Looking back three years ago at the pension debate in the IEA.

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Former IEA President Bob Haisman. Looking back on the pension fight, the IEA leadership turned out be be wrong on every important point, tactic and strategy.

My good friend Glen Brown has been looking back at the past five years of posts he has written about the fight to defend the pension protection clause of the Illinois Constitution.

They are brilliant. Every post. I have now posted the entire catalog on my blog just below the banner.

It is good to look back. Not for the purpose of assigning credit or blame, but to prepare for the fights to come.

Today, on the third anniversary of the post that follows and the responses to it,  I start with Glen’s blog post from three years ago today, May 10th, 2013.

Please read on to the comments.

Former IEA President Bob Haisman criticizes Glen’s analysis. Haisman does a good job of presenting the position of the IEA leadership. I have made no grammatical or spelling corrections to any of the responses.

Glen, John Dillon, Ken Previti, David Levin and I respond. All the responses are worth reading.

Looking back, Haisman and the leadership turned out to be wrong on every point, every tactic and strategy.

They were wrong until they were left with no choice but to go to the courts.

FRIDAY, MAY 10, 2013

Why Any “Pension Reform” Is a Devious Ruse

Because we are victims of today’s state (and federal) politics that have created an unethical “winner-take-all” economy for wealthy egomaniacs at the expense of everyone else; because we are victims of Republican and Democratic legislators at the state and federal levels who align their interests with corporations and who pass laws that sustain their concentrated economic privilege and power;

Because we are victims of deregulation and tax reductions for the wealthy minority that have resulted from organized political action by and in support of the wealthy sector; because we are victims of politicians’ divide-and-conquer strategies, fallacious rationalizations, distorted information and diversionary and radical “pension reform” for public employees and tax cuts for the wealthy, regardless of whether corporate welfare produces more deficits;

Because we are victims of insidious financial reforms that do not resolve the state’s (or federal) deficit problems but accommodate and reinforce the enormous inequality of organizational resources of corporate self-seekers; because we are victims of their tyranny and their lack of accountability for destroying a representative democracy and a just economy; because we are victims of their Super PACs and their vast resources of money and influence committed to reforming the rules and policies that have adversely affected the lives of the middle class and disenfranchised;

Because we are victims of politicians’ machinations to destroy the public employees’ defined-benefit retirement plans, even though most corporate executives will have this guarantee and will retire with exorbitant bonuses and other outrageous incentives;

Because we are victims of partisan polarization and well-financed organizational interest group politics and policies; of compromised corporate-owned media, such as the Chicago Tribune, that have been bought by the wealthy minority to shape what and how readers think about fiscal issues;

Because we are also victims of many unethical legislators who are clueless about “long-term retirement policy objectives” and are “influenced by projections that include unrelated healthcare liabilities or irrelevant corporate sector metrics,” and who have no desire to pay what is owed to the public pension systems that any public pension reform is a devious ruse.

And because we are victims of today’s disappearing and weakened organized labor unions that were once the guardians of middle-class workers and representative democracy; of their inability to build a more effective protest and to launch a counter-attack against the arrogant, wealthy minority and their politicians who are waging an economic war against the poor and middle class in Illinois (and elsewhere);

And because many of the union membership are indifferent, indecisive and politically unaware,  we will remain scapegoats for reprehensible problems created by the “wealthy elite” and perpetuated by their bought-and-paid-for politicians.

Until we mobilize our collective efforts against powerful economic interests, and marshal essential resources and draw upon experts in the fields of economics and law, the lucrative lobbying of a state’s policymakers to reduce a state’s debt will continue by way of challenging constitutional contracts of public employees.

No matter what pension reform bill is passed, it will never be enough to address the serious underlying problems that exist.  Politicians will use public employees’ pensions as a diversionary tactic again because they were able to make public employees and retirees the scapegoats for the state’s budget problems.

Bob Haisman:

WOW! Glen! ANY PENSION Reform Is A Ruse? So is that a play of that the word “Reform” — When Madigan uses it — really translates into benefit cuts?

