Monday, July 30, 2012

Pension Games--AGAIN!

Grab your wallets, fellow teachers, Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois State Legislature are getting ready to try to pass pension reform again.  Quinn called a special session of the legislature for Friday (You didn't think they'd have the session on a Monday, did you?), August 17th to consider changing the pension benefits for active and retired teachers.

I love the transparency of these guys!  Just as teachers are getting ready to start the new school year, the governor calls for the special legislative session.  And we thought trying to slip the bill through during the long Memorial Day weekend was sneaky and unethical!  How much time are teachers going to have to call their legislators when they are back in their classrooms teaching or preparing to teach?  I'm teaching five classes this fall; I will make time to call, but I know that many of my colleagues will have trouble finding the time.  However, call we must, fellow teachers!  Call your state senator and state representative starting today, and then keep calling up to and through the special legislative session!

Now you can see why Quinn didn't call the legislators back in June.  Having the special session on August 17th is a tactic to thwart the teachers unions from mobilizing their members.  After all, we're the largest state pension system by FAR!

I  began to get suspicious something was brewing when I watched a baseball game on Channel 9 last week, and saw the station heavily promoting anchor Mark Suppelsa's show Pension Games, which ran tonight on WGN-TV and on CLTV.

Whatever happened to ethics in journalism?  Mark Suppelsa of WGN-TV (Channel 9
Suppelsa has become a pawn of the Civic Federation, which is made up of millionaires and billionaires who receive huge tax breaks from the State of Illinois and who have been pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the campaign to fix Illinois pensions and screw active and retired teachers.

Channel 9's Suppelsa and the Chicago Tribune newspaper, both owned by the bankrupt Tribune Company, have been banging the drum all this year about the abuses in the state pension systems.  Suppelsa tells us about double-dipper politicians in Chicago and how they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars drawing from multiple pension systems, about superintendents who retire from a school district in Illinois and then move to Iowa or Missouri and get a job there making three or four hundred thousand dollars a year, blah, blah, blah.

These are the exceptions, fellow teachers, not the norm!

The norm that Suppelsa and his media cronies at the right-wing Tribune never talk about is the retired downstate teacher whose pension is right around the average of $30,000 per year, who gets NO Social Security benefits, who pays $445.00 per month for a state PPO health insurance policy that sucks, and who now must make a decision whether she should lose her 3% per year cost or living adjustment or lose her health insurance policy from TRS.  (I say "she" because 85% of retired and active teachers in Illinois are women.  (Feminists, that little 85% tid-bit is for you!)).

Laurence Msall, President of the anti-teacher Civic Federation
On tonight's show Suppelsa had the nerve to have Laurance Msall, the president of the Civic Federation sitting first at the table in the WGN-TV studios.   There was no representative from the Illinois Federation of Teachers or the Illinois Education Association, the two teachers unions.  The only voice that remotely spoke for us was Democratic Senator Michael Noland, and he wasn't much of pension defender.  In fact, he was pretty sad.  The others?  Governor Quinn; Senator Christine Radogno, Republican minority leader; Rep. Tom Cross, Republican House Minority Leader; and Representative Elaine Nekritz, who is House Speaker Mike Madigan's lackey.  Madigan, of course, was nowhere to be found!

All of this comes as Peoria, Illinois based Caterpillar Tractor last week reported record profits.  Caterpillar announced Wednesday that the company’s sales and revenues grew 22 percent from second-quarter 2011, which adds up to $17.37 million. In the same amount of time, profits grew from $1.02 billion in the second quarter of 2011 to $1.7 billion in the second quarter of 2012, an increase of 67 percent.

Meanwhile, 800 union workers at Cat's Joliet plant have been on strike since May 1st.  The company wants to raise employee health insurance costs which would negate the workers' miniscule raises.  According to the Peoria Journal Star, Cat received $330 million in tax breaks from the State of Illinois last December.  Add Motorola, Boeing, Sears, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange--the list of companies receiving corporate welfare from Illinois taxpayers goes on and on!

And don't forget these companies pay little in the way of taxes back to the State of Illinois.  The percentage of taxes we teachers pay is higher than any of these corporate welfare hogs.  Maybe if these big companies stepped up to the plate and said, "O.K., we see you have a problem.  Let's all work together to solve the pension deficit," the teachers unions would agree to help out. 

But noooooo, what do these companies do?  They hire Laurence Msall, Ty Fahner, and other Civic Federation mopes to go out and spread lies about our pensions--which we paid for--and try to make us agree to take the hit ourselves instead of spreading the cost around.  When negotiations are held in Springfield, representatives of the unions are not invited, but the Civic Federation gets the first chair.

The problem is that the anti-teacher pension campaign is working.  My brother, who is covered under the flush IMRF pension, said to me tonight, "Well we've got to do something!" implying that we teachers were going to have to bite the bullet because of years of legislative mismanagement of the state pension system.  My brother's wife feels the same way.

Remember, fellow teachers, that you paid, or are paying, over nine percent of your salary to TRS for your pension.  The State of Illinois has not funded TRS to the level required by law.  THAT is what has caused the pension deficit.

Teachers should NOT be forced to bear the palm alone!  Call now!

1 comment:

  1. The problem has and always will be the spineless politicians in this state, who have raided the TRS and other pensions, using those as a bank to run the state for the past 50+ years, and then, when the bill comes due, beat up teachers. And who is to believe that whatever "fix" they come up with won't be changed the next time a problem arrives? I wouldn't trust anything they decide to do. I want my job back.