32nd Ward Alderman and member of the Council Progressive Caucus talks to NBC and WTTW reporter Carol Marin.
“When I retired after working 33 years for the Chicago Public Library, I did so with the understanding that I would receive subsidies for my health care,” said Mary Jones, president of the Chicago-area AFSCME Retirees Subchapter, “Now the City is abandoning City retirees, and we are faced with some very hard choices about how to get by on our modest pensions.”
Mother, and childcare specialist April Drayton described the tense realities in the childcare field due to Governor Bruce Rauner’s slashing of childcare and early learning budgets. “Despite having multiple degrees in early childhood education, I make just $11.35 an hour with no benefits, because that’s all the daycare owner can afford to pay me,” said Drayton. “We should be clear whose work is being undervalued and underpaid — the childcare workforce in Chicago is overwhelmingly women, half of us are African-Amercan, and another third of the workforce is Latino.”
We really value hearing directly from Chicagoans in this process,” said Progressive Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32). “We heard the voices of our constituents loudly–it is time to start asking the wealthiest among us and the major corporations who call Chicago home to pay more, so that we can fully fund the priorities and needs of our residents.”
The Progressive Reform Caucus includes Ald. Leslie Hairston (5); Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6); Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10); Ald. Toni Foulkes (16); Ald. David Moore (17); Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22); Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35); Ald. Nick Sposato (38); and Ald. John Arena (45).
If the Emanuel Administration follows through on its planned phase out of all City of Chicago health care plans for retired city employees, many retirees could find themselves without any health insurance coverage at all after January 1.
The city claims that retirees will be able to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act, but there is a very real danger that President-Elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans will move quickly to repeal the ACA.
Retirees who aren’t eligible for Medicare do have a coverage option outside the ACA, but this new, city-initiated Blue Cross Blue Shield plan would cost around $1,400 a month ($16,800 a year). That’s nearly half of the average pension of a City of Chicago retiree in the municipal fund.
“It’s like the city of Chicago tied cement blocks to our feet and dropped us in Lake Michigan to drown,” said Dorothy Harding, an AFSCME Retirees sub-chapter 60 member.
AFSCME has enlisted the aid of concerned aldermen to press the Emanuel Administration to extend city health insurance subsidies for retirees with modest incomes who are not eligible for Medicare.
“It would be unconscionable for the city to ignore its responsibility to retirees,” AFSCME Council 31 Director of Research and Benefits Martha Merrill said. “We continue to press for a solution that ensures Chicago retirees have affordable health care in their retirement.”