Glen Brown: A reflection on the IEA leadership at the Representative Assembly that still bothers me six weeks later.

Glen Brown

– By Glen Brown. This is cross posted from Glen’s blog site, Teacher/Poet/Musician/Blogger Cat. Glen and I were elected on a common slate as retired delegates to the Illinois Education Association’s Representative Assembly. It was held last April in Rosemont, Illinois.

What kind of union is the IEA or how to keep members from talking about significant issues:

Case in point: A New Business Item was presented at the IEA Representative Assembly last April.

It was called New Business Item #3:

Text of Motion: “The IEA-RA directs the IEA-RA Planning Committee to no longer have an invocation that is led by a religious figure who mentions religion or a religious deity.”

Rationale: “The IEA is a non-religious union who should not expect its members to ask any religious deity (i.e. ‘Holy Father’) for guidance. Members of this union are not just Christian, but of other religions as well.” (Submitted by Justine Rovin and seconded by Louis Passau).

Budget Committee Comments: No financial impact.

The “invocation” discussion was allowed more time (at least several minutes) on the floor than any other issue. The New Business Item did not pass. Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution was never cited.

What the IEA never talked about at the Representative Assembly were strategies for after the Supreme Court ruling — no plan on how to proceed in protecting our pensions and battling the privatization of public schools; no discussion about pushing the issue of a progressive income tax again or preventing the possibility of the state transferring the normal costs (to pensions) to school districts; no strategies were debated for dealing with a despotic governor and his right-to-work agenda and vehement attacks on unions; no tactics were discussed for engaging the many liars and thieves of the Illinois General Assembly…

“Unions, organizations formerly steeped in the doctrine of class struggle and filled with those who sought broad social and political rights for the working class, have been transformed into domesticated partners of the capitalist class. They have been reduced to simple bartering tools. The social demands of unions early in the twentieth century that gave the working class weekends off, the right to strike, the eight-hour day, and Social Security have been abandoned” (Chris Hedges).

Glen Brown responds to John Dillon. Pension theft can never be legally or morally justified.

Glen Brown

 – Glen Brown is a retired teacher, pension activist and candidate for retired delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly. He blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician.

Well said, John Dillon,

Any unilateral modification of the “Pension Clause” should be seen as “the result of a violation of fair dealing,” as an accommodation for “only” the General Assembly who have stolen money from the public pension systems for decades and are, thus, “avoiding a pre-existing duty rule” (Professor of Law, Emeritus, Claude D. Rohwer and Professor of Law, Emeritus, Anthony M. Skrocki, Contracts in a Nutshell).

“The significance of any modification of the “Pension Clause” is “the extent to which [public employees] will be deprived of the benefit [they] reasonably expected; the extent to which [public employees] can be adequately compensated for the part of that benefit of which [they] will be deprived; […and] the extent to which the behavior of the party [Illinois General Assembly] failing to perform or to offer to perform [or] comports with standards of good faith and fair dealing” (Rohwer & Skrocki).

The significant issue of Madigan’s pension reform is its attack on public employees’ rights to constitutionally-guaranteed compensation and the legislators’ obligation to safeguard those promises. An unconscionable constitutional challenge of those rights and benefits generates a serious threat to their security and sense of dignity as citizens and creates the unfair possibility for an economic disadvantage for a particular group of people and their families. This can never be legally or morally justified, especially when legislators have stolen money that was supposed to be paid into the public pension plans for decades

The promise to honor commitments and pay for the public employees’ pension is of “sufficient importance” to all citizens of Illinois. Madigan’s pension reform is “an unequivocal manifestation of intention not to perform… legal duties…under a contract… When there is a duty of immediate performance of a promise, failure to perform in full is a breach” (Rohwer & Skrocki).

May 6, 2013

Glen Brown: Should we worry about the unions’ “commitment… to develop a fair and constitutional solution to fund the state’s retirement systems” after the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling?

Glen Brown

– Glen Brown is a retired teacher, blogger and candidate for retired delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly.

Going forward, our union coalition repeats our longstanding commitment to work with anyone of good faith to develop a fair and constitutional solution to fund the state’s retirement systems” (The Illinois Education Association, November 25, 2014).  

