Supreme’s agree to hear fair share case. Public employee unions in jeopardy.

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Fair share, or agency fee payment, is a simple concept.

If you benefit from from the efforts of a union that bargains your contract then you pay for that service, either as a member of the union or payment in kind.

No free rides.

Fair share was the first thing Bruce Rauner went after when he was elected Illinois governor.

Now the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

WASHINGTON―NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America―that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities―decisions that have stood for more than 35 years―and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

Governor Private Equity’s move to seize Fair Share payments: “if Rauner is trying to demoralize labor, it hasn’t worked. In fact, a rather extraordinary form of unity and consensus has broken out.”

RAUNER

Fair Share, or agency fees, are payments made by employees to the union that bargains their salary, benefits and working conditions.

In Illinois nobody has to join a union, but fairness and the law dictate that they must share in the cost of bargaining and representation.

Governor Private Equity is on the warpath against the states unions, particularly public employee unions.

This strategy has led to a huge drop in his approval ratings, down to just 40% after two months in office, equalling his disapproval numbers.

His anti-union program includes no-union zones throughout the state and attempts to seize agency fees from 6,500 state employees.

The Republic:

Comptroller Leslie Munger, whom Rauner appointed to fill a vacancy, had stymied the governor’s original plan to create a separate escrow account. Munger relied on the attorney general’s opinion it would be illegal.

The memo said Munger “provided the method” for the latest plan, but after her spokesman, Rich Carter, denied that, Kelly clarified that after reviewing procedures with Munger’s staff, “the governor’s staff identified a way” to proceed. Carter, meanwhile, didn’t answer a question about whether Munger would process the altered payrolls.

About 6,500 nonunion workers pay amounts lower than union dues — about $575 annually — to cover the costs of union negotiating and grievances. Unions must represent those who chose not to join. Rauner’s action could keep about $3.74 million out of union bank accounts.

Bruno, a labor and industrial relations professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said Rauner’s move would likely prompt a new legal action by the unions. He said if Rauner is trying to demoralize labor, it hasn’t worked.

“In fact, a rather extraordinary form of unity and consensus has broken out,” Bruno said.


 

Rahm says SEIU 73’s Boardman can bargain away employee pensions. I don’t think so.

Christine Boardman

When city unions filed suit against Rahm’s pension cuts, Rahm said the cuts were good because he bargained them with city unions.

Those unions included Bricklayers District Council, Carpenters Regional Council, IBEW 134, Iron Workers District Council, IUOE 150, IUOE 399, Laborers’ District Council, Pipefitters 597, Plumbers 130, Sprinkle Fitters 281 and Christine Boardman’s SEIU 73.

The unions suing Rahm because he has violated the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution are the Chicago Teachers Union, AFSCME Council 31, IFT-AFT, Teamsters Local 700 and the Illinois Nurses Association.

Boardman’s SEIU 73 is notorious for agreeing to concessions with the Mayor and is a donor to his re-election campaign.

The legal question is whether union leadership can bargain away constitutional pension guarantees.

Since no single union represents all of the members in the pension funds, the answer is no.

This is in some ways similar to what took place between the state-wide coalition of public employee unions, the We Are One Illinois, and Senate President John Cullerton.

We Are One, hoping that they could hold off a more draconian pension theft bill designed by Representative Elaine Nekritz and Speaker Madigan, bargained an alternative Senate Bill 2404.

SB 2404 did steal less of our pensions. But it conceded on the principal of the constitutional promise that public employee pensions can not be diminished or impaired.

Pension members not represented by the We Are One Illinois coalition balked at the deal. The Illinois Retired Teachers Association said that no matter what deals were cut between union leaders and politicians in Springfield, they would go to court to protect the pension protection clause.

The result was that SB2404 died. Senate Bill 1 passed. Judge Belz ruled it unconstitutional. And now we wait for an expedited ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court.

Union leaders like Christine Boardman of SEIU 73 cannot bargain away constitutional rights with the Mayor.

No matter how much money exchanges hands.

 

Shouldn’t our leaders lead?

DVR

I don’t argue much about tactics these days.

Occupy. Lobby. Email. What’s that thing we used to do? Oh, yes. Make phone calls. March. Rally. Sit-in. Whatever.

Say something. Do something.

Leaders should lead, however.

So when the teachers at Seattle’s Garfield High School voted not to give the MAP test because they thought it was bad educational practice, teachers and parents all over the country got excited and expressed there support.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, issued a statement of support.

But from Dennis Van Roekel, President of my union and the union to which Garfield High teachers belong, the National Education Association? Crickets.

