Senate President John Cullerton. SB2404 never made it into law. If it had, retirees would have seen their COLAs diminished.
In a response to the Court’s ruling yesterday, IEA General Counsel Mitch Roth sent out an email. He wrote, “Whether a union and employer could agree to changes through the collective bargaining process remains an open question.”
I think this is a large amount of self-serving lawyer talk.
I don’t argue that in the past the unions have represented us in bargaining to improve retirement benefits.
However, the crux of the matter is whether the result is an improvement or a diminishment of benefits.
Chicago argued that a promise to secure the solvency of the pension systems counted as consideration. Consideration is required in any change to a contractual agreement. The court ruled that Chicago could not claim that simply continuing to fund the system counted as consideration.
The Court has ruled that there is no constitutional requirement to fund the pension system. The Court has been consistent on this. But the constitutional and contractual promise to pay it is their concern.
So. Is Mitch right that whether a union and employer can agree to changes through the collective bargaining process remains an open question?
Nobody challenged the right of the union to represent their members and members of a class when it was done to improve retirement benefits.
The court was clear that the unions can’t bargain on behalf of the employees if the results are a diminishment or impairment of benefits.