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Pensions: Rhetoric vs. Reality


Read IFT President Dan Montgomery's letter to the editor in today's Chicago Sun-Times in response to a recent anti-union column by R. Eden Martin.

Chicago Sun-Times
June 26, 2013‬
Rhetoric vs. reality on pensions

There’s an old saying that goes, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.”

Last Thursday, a column by R. Eden Martin relied more on rhetoric than reality. In it, Mr. Martin argued that the unions protect the status quo while everyone else fights for “major reform.” While Mr. Martin is entitled to his opinion, his assertions are patently false.

Here are the facts: The We Are One union coalition worked with Senate President John Cullerton this year to negotiate an agreement for pension reform. In and of itself, that’s “major,” considering House Speaker Michael Madigan was not willing to do the same.

The bill will likely save the state $26 billion immediately in health care costs. That’s major. Including health care savings, the bill will likely save more than any other plan, $134 billion over 30 years. That’s major.

The bill asks workers who contributed from every paycheck, who don’t receive Social Security, and who did absolutely nothing wrong, to give more. And we agreed to that in service of a solution. That’s major.

And, most importantly, the bill was built on a constitutional framework, so it would not get stuck in the courts and drag the state through costly litigation delaying the solution by years.

As we said in Springfield last week, the pension reform Madigan claims in his plan — which Mr. Martin advocates — would almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional by a court, so its “savings” are as fictional as Squeezy the Python.

If Mr. Martin wants to talk about the “status quo,” let’s talk about how our real piece of reform received bipartisan support and would save the state billions, but never got
called for a vote in the House.

We can’t solve this problem alone, and we shouldn’t have to. What’s more — we don’t have to.

Perhaps members of Mr. Martin’s Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago would like to help teachers and nurses get out from losing their nest eggs to politicians’ misdeeds by making a sacrifice as well. There are corporate tax loopholes in Illinois that deprive the state of billions in needed revenue. 

Closing some of those might just shake up the status quo as much as the unions have.

Dan Montgomery
President, Illinois Federation of Teachers




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