I don’t get it Dennis.

Yesterday the NEA posted this NPR article about Garfield on their Facebook page.

But if you go to the NEA website there is nothing. No press statement from DVR and nothing from VP Lily Eskelsen.

Back here in Illinois Glen Brown has posted a petition online calling on the Illinois General Assembly to focus on revenue solutions, not pension cuts.

This morning over 1,000 people have signed it since Sunday.

500 in the last 24 hours alone.

Support from the IEA and the other state public employee unions?

Not yet.

Maybe a mention on the IEA website?

Not yet.

Leaders should lead.

But sometimes we don’t have time to wait for them.

Fiscal cliff? Welcome to Illinois.

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Tea Party Congressman Eric Cantor would be an Illinois Democrat.

It went into overtime, but the battle in Washington over tax cuts for the wealthy and misnamed “entitlements” didn’t exactly have the excitement of a good NBA game.

What was common to both is that most of us were merely spectators.

The inestimable Paul Krugman points out the obvious: Things aren’t settled yet.

Many more cliffs to follow.

Kudos to Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, the sole progressive Democrat in the Senate who voted no on the deal.

Harkin must be looking over the border at Illinois and going WTF?

For what ever the shortcomings of the deals made in DC, at least the broad outlines are clear.

Democrats correctly read the results of the November election. Many Republicans are still sightless with Tea Party blinders.

Republicans favor the rich, defending the Bush tax cuts (really we need to go back and repeal the Reagan tax rate changes for the wealthy) and call for cuts in social programs. Progressive Democrats stand for opposition to changes in Social Security and Medicare and defending and expanding Obamacare.

But here in the Land of Lincoln?

Democrats, especially self-proclaimed progressive Democrats, could just as well share an office with Eric Cantor.

Even Paul Ryan voted for the Washington deal for his own political reasons. But in Illinois, Ryan would seem like a budget Bolshevik.

Illinois Democrats, from the Governor to members of both houses of the legislature, are clamoring to find a way to cut pension benefits for the elderly.

Illinois Democrats won’t even discuss a progressive income tax.

Illinois Republicans aren’t even in on the discussions.

Neither are the state public employee unions.

That’s is why we are getting on buses and loading into cars tomorrow and Friday.

Fill the Springfield Capitol rotunda.

Bring a warm coat. Some of us may not fit inside.

Tim Furman’s blog:

It’s going to be a busy couple of days… These are things you should be attending, if you live in Illinois and you’re a teacher:

Jobs For Justice Town Hall  (Pension Discussion)

Town Hall Pension Forum
When:  Wednesday January 2nd, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Where:  East Aurora High School (Auditorium)
500 Tomcat Ln., Aurora, IL  60505
Ample parking–enter through Door 5


This event will feature the long-awaited reunion of pension-buster Elaine Nekritz and longtime public servant/noted blogger Fred Klonsky.  I will be filming. I will also be driving out there, so stay off the sidewalks. I believe Aurora is somewhere out by Denver. 

Then, on to Springfield for the We Are One rallies/lobbying sessions on January 3 and 4. 

By the way, I just got an email from Pat Church, the wonderful staffer who works in the Skokie office of the IEA. She says that there are still seats on the second bus leaving from Golf Mill shopping center at 6:30. Contact me if you want to come with us. We return from Springfield leaving at 2PM and arriving back at Golf Mill around 5:30 or 6.

Pensions, Rhode Island and get your butt to Springfield.

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Once again, Glen does a great job of giving us the facts about the Nekritz bill and the other threats to our pensions.

And John explains Cash Balance Plans.

If these two guys didn’t already exist, I would have to create them in my basement laboratory. When there are these two bloggers at your disposal, nobody has an excuse for not understanding what is happening to our pensions in the Bizarro World of Illinois politics.

Then there is Rhode Island.

There is this from the New York Times yesterday.

Rhode Island, the site of a sweeping pension overhaul last year, has brought in a prominent New York lawyer to litigate the question: David Boies, perhaps best known for representing Al Gore in the fight over the 2000 presidential election and for waging an antitrust battle against Microsoft on behalf of the government in the 1990s.

Rhode Island’s dispute may not reach quite those dramatic heights, but it is being closely watched as a first major test of whether, and how, financially strained states and cities can cut the benefits of their workers and retirees.

Several public employee unions have sued Gov. Lincoln Chafee and other Rhode Island officials, accusing them of acting illegally when they pushed through a package of money-saving pension cuts last year, including suspending annual cost-of-living increases for most retirees. The unions want the richer benefits restored.

