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Public Sector Unions Sue To Overturn Illinois Pension Reform Law

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jan 28, 2014 9:30PM

Image credit: Pincasso/

A coalition of public sector unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn the pension reform law passed by the Illinois Legislature late last year. It was a move expected to happen as soon as Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law last month.

The We Are One Illinois coalition released a statement naming Quinn and other downstate political leaders, the state retirement systems and their handlers as defendants. The We Are One Coalition includes the Illinois AFL-CIO; Illinois Federation of Teachers; Illinois Education Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73; Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge; Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association; Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois; Illinois Nurses Association; Laborers' International Union of North America Local 2002; Teamsters Local 700; and Teamsters Joint Council 25.

The lawsuit (which can be read over at the Sun-Times as a PDF file) reads, “Those plaintiffs who are current employees teach our children, care for the sick and disabled, protect us from harm and perform myriad other essential services for Illinois and its citizens. Those plaintiffs who already have retired similarly dedicated their careers to the men, women and children of Illinois. And, each faithfully has contributed to his or her respective pension system the substantial portion of their paychecks the Illinois pension code requires.”

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan said the bill amounts to “pension theft” that is “clearly unconstitutional.”

“Teachers, nurses, emergency responders, and other workers and retirees will not stand by while politicians try to take away their life savings illegally. The legislature and governor shirked their responsibility to uphold the constitution, so we are seeking justice in court to right their wrongs. Promises must be kept, and the rule of law must prevail over politics,” Carrigan added.

The lawsuit filed in Sangamon County puts heat on Quinn a day before he’s scheduled to make his annual State of the State Address, which will likely also serve as his 2014 re-election campaign platform. Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson told the Tribune the governor believes the pension reform law is constitutional and “urgently needed to resolve the state’s $100 billion pension crisis, which was created over 70 years of financial mismanagement.”

The pension reform law has been touted with saving Illinois taxpayers $160 billion over the next 30 years. It also calls for a hike in the retirement age for state workers currently age 45 or younger; a reduction in cost of living allowances using a formula based on how long a worker held their job and only toward a portion of their pension; prohibiting state pension systems from using pension funds to pay healthcare costs; removing all pension matters from collective bargaining talks except pension pickups; reduce employee salary contributions to their pensions by 1 percent; and for the state to contribute $364 million in funding in 2019 and $1 billion every year thereafter until 2045 or until the pensions are fully funded.

New calculations from the managers of the state’s retirement funds, however, indicate the actual savings will be $145 billion. Supporters of the bill touted new estimates based on the calculations that Illinois’ underfunded pension obligations would be reduced by $24 billion instead of the original $21 billion estimate.

Opponents of the bill accuse its supporters of “backtracking” on the original estimates.