Union coalition launches campaign for fair solution on pensions

Frustrated with politicians trying to force teachers, fire fighters, nurses and other public employees alone to bear the burden of solving the state’s pension funding crisis—a crisis politicians themselves caused by failing for years to pay their share to public retirement systems—the union coalition We Are One Illinois has launched a new campaign to call for a fair solution supported by all parties.

We Are One Illinois, a coalition of unions representing public employees from all walks of life, is attempting to provide reasonable and reasoned solutions to a pension problem caused by politicians who for decades have failed to pay their share into Illinois public retirement systems.

We Are One Illinois is mobilizing its 1 million members, their families and the public to call, e-mail or visit their legislators to support such a fair solution to the pension funding problem. The coalition is also airing new ads statewide on broadcast and cable TV, radio and online.

“Workers know there’s a pension crisis, so they’re stepping up again, offering solutions to fix pensions they paid for, to clean up a mess they didn’t create. But politicians want to take more,” says the TV spot, titled “Fair Solution.” “Tell Springfield politicians, ‘Don’t punish workers for your mistakes. Work with them to find a fair solution.’”

Corporate CEOs and lobbyists pushing unfair, unconstitutional cuts are drowning out the voices of middle class public employees who earn modest pensions—just $32,000 a year on average—typically contribute 8 to 10 percent of every paycheck toward their pension, and rely on the pension they earn since nearly 80% aren’t eligible for Social Security.

We Are One Illinois unions have met repeatedly with legislative leaders and the governor, offering to help save the state billions of dollars in pension costs. But rumors persist that legislation may sabotage the prospect of a collaborative, fair solution.

Such legislation may be modeled on Governor Quinn’s proposal to saddle teachers, caregivers and other public employees with the entire burden of solving the pension problem alone. Quinn’s plan would unconstitutionally cut COLA protections that ensure pensions keep pace with inflation,1 force employees to work longer and make them pay an additional 3 percentage points from every check (an increase of 28% to 75%).

The coalition is urging legislators to hear the voices of public servants who earn, pay for and depend on their modest pensions, and to work together with their unions to develop a fair solution to fund pensions going forward.

1 As a point of reference, according to the Social Security Administration, the COLA for Social Security has increased an average of 4.1% since 1975. http://www.ssa.gov/oact/COLA/colaseries.html