To the We Are One Leadership:

“[B]y joining a pension system, public employees obtain absolute ‘vested’ rights in the pension plan, including later benefit increases added during their service. These rights cannot be unilaterally changed by the legislature under any circumstances, but the rights may be modified via legitimate contract principles…” (Eric M. Madiar (2012). Public Pension Benefits under Siege: Does State Law Facilitate or Block Recent Efforts to Cut the Pension Benefits of Public Servants? ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law, V. 27, no. 2, 179-194).

Though “rights may be modified via legitimate contract principles” (or by what is commonly called consideration), we hope the leadership of the We Are One Coalition intrepidly believes from now on that “a fair and constitutional solution” should never be an exchange for reductions of originally-vested benefits assured by the Illinois Constitution!

In Illinois, the Supreme Court “has consistently invalidated amendments to the Pension Code where the result is to diminish benefits” (McNamee v. State, 173 Ill. 2d 433, 445 (1996)). There are over a dozen antedated court rulings to confirm this fact.

“Any alteration of the pension system amounts to a modification of an existing contract between the State and all members of the pension system, whether employees or retirees. A member is contractually protected against a reduction in benefits” (Kuhlmann v. Board of Trustees of the Police Pension Fund of Maywood, 106 Ill. App. 3d 603, 608 (1st Dist. 1982)).

Thousands of union members (that the union leadership did not acknowledged at the time of Senate Bill 2404) did not support a decision to cut benefits and rights already guaranteed by the State and U.S. Constitutions that some Illinois politicians and union leaders chose to negotiate nearly two years ago. (Quinn’s loss confirms this conclusion).

Read the entire post on Glen’s blog.

Glen Brown on the 151st anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.

Glen Brown

– Glen Brown is a retired teacher, a member of Skokie Organization of Retired Educators IEA Retired, candidate for retired delegate to the IEA RA and writes poetically, with logic and with facts on his blog, Teacher/Poet/Musician.

We live in a country where the Democratic/Republican Party System is failing us; where venture capitalists and hedge fund billionaires are buying and destroying our democracy; where 401(k) s are fraudulent games of theft and greed played within the wealthy financial sector; where numerous senators and representatives are pawns of the American Legislative Exchange Council; where “the privatization of health services has corresponded closely with skyrocketing costs, leaving millions of Americans without access to care or deeply in debt for seeking treatment for their illnesses.”

We live in a country where a major credit-rating agency was accused of “manipulating pension data”; where “Koch-supported groups have strongly worked behind the scenes on the federal and local levels to eradicate Social Security and Medicare as overly costly entitlements given to working class people,” and where the Koch Brothers and major corporations sponsor pension reform seminars for judges.

We live in a country where breaking a constitutional contract with retirees and public employees is deemed morally and legally justifiable by legislative liars and thieves; where public employees and retirees are victims of plutocratic, concentrated economic privilege and power that accommodates and reinforces an enormous inequality of organizational resources for corporate self-seekers; where public schools are for sale; where public school teachers have been assaulted by a barrage of attacks on their autonomy, dignity and self-respect; where labor unions have lost political power and influence; where there is no pay equity or job security for college adjunct faculty, and where “memories of the university as a citadel of democratic learning have been replaced by a university eager to define itself largely as an adjunct of corporate power.”

We live in a country where the plutocratic free market theory caters to self-interested desires and profit to the detriment of millions of Americans, while promising “freedom and prosperity;” where Free market principles advocate that the rich and poor should be taxed at the same flat rate, despite creating a vast inequity; where education, health care, retirement pensions, national parks (and most any function intrinsic to essential governing) become privatized to reap in more profits; where publicly-owned companies, services and their assets are auctioned off to private investors; that besides allocating vast amounts of wealth and resources from public to private ownership, there is a transfer of private debts to the public sector while public ownership and service are systematically dismantled.

Read the entire post here.


Glen Brown. Colorado Supreme Court rules against pension rights. It’s not Illinois.

Glen Brown

– Glen Brown blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician. Glen is a retired teacher, current college instructor, pension activist, S.O.R.E IEA R member and candidate for IEA Retired delegate to the IEA Representative Assembly.

