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August 13, 2012

Union coalition announces pension reform framework

The We Are One coalition held a news conference on Aug. 13 to reemphasize labor's opposition to HB 1447. The unions presented an alternative framework to help address the pension crisis, that doesn't put the whole burden of a solution onto employees.

The We Are One Illinois union coalition, of which AFSCME is a member, held a press conference on Aug. 13 to reemphasize labor's opposition to the passage of HB 1447 which would slash the pension benefits of state employees and retirees.  The House is expected to vote on the measure when the General Assembly comes into special session on Friday, Aug. 17.

 The coalition put forth an alternative framework that reiterates labor's position that employees will do more to help address the pension crisis, but will not bear the whole burden, as HB 1447 and similar bills attempt to make them do.

"Unions representing teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees are willing to help resolve the Illinois pension crisis in exchange for a guarantee that state politicians will never again be allowed to repeat the irresponsible acts that caused the crisis," said the coalition's news release.

The Coalition called on lawmakers to reject all pending pension legislation, including House Bill 1447, which would violate the state constitution, slashing the cost of living adjustment, or COLA, that protects retirees from inflation-effectively forcing them to bear the burden of the state's pension debt.

Had the bill's sharply diminished COLA been in place over the past 25 years, a public employee who retired in 1987 would have lost 20 percent of the value of their pension to inflation; current law has enabled retirees to retain all but 2 percent of that real-dollar value.

The coalition's alternative framework includes the following:

"The employees didn't cause the crisis, but we're going on record today to say our members are willing to help fix it if the state will guarantee that the politicians will never again divert our pension money to other expenses," said Coalition spokesperson Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.