BUT NO REFORM ? Really? No Efforts to deal with the onslaught? Crawl into our foxhole and weight for the tanks to rumble over? Crawl into a fox hole and wait for someone to pass a progressive income tax – maybe three years from now! Stay couped up in this fox hole for three years ….Really?

By the way who do you think might get an Graduated income tax constitutional amendment on the ballot? Who might introduce legislation to close loop Tax holes? Maybe one of those weakened Unions? The IRTA? Certainly we wouldn’t entrust that important of an idea to the IEA?? I know the IEA and IEA President Klickna are not favorites of the “Pension Blogasphere”. Seems to me that, that Dam IEA can’t not anything good, moral, valuable or ….anything right. They can’t even be effective Machiavellians!

I mean lets look at IEA Lobby Day – its stupid. OK we will Cancel Lobby Day – that is stupid. Let’s have lobby day when we need it -like January during veto session….Oh its too cold that’s stupid. OK Lets have it in may — OH OK! … Wait I don’t agree with you now I’m staying home!!

For the record — I don’t like lobby day. I usually find it a waste of time. But I like to talk to legislators. I think I’m going this year –(BTW — Reports of it’s death this week were premature) We have a reason to try to talk to our legislators.) That little rave was tied that the IEA does not seem to have much creditability on the “pension Blogoshere”! My Point is Get over it -even if the IEA didn’t exist we would have to create one!

As usual you use big words and complex sentences in your blog so I’m at a disadvantage commenting on the Sage from LT’s blog. But comment I must. I disagree with YOU! I disagree with You Big Time.

Glen Brown:
There are no “big words” in these two sentences, Bob:
 1) The State of Illinois has pension debt and revenue problems.
 2) “Pension reform” (or breaking a contract with public employees) is not the solution.
 Yes, Bob, the IEA “has negotiated” many positive “changes to the Teachers Retirement System.”
The IEA also gave us Senate Bill 7 and Public Act 88-0593 in 1995 (the current unsustainable funding law called the “Pension Ramp”).
Bob Haisman:

YOU JUST HAD TO BRING UP PA 88 didn’t you Glen!! LOL!

I ran for the IEA Presidency in 1993 on the pledge to do something about the 9 Billion Dollar Unfunded Liability. I had been yelling about and against the UFL since 1980 — when as a delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly — I presented New Business Item #9 — entitled “Days of Rage” where I called for the IEA to conduct a state wide strike and have teachers “March on Springfield” to demand a solution to the then 5 Billion UFL!! (my NBI lost. overwhelmingly.)

In 1993 — in a three person race for the IEA Presidency I won 73% of the vote on the First ballot because I was talking PENSION REFORM.

“WE” — The IEA passed Public Act 88-0593 in 1995 to address the Unfunded Liability. I know PA 88 is roundly criticized in 2013 but it was a good faith effort to systemically fix the “REVENUE” Problem.

So GO AHEAD Glen (LOL!) — tie me to one of your top two IEA disasters — but we were well intentioned. We were trying to look forward 50 years. We had to get a bill passed that Governor Edgar would sign. We tried. I did my best to fix the problem. I failed. Go ahead Rub it in! My contention was it was working till PA 88 meet Blago. I guess once again I disagree with you Glen — just over my motivation in trying to fix the UFL problem not your characterization of PA 88 as an unmitigated , colossal mistake! It is hard to pass substantive laws in Springfield — Glen — harder then it appears.

Fred Klonsky:

It is good that former IEA President Bob Haisman has decided to step up to the plate to defend the indefensible.

The IEA leadership has obviously decided to lay low as a result of their deal with Cullerton. It is unfortunate that Haisman has decided to use snark as an argument however. His snarkiness might make sense in his numerous comments on my blog, but readers of this blog know that they can count on every assertion that Glen makes will be supported by sources and citations.

It is what makes this blog a powerful tool in members struggle to defend what is rightfully ours.

John Dillon:

I am ever hopeful that SB2404 would or might be the answer to the constant assaults on the pensions of teachers, public workers and civil servants in Illinois, but to herald SB2404 as “a new alliance” seems premature at best.

