This week, Gov. Quinn and the members of the General Assembly have received a loud and clear message from thousands of IEA members who have told them:
- Don’t “fast track” pension legislation.
- Only support constitutional proposals.
- We need a fair solution that doesn’t make employees bear the brunt of the cost of fixing a mess they did not create.
As of Friday morning, more than 62,000 emails have been sent to lawmakers and Gov. Quinn. In fact, the governor has received more than 20,000 emails himself! In addition, we’ve seen record traffic on the IEA website, where tens of thousands of members are getting information daily.
We are making a difference.
Influencing the process
The labor coalition is having a big impact in the continuing pension discussions with top state officials.
Just a few weeks ago, it appeared a bad pension bill might be quickly rammed through the General Assembly. By participating in pension discussions, the members of the coalition have slowed down the process. By offering input and suggestions about solutions, the coalition is forcing those proposing terrible ideas about pension changes to consider the consequences of their actions, as this Daily Herald editorial points out:
But pitting teachers against taxpayers and schools against their communities won’t lead to an equitable solution. It could irreparably harm one of the suburbs’ most alluring attractions – the reputation for great public schools.
The coalition is making a difference.
No pension bill has been called. We still expect a bill to surface, perhaps this week.
What needs to be done
We need to increase contacts with legislators.
- If you haven’t done so, please call your senator and state representative. If you get voicemail, please leave a message and call back later.
- Lawmakers are in their home districts all weekend. Call them at their district offices. See if you can make an appointment for an in-person meeting. More information is here.
Activities next week
- Take your cell phone to work and call a legislator.
- Retired members and members whose school year has ended are encouraged to participate in Springfield lobbying with members of other coalition members. Contact your regional offices for more information.
- There is a good chance you will soon be receiving another automated phone call at home. This one will ask you to immediately contact your legislator about pensions.
Pension talks/Talking points
As stated above, the coalition, by participating in good faith in discussions with state officials, has slowed the “fast track” assault on pensions.
Throughout the process, the IEA representatives have adhered to core principles that pension proposals must:
- Be constitutional.
- Be fair to employees.
- Have the effect of strengthening the pension systems.
In our messaging about the ongoing talks, we have made clear that the coalition opposes ideas that would seek to make the employees bear the entire burden of fixing the pension crisis. That is a very important message for both policymakers and the public to hear.
The message itself is, in part, a reaction to the governor’s pension proposal, which tried to make employees wholly responsible for fixing the crisis.
IEA and the other coalition members know that there is nothing more important to so many of our members than making sure that they receive the pensions they have been promised.
Given the condition of our state’s finances and the Illinois economy as a whole, the coalition believes that the employees, though they are blameless for the pension crisis, should be participants in the solution because participation will help bring about the best outcome for the members.
We believe participation in discussions enhances the chances we will be successful in saving the pension systems. We believe the members of the General Assembly and the general public will be more supportive of our ideas for fixing the crisis if we are active participants in the discussions.
IEA member research shows our members agree with this approach; there is significant support for members doing more IF the result is that they get the pension they have been promised.
In a scientific poll of 600 IEA members in February:
- 63 percent said IEA should try to negotiate changes in pensions to make sure that the worst proposals are avoided.
- 71 percent said they would support benefit changes if there were a new legal requirement that would ensure state government paid its share for pensions.
Because of the irresponsible decisions of past governors and legislatures, Illinois’ budget is being consumed by pension costs, imperiling education, human services programs and other necessary state services. We believe that, if left to their own devices, policymakers will come up with terrible ideas for fixing the mess that will damage our members and the profession of teaching. Gov. Quinn’s proposal is proof of this as is the fact that some policymakers want to cut benefits for current retirees.
The coalition is offering ideas in order to find out if a constitutional and fair pension solution can be found that satisfies the need to get Illinois and the pension systems on better fiscal footing. The goal is to make sure every member gets the pension that has been promised.
It’s important to understand that, of this writing, no agreements have been made that would affect member pensions. The coalition has offered proposals but, again, no agreements have been made.
We’re making a difference. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Please keep it going and recruit your colleagues to get involved.
The future for all of us is at stake.