Without an iron-clad promise, your pension benefits can be bargained away.

IEA President Cinda Klickna presiding over the IEA Representative Assembly (left). Glen Brown and me at the 2015 RA as elected delegates.

The past few days Glen Brown and I have been having a conversation, sharing our reaction to Eric Madiar’s recent statements on pension reform.

For years Madiar was Senate President Cullerton consigliere on all things pension.

I posted Madiar’s op-ed from the State Journal-Register on Monday.

Glen also posted it, along with two other excerpts from a longer recent article by Madiar yesterday  and today.

They are important reads.

First. To be clear, the pensions of current public employee retirees in Illinois are protected as protected can be by the May, 2015 ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court. On that point, there is no debate.

The issue that Madiar takes on is whether or not unions representing current active employees can, through the collective bargaining process, modify pension benefits in spite of the Illinois Constitution’s pension protection clause. Madiar suggests that there is legal precedent as long as they follow contract law.

“In short, New York court decisions indicate that duly authorized unions may collectively bargain over and waive the protected pension benefit rights of their members in exchange for consideration.”

“Whether Illinois courts will reach the same broad conclusion as New York courts with respect to Illinois public sector labor unions under our Pension Clause remains to be seen. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, however, has expressed interest in not waiting long to find out.”

Yesterday I wrote how Glen and I tried at the 2015 Illinois Education Association Representative Assembly,  to get an iron-clad promise from the leadership of the IEA not to bargain away what we had won in the courts. The leadership refused, claiming it would “tie their hands.”

Every current active public employee in a union should be concerned that without an iron-clad promise not to do so from their union leadership, their pension benefits may be bargained away.

I was asked what pension reform should our unions be advocating.

There is only one.

Raise revenue and demand that the state pay what they owe.

3 thoughts on “Without an iron-clad promise, your pension benefits can be bargained away.

  1. So what do current public employees expect from the leaderships of the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois AFL-CIO, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, AFSCME Council 31, Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association, Fraternal Order of Police, Service Employees International Union, Laborers International Union of North America Midwest Region, Illinois Public Pension Fund Association, National Pension Coalition, United Transportation Union, Laborers International Union of North America – Chicago District Council, AFSCME International Union, National Education Association, Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge 7 Chicago, Fireman’s Association of Chicago – Local 2, Illinois Nurses Association, Teamsters Local 700, and Teamsters Joint Council 25?

    They expect the leaderships of the labor unions to competently defend our contractual and constitutional pension benefits and rights without apologies, without concessions, and without compromise!

    What do public employees need to do? One suggestion from a teacher I know is to lobby the unions: organize your members to petition the executive committees of your labor unions. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

  2. Dear Fred,

    So the I.E.A. refuses to promise to protect the pension rights of those it bargains for. Time for a new bargaining agent. Why pay dues to get shafted by your own people?

    And even if you are not a member of the union, the “exclusive bargaining agent” (I.E.A.) gets to negotiate “for” you anyway. Sounds like problems ahead with the concept of “exclusive bargaining agent”.

    The I.E.A. has sold it’s own down the river before (with things like SB 7). I wouldn’t trust them with anything at this point. Perhaps there could be legal action against the I.E.A. by members or non-members who don’t want their pension rights bargained away?

    How could something like this not be a coerced choice?

  3. For starters they can eliminate the EDGE program that corporate Illinois enjoys. To me this is the most glaring lack of revenue for the state seeing that 2/3rd of them pay essentially no income tax. Secondly, a progressive tax would be fair to make wealthy pay their fair share. Thirdly, and I hate to say this, but an income tax on pensions and annuities and the like would go a long way. They could do something on the order of starting a tax at the 50,000 level. This way the vast majority of public employees would not be effected. I know….I know……speak for yourself……just my 2 cents.

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