There seems to be another Bizarro planet in the Bizarro universe. Democratic lawyer David Boies and liberal Governor Chaffee going after Rhode Island state pension benefits.

Aside from that, keep your eyes on Rhode Island. Pensions protected by state constitutional language will probably hit the courts there before it gets decided in Illinois.

“Unions reject plans for pension overhaul,” said the Tribune yesterday. But did the unions reject the plan?

The We Are One Coalition issued the following statement today in response to the introduction of HB 6258:

“We appreciate lawmakers’ latest attempt to move the pension conversation forward. As we have consistently stated, the We Are One Illinois coalition stands ready to work collaboratively toward a solution.

We were not consulted in the development of this plan, but our preliminary review suggests that there are significant problems with HB 6258 that need to be worked through. The pension debt was caused by the state’s failure to make actuarially adequate pension contributions, not by public employees, but like its predecessors, this proposal essentially balances the pension debt on the backs of teachers, police officers, nurses, caregivers, and other public servants both active and retired. It is also unclear at this juncture whether this proposal is constitutionally or actuarially sound.

We intend to thoroughly analyze this proposal’s elements and provide a more comprehensive response in the coming weeks.”

That doesn’t exactly read like a rejection. Although I wish it did. It reads more like a plea to be allowed at the table.

Yes. It makes the point that the cause of the pension underfunding rests with the failure of the state to meet its obligations. And it makes the point that the proposal wants to solve the problem on the backs of public employees.

So, what’s to appreciate?  And how is it unclear as to whether it is constitutional or actuarially sound?

I have to say that the Nekritz proposal sounds like Richard Ingram’s chickens coming home to roost. It was TRS Executive Director Richard Ingram who pushed the COLA cost issue in a Crain’s interview. IFT President Dan Montgomery called for his firing. But the TRS board of directors slapped his wrist and told him not to do it again. He hasn’t. But it seems like Nekritz and the other sponsors of HB6258 were listening.

You can’t unsay what you said, Dick.

Speaking of the Nekritz gang who are sponsoring this piece of crap.

I count at least half a dozen that took IEA campaign money.

Or take someone like Evanston State Representative Robin Gabel.

Please.

When teacher constituents asked her (and not just her, by the way) why she supported Senate Bill 7 which took away seniority and tenure rights, undercut the right to strike and collectively bargain and tied teacher evaluation to student growth scores, she claimed it was because the teacher union’s supported it and she did what the unions asked.

Actually that was true. The two state teacher unions supported Senate Bill 7 and praised it as a national model.

But now we see her name as a sponsor on this legislation which the unions oppose. She doesn’t just support it. She is a sponsor.

A story about Robin Gabel:

When she was first running for state rep I found a youtube video of an interview with Gabel.

This is, like, two or three years ago.

In the interview she supports raising the retirement age of public employees, cutting benefits and increasing employee contributions.

I called her.

She apologized, saying she was new to all this, new to the issue of pensions and hadn’t really looked into it.

What a whopper that was.

If you haven’t made your reservation to get on the bus to Springfield, do it now. We Are One is calling for lobbying and rallied in the Capitol Rotunda on January 3rd and 4th. Because of the strike, many Chicago teachers will be back in classrooms on the 3rd. But many suburban and downstate teachers and, of course, retirees are available on those dates.

We need this big folks.

The Sunday Mail.

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After two weeks on the road, I’m back to my normal blogging schedule.

Anne and I drove to Brooklyn to spend Thanksgiving with our New York family. We dropped off some school supplies at PS 90 in Coney Island. It was hit hard by Hurrican Sandy. The supplies were donated by my old colleagues at Carpenter Elementary School in Park Ridge Illinois. Then this past week was spent on the beach and by the pool in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The life of a retired school teacher can get confusing. I often joked in the later years of teaching, when I no longer had to teach summer school to pay the bills from the last check in June until the end of that first check in September, that every day was Saturday.

Now this is also true for the other months of the year. So when I mistakenly posted a short piece on Friday but called it Saturday Coffee, my Florida retired comrade, Ken Previti,  caught it before I could fix it.

He wrote back, “Well, take your daily vitamin B. Retirees often confuse days of the week and even forget that there is a weekend with Saturday and Sunday. One of the first signs of this degenerative mindset is sending blog emails about Saturday Coffee on Friday. This begins the cycle of early bird specials such as eating supper at 2:00 pm and breakfast at 9:00 pm the preceding day.”