“Earlier this morning the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in the case Gary R. Justus v. PERA and the State of Colorado, filed in February 2010 soon after Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 10-001 into law. You may view the court’s 32 page decision here.

“Rich Allen, President of Save PERA COLA, a Colorado non-profit corporation, has issued the following statement warning public employees of the problem that this decision has for them:

“The Supreme Court has spoken. Needless to say we are disappointed in the decision. It seems to us to be a major departure from the rule of law to allow a public entity to unilaterally abrogate an agreement to which they willingly and legally entered merely because they don’t feel like paying the costs anymore. But there are other issues here that directly affect the financial security of public retirees and employees.

“PERA throughout the legal process adopted a scorched earthed policy by denying that there ever was any contract regarding the annual benefit increases (aka cost-of-living adjustments or COLA) even though they had previously and often stated there was a contractual agreement in both their verbal and written messages.

“This victory for PERA leaves it in the legal position of being able in the future to reduce the remaining COLA of 2% (maximum) to zero, assuming the legislature’s permission. There is little reason to think that creative minds could not come up with further reductions as well. This does not bode well for Colorado public employees, or for public employers who use PERA benefits to attract the best applicants to their employ.

“We believe that the many employee organizations that supported SB1 will regret that decision in the future. Colorado no longer has a defined benefit plan (DB). It instead has a gratuity plan where the benefits for all members, even for the already retired, are entirely defined by the whim of the legislature.

“Further, incentives have been created for the legislature to continue to underfund the pension system which will lead to future PERA Trust Fund fiscal crises and further cuts. Based on past behavior, it is hard to understand how PERA will demand adequate funding to support even the severely reduced funding benefit levels that SB1 has set. They have bought into the false notion that we are just ‘greedy geezers.’ We are in fact simply asking for what we have earned and were promised.

“While we cannot predict the timing of any of this, we would urge all retirees to have a ‘Plan B’ to support themselves. For current and future employees, we recommend looking closely at total compensation and the actual security of it in making career decisions.”

Richard Allen
Visit our website

“In Colorado, the judge found that the plaintiffs had no vested contract right to a specific COLA amount for life without change and that the plaintiffs could have no reasonable expectation to a specific COLA given that the Colorado General Assembly changed the COLA formula numerous times over the previous 40 years” (Alicia Munnell, State and Local Pensions: What Now?).

The legal basis for protection of public pension rights in Colorado is “Contract” for past and (maybe) future accruals. The legal basis for protection of public pension rights in Illinois is the “State Constitution” for both past and future accruals.

For detailed information about the Illinois COLA, Click Here.

Gina Raimondo’s pension reforms in Rhode Island

On Tuesday, Rhode Island’s Democratic voters nominated state treasurer Gina Raimondo to be their candidate for governor.

– Glen Brown blogs at Teacher/Poet/Musician.

Before becoming the controversial General Treasurer of Rhode Island, Gino Raimondo ran a venture-capital firm in Providence, Rhode Island. Raimondo’s remedies for her state pensions were echoed at the “Fixing Illinois’ Public Pensions” forum in Chicago on April 9, 2012, by two of the four panelists. A few of Raimondo’s assertions that are widely publicized in her online interviews were paraphrased– “the way to solve fiscal problems is to leave politics aside; we must focus on the math of the problem; truth is in the numbers; the passage of pension reform is a great step forward as we continue to work to put our state on a secure path toward growth and prosperity.”

Raimondo’s solutions for Rhode Island’s shortfall of $7 billion can be summed up rather simply, however: suspend the cost-of-living increases and offer the state’s public employees a 401 (k) savings plan; raise the minimum retirement age (for full benefits) to 67 years old; increase public employee contributions, and press for a cut in the assured return on pension investments.

The latter opened an even wider deficit if benefits shrink or payments into the fund do not rise because of a 7.5 percent anticipated return instead of an 8.5 percent return. According to Steve Stanek of The Heartland Institute, this is essentially a re-amortization of the “pension system debt to lower and to smooth future payments.”

