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.
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.
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.