To those who think that retirement is living the life of Riley, think again.

Just my luck that the moment I choose to retire, the Republican wing of the Democratic Party that runs Illinois has decided to go after the pension system I have paid into every two weeks for nearly thirty years.

What I thought was a contract that promised me deferred compensation in my retirement years has turned into a billion dollar scam by the Democrats and Republicans of this state.

It is even more ironic when you consider that nobody has paid more into the campaign coffers of these crooks and thieves than the very public employee unions they now call irresponsible.

Says my pal, Glen Brown, “Madigan’s (that would be Illinois Democratic Party Chairman and Speaker of the House Michael Madigan) new definition of ‘responsibility’ is about sacrificing teachers and other public employees. It is about a disregard for active and retired teachers’ dignity, about betrayal and indifference and not honoring a legal and moral commitment and ‘responsibility.’ What really matters for Madigan and his cronies is the elimination of the state’s pension payments (at any cost) and not a reform of the state’s inequitable and unbalanced revenue system and pension debt problem.”

In the six months since my official retirement date I have attended endless meetings, spoken to hundreds of retirees and met with state legislators.

I have observed a pattern.

Before I retired, when I spoke with an Illinois Democratic politician and asked why they voted for Senate Bill 7, they would say it was because the teachers union wanted them to.

Senate Bill 7, you remember, took away seniority and tenure rights, restricted the right to strike, and linked teacher performance reviews (and their employment) to student performance on tests.

It so happens that these politicians were right. The IEA and the IFT did support Senate Bill 7. To their everlasting shame.

Now when the issue is our pension, many of these same politicians like north shore liberal Robin Gabel, ignore the teachers unions and vote against the position of the working men and women of the state.

So now these old retired bones have to get going again.

The We Are One coalition of state public employee unions has told me and other union members to show up in Springfield starting January 3rd.

That is when the final session of the current General Assembly will take place. Smart money is on them making their anti-pension moves that week.

What are we going to do in Springfield?

No word yet.

In fact, if you are a retiree like me, getting information from the IEA is like finding a Republican in Logan Square.

No matter.

If they won’t tell me where the bus leaves from, I’ll drive down to Springfield myself.

As long as I don’t mix up which day I’m supposed to be there.

We Are One sets the dates for Springfield action. More (hopefully) to come.

With time growing short and rank-and-file pressure mounting, the leadership of the state’s public employee unions have set the week of January 3rd for action in Springfield.

This coincides with the lame duck session of the General Assembly. Legislators who will not be returning to the next General Assembly will be voting on a range of issues. Maybe our pensions.

Since they are not returning, many consider themselves less accountable to their political bosses. Are they feeling accountable to their consciences? To the promises that were made to the state’s public service workers? That remains to be seen.

As of this posting, the We Are One coalition of public employee unions has not spelled out what action is planned.

If the past is any indication of the future, it will focus on lobbying state political leaders and members of the General Assembly.

Will that be enough?

IEA may have cancelled Lobby Day in Springfield. But Wisconsin’s Scott Walker didn’t.

Wisconsin’s Scott Walker is facing recall. He’s coming to Springfield.

Our Park Ridge Education Association local was taken by surprise when the state leadership cancelled Lobby Day in Springfield this year. With our pensions under assault, we were looking forward to joining with thousands of other union members in demonstrating to our lawmakers what was what.

Irony of ironies.

While our union cancelled Springfield Lobby Day, Governor Scott Walker of the state to the north, is planning one of his own.

Why? To get Illinois to follow Wisconsin’s lead on pensions. That’s why.

Gatehouse News Service reports:

Courting confrontation with Illinois’ public employee unions, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce has booked Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to speak at its annual Springfield lobby day on April 17.

The chamber hopes Walker’s visit helps ratchet up the pressure on lawmakers to do something about Illinois’ $85 billion in pension debt, said the group’s president, Doug Whitley. The lobby day also coincides with the due date for a report by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s working group on how to deal with Illinois’ pension problems.

Walker, a Republican, is the subject of a recall campaign in Wisconsin, where he signed a law in 2011 eliminating collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Debate over the law brought thousands of union members and citizens to the state capital, Madison. Democratic legislators in Wisconsin famously fled to Illinois in an attempt to keep Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature from acting on the bill.

It is crazy when we had more IEA members go to the Wisconsin capitol than we have going to the Illinois capitol.

But, we’re going. And if you want, you can come too.

Our little Park Ridge local can’t do what the IEA can do. But we’re going anyway.

May 2nd in Springfield. Screw Scott Walker.