The State of Rhode Island does not provide accrued benefits or contract rights’ protection either by constitutional provision or statute as in Illinois. Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island said after signing pension reform into law: “I take no joy in the pain this will cause for thousands of Rhode Islanders.” Really?

As stated by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “the Rhode Island Retirement Security Act of 2011, proposed by Governor Chafee in October 2011, contain[ed] two significant reforms of the state’s pension systems –the creation of a hybrid pension plan and the suspension of the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) contribution—which would have the effect of reducing the state’s unfunded liability…” Thus, COLA payments have been suspended “until the system reaches 80 percent funding.”

“State workers enrolled in the current state pension systems [have now] shifted to a combined defined benefit/defined contribution plan integrated with Social Security. State workers and teachers [are] required to contribute 8.75 percent of their paychecks toward retirement. The contribution [also] represents a decrease for teachers who had currently contributed 9.5 percent. Of the 8.75 percent contribution, 3.75 percent [is] put toward the defined benefit pension, which vests after five years of service (lowered from the current vesting period of 10 years). The remaining five percent of the employees’ contributions [are] invested in the retirees’ personal accounts. The employer [matches] this contribution with an additional one percent” (Mercatus Center). In Illinois, every one percent increase in membership contribution equals $100 million.

According to a slide presentation entitled, “Pension Reform Legal Principles and Considerations” from the Office of the General Treasurer in Rhode Island (April 10, 2012), the Federal Statutory Law, ERISA, 29 USC 1054 (g) (1) claimed that “the accrued benefit of a participant under a plan may not be decreased by an amendment of the plan…” The presentation revealed that out of the 50 states, 10 states have constitutional provisions that specifically protect public pension benefits. They include Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Hawaii, New Mexico, Arizona, New York, California, and Illinois. The last four states listed here “provide contract rights to benefits in place on the day of hire.”

As divulged in the Pension Reform Legal Principles’ and Considerations’ explanations: “For a statute to constitute a contract for purposes of the Contract Clause, there must be a clear and unequivocal indication that the legislature intended to create contractual rights. The principal function of a legislature is not to make contracts but to make laws establishing the policy of the state that is inherently subject to revision and repeal. The ‘unmistakability doctrine’ applies equally to state statutes and municipal ordinances.”

Rhode Island Is Not Illinois:

The State of Rhode Island does not provide accrued benefits or contract rights’ protection either by constitutional provision or statute as in Illinois. “The Pension Clause [Article XIII, Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution] not only makes a public employee’s participation in a pension system an enforceable contractual relationship, but also constitutionally protects the pension benefit rights contained in the Illinois Pension Code when an employee joins a pension system, including employee contribution rates. The Clause also safeguards pension benefit enhancements that are later added during employment. Further, the Clause ensures that pensions will be paid even if a pension system defaults or is on the verge of default. Finally, while the Clause bars the General Assembly from adversely changing the benefit rights of current employees via unilateral action, these rights are “contractual” in nature and may be modified through contractual principles. In sum, while welching on public pension promises is not an option for Illinois as some legal and civic commentators have suggested, legitimate contract principles provide a solution to mitigate this crisis” (Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate).

Many Illinois citizens are aware that for decades the past state’s governors and legislators have not fully funded the public pension systems; that instead of paying into the pension systems, they have used that money to pay for other services without restructuring revenue sources. Hence, without having to pay for services, state legislators have created an enormous pension debt or unfunded liability for the public pension systems in Illinois. It is important to note that in Rhode Island, the state made all of its payments to the pension systems. Public employees in Illinois have been the victims of corruption, incompetence and irresponsibility for nearly 60 years.

The Illinois “Pension Ramp” (Public Act 88-0593), or the repayment schedule of 1995, has also greatly increased the total pension debt or unfunded liability and needs to be re-amortized, though legislators continue to ignore this most significant issue. “If retirement benefits and salary increases were the only drivers of the unfunded liability, the state retirement systems would be about 94 percent funded today [because public employees’ benefits are not overly generous]” (Ralph Martire, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability). Approximately one-third of the total pension payment each year is for “normal costs” to the system; the other two-thirds of the payment is the interest owed on the debt the state incurred for not fully funding the pension systems.

