Pension proposal is distraction from governor’s failures

Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016

Democratic Senate President John Cullerton said the governor’s pension plan outlined at the governor’s news conference wasn’t what he and Rauner talked about. “It’s not my plan. It goes beyond what we discussed and beyond what I support.” Photo courtesy of Illinois Senate Democrats

CHICAGO — Days away from his second State of the State address, Gov. Bruce Rauner is trying to distract from the fact he has failed to pass a state budget during his first year in office by announcing he will now support Democratic Senate President John Cullerton’s pension proposal — only Cullerton says it’s not his plan.

Hours after Rauners’ announcement, Cullerton released a statement and spoke out about the governor’s remarks.

“It’s not my plan. It goes beyond what we discussed and beyond what I support.” The statement also highlighted what he called a “fundamental disagreement role the role of collective bargaining.” He firmly believes collective bargaining should continue to exist, and the governor does not share that ideal.

Last spring, Cullerton called for a “consideration” model, which would offer public employees a “choice” between receiving cost-of-living-increases, or including pay raises in the calculation of their retirement benefits.


Gov. Bruce Rauner had a busy week, coming up with ideas for CPS to declare bankruptcy, then lying he was supporting Democratic Sen. President John Cullerton’s pension proposal — only he wasn’t. Wonder what he’ll say during his State of the State address?

Rauner said he wants to take that unconstitutional model further by including a legislative poison pill, proposing to take away workers’ rights to bargain salary increases with their employers.

Rauner insists that removing the right to bargain over wags would ensure the new bill passes constitutional muster.

Sen. Linda Holmes said she will not support any pension reform plan that would remove wage considerations from collective bargaining. “It’s another attack on organized labor,” she stressed.

We Are One Illinois coalition of unions called on the governor to give up on his damaging personal obsession against unions and finally get to work on the real issues impaction our state.

“Our coalition has always advocated a responsible solution to the pension funding issue that is both constitutional and fair. His disregard for working families is causing irreparable harm to children and communities across Illinois.

To add to the governor’s bone-headed ideas, a day earlier, his legislative allies proposed a plan for a state takeover of Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

The legislation was called a “lifeline” that would allow an oversight board to take over Chicago Public Schools (CPS), as it drowns in a $500 million budget deficit, and create a path to bankruptcy.

While there were no actual legislation to unveil, two bills will soon be introduced “within the week” to allow CPS and also the city of Chicago to declare bankruptcy, while the other wold create an oversight board for CPS.

In a statement, Cullerton said it won’t happen. “It’s mean-spirited and evidence of their total lack of knowledge of the real problems facing Chicago Public Schools.”

The bankruptcy idea was announced as CPS continues to meet around-the-clock with the Chicago Teachers Union on making a deal that would avert the need for up to 5,000 layoffs.



Fighting like hell against Rauner

Bruce Rauner

Aurora community leaders came together to discuss the effects Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts is having on area communities. Not only did lawmakers participate in the event, but also union leaders and church representatives. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

AURORA — Looking for answers to tough questions on how to help less fortunate individuals in her community, Lake in the Hills resident Paula Yensen traveled to Aurora’s Painters District Council 30 Sept. 3 to listen in on a candid discussion regarding the effects of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts to Illinois’ communities.

Yensen, who wears many hats, including executive director of the United Way of Central Kane County, asked a panel of politicians, community and labor leaders the $64,000 question: “What can we do?”

The response seemed unanimous: You get educated and fight like hell.

Sen. Linda Holmes said the Democratic Party needs to get back to its values and what is important to Illinois. “Our social services are in dire straits. We’re hurting our veterans, our seniors and children with developmental disabilities,” she explained.

Bruce Rauner

More than 50 union leaders, community members and elected officials turned out to be part of an event that looked at the effects of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts to Illinois’ communities. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Without the passing of a state budget since July 1, an impasse has affected vital human service agencies that receive state funding.

Even though Gov. Rauner’s actions and policies have attacked organized labor again, and again, the true entity walking the line of extinction is the middle class — the people who pay the bills in Illinois.

“When the 1 percent makes a little bit more money, I don’t think that money is coming back to Illinois. But when you and I are making money, we spend that money on our kids, on computers, on clothes, and that money comes back into Illinois’ economy. That’s what we need right now for our state to grow — not people being unable to work,” Holmes explained.

Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers President Ken Christy, above, said his members see first hand the effects of poverty when his members deliver mail to homes that contain welfare checks and WIC documents. United Way of Central Kane County Executive Director Paula Yensen, below, came to the recent press conference with questions on how to help less fortunate individuals in her community. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers President Ken Christy, above, said his members see first hand the effects of poverty when his members deliver mail to homes that contain welfare checks and WIC documents. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

There is no argument the middle class is made up of union members — an organization Gov. Rauner is trying to destroy. Instead of focusing on moving Illinois’ budget forward, he is more concerned with pushing his Turnaround Agenda, which consists of anti-worker tactics, the elimination of prevailing wage and the implementation of right to work zones.

Ironworker Local 393 member Dirk Enger said the median income of Kane County was $69,000, which comes from, “hard-working, middle-class families. If we do what the governor wants, and get rid of prevailing wage, how many people do you think would remain within that median income?” He questioned.

Organized labor is here to help, Enger stressed. “When organized labor works on a project, it comes in on budget, under budget and on time.”

Mediator Mark Guethle, the Kane County Democratic Party chairman said there has never been a study done that shows that by repealing prevailing wage, a project will be less expensive.

What you do see in municipalities that don’t have prevail wage policy is out-of-state workers taking projects away from local workers. “What we see is our tax base going out-of-state,” Guethle said.

In the last election cycle, Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President Dick Manley said his union told its members to vote their pocketbook and to vote the bread and butter issues.

“Unfortunately, we found that some of our members did indeed vote for Rauner. We can only hope they see the error of their ways now,” Manley said.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia asked those in attendance to be the goodwill ambassadors for the middle class people in the state. “There are people that can’t even get out of the class they are in. We’ve shut the doors, and slammed the doors in their face, and on their fingers. It is an all out assault on Democratic values of our state.”




Rauner takes unfair potshot at public employees

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

SPRINGFIELD — New Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s Jan. 12 inaugural address identified big challenges facing state government. With the expiration of previous temporary personal and corporate income tax rates threatening to drain more than $3 billion from the state budget this year alone — and with that budget already significantly short-funded in key agencies that need supplemental appropriations — there’s no question those challenges are real. And no one has more at stake in helping solve them than AFSCME members who work on the front lines of state government.

Unfortunately, though, Gov. Rauner used the occasion of the speech to dis public employees, alleging that, “We have a state government that too few have faith in” because Illinoisans “see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they’ve spent tens of millions to help elect.”

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said the governor’s claim has absolutely no basis in reality and that the truth is her union has always negotiated in good faith with governors of both parties, those AFSCME Council 31 endorsed and those it didn’t.

“In every case, negotiations were tough but fair and based on mutual respect. While the suggestion of so-called ‘sweetheart deals’ implies unfairness or overpayment of some kind, the fact is that state employee pay increases have been in line with others in comparable jobs, as have the significant amounts employees contribute toward their health insurance and retirement benefits.

“AFSCME members in state government keep prisons safe, care for veterans and people with disabilities, protect kids from abuse and do much more,” Lynch said.

She went on to add that these hard-working men and women don’t have millions of dollars to pour into political campaigns, but they do have a deep commitment to serving the people of Illinois and every right to participate in the democratic process through their union.

In a newspaper story, Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said organized labor “will work with [Rauner] whenever we can, and if we need to, we’ll also work against his legislation.”

The article went on to quote two state senators: “Illinois’ middle class was built by unions. They ensure working men and women receive honest pay for an honest day’s work,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, a Benton Democrat and chairman of the Illinois Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. “I don’t understand why some politicians push so hard to take that away.”

State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat added that the midwest was once the hub of the labor movement, but many neighboring states have spent the past few decades enacting policies that lead to slashed employee benefits, decreased wages and outsourced jobs.

“These shortsighted policies cripple working class families, which ultimately places a greater burden on our middle class,” Manar explained.

Gov. Rauner’s speech was vague about possible solutions to the state’s budget problems. As he seeks to tackle those problems, it is critical he include the input of frontline employees who know what’s working, what’s not and how state government can deliver vital public services more effectively.

—AFSCME Council 31