Pensions are a promise? They’re more than that.


Mayor-elect Lori Lightfoot went down to Springfield this week to meet with legislators and the Governor.

More than a few Chicago legislators expressed their appreciation since Mayor Rahm rarely ventured the three hours south, sending “his people” instead.

The not-yet-mayor (some folks seem to forget that she won’t be sworn in until late May) spoke to both the House and Senate. She made a good statement on pensions.

Lightfoot opposes any change in the Illinois constitution’s pension protection clause.

I grew up in a union household and I also watched men in my town who had spent their whole lives working in steel mills lose their pensions.

Let me be clear about my first principles regarding pensions. Pensions are a promise. We cannot turn our backs on those promises. I’m committed to working collaboratively with all stakeholders and through the collective bargaining process to make sure we can meet our commitments.

That’s great.

I have to say, however, that I am leery of the slogan, “pensions are a promise.”

I don’t blame the Mayor-elect for putting it that way. Our teacher unions put it the same way.

But it reminds me of when the kids were little and I would ask if they had cleaned their room or if they took out the garbage.

“Not yet. We’ll do it. We promise,”  the kids would say.

And, of course, the chores wouldn’t get done.

Promises, promises.

Or some lazy afternoons I will watch The People’s Court on TV. It’s a guilty pleasure.

The plaintiff will say that the defendant owes them some money. The defendant will say they don’t. The plaintiff will say they had a promise. The defendant will say they didn’t. The plaintiff will say it was a verbal agreement. The defendant will deny it.

And then it happens.

“Do you have it in writing?” the judge will ask the plaintiff. “Anything? Even some texts?”

The plaintiff will say no and the judge will dismiss the case.

Boom, boom, boom.

So much for promises.

Watching The People’s Court teaches an important lesson: Get it in writing.

And public employees have it in writing. We have a contract and we have a constitutional guarantee that says our pensions may not be diminished or impaired.

You can look it up.

And more than The People’s Court, we have the Illinois Supreme Court agreeing with us.

So, I appreciate the Mayor-elect’s statement that pensions are a promise.

A moral obligation, in fact.

However, our pensions are more than a promise.

They are a legal obligation.

We have it in writing.



8 thoughts on “Pensions are a promise? They’re more than that.

  1. When Daley years ago would not grant raises during contract negotiations with the CTU but instead “promised” he’d beef up pensions, (he didn’t) he called it deferred compensation. Deferred pay.

  2. This is very good. You hit it on the head – pensions are an obligation, not just a promise. Thank you for putting this so clearly.

  3. Though nice she realizes this. She met with the Bashir crazy Eastern Bloc which are a bunch of secessionist from southeast Illinois. Someone brought up Forgotonia which was a comical succession for more money in Western Illinois. This one is nasty with a strong stench of racism.

  4. “Pensions are a promise.”
    Sounds good, better that the alternative, but she already folded on the Lincoln Yards TIF so I’m still leery.
    I’m still searching for the old Chicago Tonight segment (it was apres Supreme Court pension protection decision.) where she weighed in on pensions.

    1. “Folded on Lincoln Yards?” You do understand the deal was done and she’s not the Mayor yet. It’s Rahm’s deal. But why talk about that when you can blame it on LIghtfoot.

      1. It was Rahm’s deal, but he offered to step aside – Kabuki theater, no doubt, but still……it was an opportunity to intervene. Sorry, but I’m in the neighborhood and the thought of 50 story mid-century glass boxes on Webster surrounded by unrelenting gridlock is chilling.

      2. So, you bought Rahm and O’Connor story that they would get out of the way of the multi-billion dollar project and let Lori kill it? Why would they lie?

  5. I have always told others to NOT say, “a pension is a promise” because, well, as you illustrate so well above, promises are broken (unlike IL–please cut out your desperate/disparate rhetoric, Civic Committee & IL Policy Institute) ALL.THE.TIME. I’d always told my daughter that I would not often make promises but that, if I did, she would know that it was a keeper (so I didn’t make many & I never did break one…although I’ve made so many other boneheaded mistakes!).
    I hope some of these C.C. & I.P.I. people will come to hear (really, to LISTEN to & to HEED his pension solutions) Ralph Martire of the Center for Tax & Budget Accountability tomorrow night at the Evanston Library (as well as many of you) at a Sen. Laura Fine & Reps, Robyn Gabel & Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz Town Hall, starting at 7:00 PM.
    Be sure to come early; it WILL be packed.
    & maybe, just maybe, our Springfield legislators & new governor will take his advice THIS time…

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