Will Lovitt warned at the IEA Retired conference that there was a different culture in Springfield, a different attitude, and one unlike anything he’d seen since he began working there. I believed that he meant the legislators were displaying an unusual sense of urgency and commitment to act. In fact, he was also describing our union representatives, wasn’t he?

Those of us in the “blogosphere” have become quite accustomed to living in the future, one with little trust in shiny new promises, which agree to replace older broken vows. Temporary band aids for serious structural revenue issues will not hold, and as Ralph Martire warns, anything short of real fixes will find us facing another assault later on. SB2404 is not a comprehensive fix.

In fact, the bill forces real pain and fiscally coercive choices upon actives and retirees. It frees up $850 million in 2015 according to TRS, but it negatively affects the financial lives on active workers – and it forces those elderly and retired to choose between a promise of thwarting inflation or assistance in illness.

That’s why the hesitation. That’s why you and all of us heard people at the conference telling Will to stand by the Constitution. They may have been naïve. They may have been cynical. But they do know how we got here, and they do know what real solutions would look like because of Teacherpoetmusician.

Can’t we all just get along?

Ken Previti:

Why are you still yelling “rah-rah IEA” after IEA has done its deed? Please, enough.
The votes will be there. The damage will be done. Your fellow retirees will suffer each to his or her own degree.

The legislative minions of the disaster capitalists have created a crisis and a solution – a solution to their advantage – not a reasonable solution for retirees or active teachers. (Glen, John, Ralph, Fred and others offered real solutions to the created crisis.) The IEA caved to pressure.

I know a woman who retired not long after I did. She then had heart surgery. With no SS, Medicare or affordable healthcare guaranteed her, she married an ill man with money and Medicare coverage who needed emotional assurance and a future nurse. They married. They each know why. They are among the fortunate retirees.

There is no place in their lives, or mine, to join in with “rah-rah.” There are thousands of retirees whose lives will play out in much worse ways than ours.

Please desist out of decency.

David Levin:

I’ve lost sight of why we had to negotiate what is guaranteed in our State Constitution.

Were all public employees and retirees believing that our pensions were really going to be impaired or diminished? Did all teachers get so worried that we would lose a court challenge, particularly since the judges’ pensions would be unscathed with the legislative attacks? Did we all believe that Article 8, Section 5 was not strong enough to protect our pensions and so we had to “negotiate” with the money-hungry legislators of the General Assembly to save our pensions from those who failed to uphold the State Constitution?
And now that the IEA and the We Are One Coalition managed to persuade many people that SB 2404 is what teachers and retirees want to have our legislative leaders to vote for, what will prevent future legislative leaders from taking action again against teachers and retires by announcing that the State Constitution needs another legislative bill because the State cannot afford to support what is required in SB 2404.
When does it all stop? I’ve lost sight of why we had to negotiate.
Fred Klonsky:

How can We Are One, the IEA leaders and lawyers promise an ironclad funding source, funding stabilization and a constitutionally guaranteed health care provision? Their entire argument for bargaining away our original constitutionally-protected pension is that they don’t believe the courts will ultimately agree that we have constitutionally-protected benefits.

This is an argument that is perfectly circular.

Out of a fear that the courts will rule against our constitutionally-protected benefits, we agree to give up those benefits in exchange for constitutionally protected benefits in a deal that costs every member of the pension systems their benefits. If we don’t come out worse out of this deal, where do Cullerton’s savings to the state come from?

There are no new revenues after all. That’s our money. It is only our money and nobody else’s. The burden for this revenue crisis falls on the backs of state employees. Only us.

Who doesn’t believe that if the legislature gets this deal that they won’t be back for more next year? Or the year after?

We are teachers or retired teachers. We have all had a kid who had a parent who couldn’t say no. It did the kid no favor. And it made life miserable for everyone else.
While the issue of constitutionality is important, in the end this is not about what is constitutional or what is not. What is most important is not what counts as consideration or not. Whether four lawyers, or five lawyers, or a hundred lawyers say Senate Bill 2404 is constitutional or not.

The problem is that we have union leaders who are afraid to say no. And the problem is that the inability of our leaders to say no will bring the pension killers back again and again and again. It doesn’t do anyone a favor. Least of all us.

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