Illinois state legislators continue to ignore the essential fact that current revenue growth does not match the state’s need for public services and for payment of debts. In other words, the State of Illinois uses a “flat, low-rate income tax that does not adequately capture income growth, and income tax revenues thus routinely lag behind economic growth. The state relies heavily on a state and local sales tax that is almost exclusively applied to goods and excludes almost all services. Rhode Island does not have an antiquated flat-rate tax system like Illinois.

“Because Illinois is chronically short of the revenues it needs to cover its expenses, it has engaged in a number of poor fiscal practices over the years. Unlike Rhode Island, Illinois has postponed payments to vendors, failed to make adequate pension contributions or borrowed money to make the contributions, securitized or sold assets, and taken other dubious actions” (the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Cutting pension benefits for public employees, through so-called “pension reform,” will not solve the state’s budget deficits in Illinois. Creating and passing any bill that diminishes “promised” benefits, such as the compounded cost-of-living adjustment that is already in place for retired and current teachers, is a breach of contract and trust. It’s a discriminating and unjust forfeiture and theft of one particular group of people in Illinois, and it’s wrong.

Though the State of Illinois has a serious pension debt and revenue problem that must be rectified, legal and moral sense dictates that the Illinois General Assembly must align with the U.S. and State Constitutions and sanction the vested rights of its middle-class public employees.

A final note: the state’s constitutional provision, Article XIII Section 5, protects current employees and retirees. So-called “pension reform” is an attempt to break a constitutional contract. It is a matter of moral and legal concern for every citizen of Illinois to pay attention to any proposed violations of rights and benefits (that are earned, deferred compensations) of the state’s 693,000 public employees. It should be of vital concern for all citizens that the government of Illinois would want to prove its contracts are worthless, especially when the “most basic purposes of the impairment [of the contract] clause [Article XIII, Section 5] as well as notions of fairness that transcend the clause itself, point to a simple constitutional principle: government must keep its word” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).

Read the entire post here.

Glen Brown. How you benefit from our defined benefit pension.


– Glen Brown is a teacher, pension activist and blogger. This post can be found at Teacher/Poet/Musician.

Pensionomics 2014: Measuring the Economic Impact of Defined Benefit Pension Expenditures reports the national economic impacts of public and private pension plans, as well as the impact of state and local plans on a state-by-state basis. The study measures the economic ripple effect of retiree spending of pension benefit income, which typically is a stable source of income that lasts through retirement…

This biennial study by the National Institute on Retirement Security finds that jobs supported by pension expenditures in 2012 paid nearly $307 billion in labor income. The analysis indicates that pension spending by retirees supported some $135 billion in tax revenue at the local, state and federal levels.

Pensionomics 2014 includes a business and a retiree profile to demonstrate the importance of pensions to retirees, businesses in the economy and government coffers. The study also calculates that for 2012:

Nearly $477 billion in pension benefits were paid to 24 million retired Americans, including:

  • $228.5 billion paid to some 9.0 million retired employees of state and local government and their beneficiaries (typically surviving spouses);
  • $70.7 billion paid to some 2.5 million federal government retirees and beneficiaries; and
  • $175.6 billion paid to some 12.7 million private sector retirees and beneficiaries.

Expenditures made out of those payments collectively supported:

  • 2 million American jobs that paid nearly $307 billion in labor income;
  • $943 billion in total economic output nationwide;
  • $555 billion in value added (GDP); and
  • $135 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue.

Pension expenditures have large multiplier effects:

  • Each dollar paid out in pension benefits supported $1.98 in total economic output nationally; and
  • Each taxpayer dollar contributed to state and local pensions supported $8.06 in total output nationally. This represents the leverage afforded by robust long-term investment returns and shared funding responsibility by employers and employees.

The largest employment impacts occurred in the food services, real estate, health care, and retail trade sectors.


The study is authored by Nari Rhee, Ph.D.., NIRS manager of research. It was conducted using the most current data available from the U.S. Census Bureau and IMPLAN, an input-output modeling software widely used by industry and governments analysts.


The National Institute on Retirement Security is a non-profit organization established to contribute to informed policymaking by fostering a deep understanding of the value of retirement security to employees, employers, and the economy through national research and education programs.



