As bad as the pension cuts hurt, one GOP multi millionaire Bruce Rauner Governor candidate said this about the lawmakers (they’re) “patting themselves on the back” (for passing a controversial pension bill, arguing that the legislation does) “far too little to fix our pension mess.” I pray we don’t elect this guy. Below is a message from Henry Bayer – President Gary Kroeschel
Dear AFSCME Members:
Tuesday, December 3, will go down in our state’s history as a dark day—both for the rule of law and for the fundamental concept of dignity and security in retirement.
Within barely 24 hours of receiving the 325-page bill that drastically reduces the pension benefits of hundreds of thousands of active and retired public employees, lawmakers convened in Springfield yesterday to vote on its passage.
Despite vocal opposition from many legislators, massive grassroots pressure from union members and retirees all across the state, and an intensive Capitol lobbying offensive by AFSCME and our partners in the We Are One Illinois union coalition, within a matter of hours the General Assembly voted to approve the measure.
This battle has been long and hard-fought. Union members can be proud of the fact that for more than two years AFSCME and our coalition partners have beat back repeated attempts to make even more draconian cuts to pension benefits spearheaded by big-money elites. Even at the final hour, with Democratic and Republican leaders in the General Assembly unified in their determination to jam through pension “de-form,” we were able to hold down their margin of victory. The Senate passed the bill without a vote to spare, garnering the bare required minimum, and the House had only two votes to spare despite unprecedented pressure from House leaders in both parties.
But now the bill (SB 1) has passed and Governor Quinn has indicated he plans to sign it. So the fight must shift to the courts. AFSCME and our partners in the We Are One Illinois coalition met with coalition attorneys this morning and authorized them to prepare to file suit challenging the constitutionality of SB 1. We will be asking for a stay of the legislation’s implementation pending a ruling on its constitutionality.
It’s important that your legislators hear from you over the coming days. If they voted right (NO!), be sure to call and thank them (unless they’re among those who voted “NO” because they wanted bigger pension cuts). If they voted “YES” to slash your pension, be sure to let them know how disappointed in them you are. You can call on the We Are One hotline at 888-412-6570. Or you can click here to send an e-mail to your legislators.
You can click here to read a summary of the bill. Note that it covers all active and retired members of SERS, SURS and TRS, as well as the General Assembly Retirement System (GARS). It does not cover the Judges Retirement System of Illinois.
Don’t let your legislator—or anyone else—get away with telling you that these pension cuts were the only possible path to fiscal solvency for the pension funds and for state government.
In fact, the union coalition backed a plan that is much fairer to workers and retirees and that generated enough cost savings to put both the pension systems and the state on sound financial footing. That plan passed by a wide margin in the Senate, but was never allowed to be voted on in the House.
Arguments that the state needed to make pension cuts so that it could afford to fund other vital services are also misleading. Illinois hands out over $2 billion annually in tax giveaways to big business. For decades—and right up till the present moment—corporate honchos have run to Springfield to amass tax giveaways, now totaling over $2 billion, aiding and abetting the underfunding of the state’s pension systems.
There’s no doubt that yesterday’s vote was a major setback, not just for public employees, but for all those concerned with retirement security for working people in our state and our country. However, the fighting force that we have forged—in our own ranks and with other unions—over these past two years will carry on the battle in the courts, in the press, and in the political arena. The stakes are too high to stop now.