Pension hearing before the judge in Sangamon today. This and more is posted on Glen Brown’s blog.


– Find more on this on Glen Brown’s blog.

Update on Today’s Pension Litigation Hearing (from SUAA):

The pension litigation was up for hearing today, June 26, 2014 on several issues. At the May 15, 2014 hearing the Court had indicated its intent to deal with questions of class certification before proceeding to any other issues. Four of the five complaints in this consolidated litigation contained class allegations. SUAA’s complaint did not contain any class allegations because SUAA believed them to be unnecessary – if the law is unconstitutional, it is unconstitutional. SUAA did not feel the need to go through the time and expense of certifying a class. The remaining Plaintiffs determined to follow SUAA’s lead and rather than moving for conditional certification, filed a joint motion to withdraw their class allegations, a motion the Court granted today calling it a “wise” choice.

This brought the Court to the question of scheduling the remainder of the case. The Plaintiffs had filed a joint motion for summary judgment arguing that Public Act 98-599 violated the Pension Clause of the Illinois Constitution and that there were no exceptions available at all. (The State still holds to the view that its “Sovereign Powers” permit it to violate the Pension Protection Clause in this instance.) The Court determined that even if it agreed with Plaintiffs on this issue, it would still be necessary to consider all other claims and defenses in the case. The Court stated “We all know this is going to the Supreme Court. “ The Court’s view was that all issues should therefore go before the Court at once as it does not want the case coming back down for further proceedings.

The upside of this ruling is that once the Sangamon County Court is done with the case, it should go to the Supreme Court for final disposition. The bad news is that it will take longer to complete all discovery and brief all issues – something that might not have been necessary if the Court granted the motion on the Pension Protection Clause and the Supreme Court affirmed.

The Court set a schedule whereby the State will complete its disclosure of its expert witness opinions (on such things as budget, actuarial viability of the pension systems, economic factors, etc.) by July 29. The State will provide actual written expert reports from those individuals by August 29, and the Plaintiffs will then have time to depose those experts and provide experts of their own.

Glen Brown. Discover perspicacity.


Good afternoon, Glen.

I was just reading through your blog and really liked how diverse it is, you seem to be a man of many hats. As a result, I thought I’d reach out to you and ask for a bit of advice regarding a children’s summer education project we’re working on.

We’re requesting input from a select group of people and I was hoping you could help by writing a short blog post on your teacher, poet and musician blog that offers advice to parents who want to keep their children engaged over summer vacation with educational projects, brain teasers, books, etc. At the end of June we will be taking a look through everything and featuring some of the posts on a special “School All Summer” board on Pinterest.

Let me know if you’d be interested in helping to keep our readers’ children mentally active during their summer vacation. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Lily Cohen

Read Glen’s answer on his blog.

Glen Brown. What is at stake right now.


Dear Fred, you know I have said this many times:

What is at stake right now is an adjudication of claims that public employees have against policymakers who have coerced changes to public employees’ benefits and rights and who are breaking public employees’ contractual and constitutional promises. These are legitimate rights and moral concerns not only for public employees, but for every citizen in Illinois: for any unwarranted acts of stealing a person’s guaranteed rights and compensation will violate interests in morality and ethics and the basic principles of both the State and United States Constitutions that protect every one of us.

It is a moral concern and legal duty to reform the state’s sources of revenue and to address the incurred pension debt through restructuring so the state can provide services for its citizens and fund the public pension systems instead of incriminating public employees, and thereby forcing them to defend the State and United States Constitutions.

There is no justice in granting financial benefits for the wealthy among us and attempting to place the burden of financing public pensions upon schools and taxpayers by Illinois policymakers; there is no justice in granting tax breaks for wealthy corporations and, at the same time, legislating cuts to public employees’ constitutionally-promised compensation. It is ethically wrong to perpetuate unfair distributions of debts in Illinois, especially when Illinois legislators give “undeserved weight to highly-organized wealthy interest groups, [those groups] tending to ‘drain politics of its moral and intellectual content’” (Laurence H. Tribe, American Constitutional Law).