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CTU peace gesture on pension reform

Thursday, May 8, 2014

* Greg Hinz has an important story about a pension reform peace gesture by CTU President Karen Lewis

During an appearance yesterday afternoon before the Crain’s editorial board, Ms. Lewis specifically said the union is willing to consider reducing benefits for those who still are working, although she emphatically ruled out changes for members who already have retired.

“There could be some modification (for current workers),” said Ms. Lewis, who has a reputation as a firebrand and who on May 5 opened the door to a second teachers strike in three years. “We’re interested in talking about modifications, yes.”

* Lewis said she wouldn’t talk about specific cuts until revenue had been negotiated. She’s generally opposed to raising property taxes and has floated things like a financial transaction tax (which was shot down by Mayor Emanuel yesterday) and a commuter tax, which is going nowhere. However, there’s another idea out there

Ms. Lewis said Chicago Public Schools officials lately have been “more open to discussion [about revenue] than in the past.”

She didn’t say what they’re “open” to. A source who should know says a plan to dedicate revenue from expiring tax-increment financing districts is picking up steam because it would provide a revenue stream for pension bonds without raising the overall property tax rate above today’s level.

* On to Mayor Emanuel

What he has ruled out — pointedly and specifically — is a transaction tax, a city income tax increase, and a commercial lease tax like the one championed by Mayor Harold Washington during the mid-1980’s. A Circuit Court judge overturned the six percent lease tax in 1986. The city appealed that decision, but the City Council repealed the tax before the city’s appeal was heard.

The mayor has also nixed the idea of using the jackpot of revenue from a Chicago casino to solve the pension crisis.

“I don’t think you should go to the roulette table with somebody’s retirement check. I’m not gonna do that,” the mayor said last month.

“How long has it been laying out there?… A lot of the credit agencies want something that’s reliable that they count on. I’m trying to stop the city from going to a place that I don’t think it can if we…do the morally responsible thing to ensure that every workers, every retiree gets a pension.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


14 Comments
  1. - Demoralized - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 9:19 am:

    I think in any pension “reforms” changes to current retirees should always be off the table.


  2. - Walker - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 9:26 am:

    Lewis is full of ideas for Rahm. Cool.

    The CTU doesn’t get to negotiate revenue sources in any way.


  3. - Capo - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 9:37 am:

    “I don’t think you should go to the roulette table with somebody’s retirement check. I’m not gonna do that.” Too late Mr. Mayor the politicians have already done that. And yes you do want to go to the roulette table with retirees pension checks and bank on it the retirees will be the losers.


  4. - RNUG - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 9:42 am:

    I know Ms Lewis has a lot of support but I have to wonder how the rank and file feel about “some modification”?


  5. - Geronimo - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 10:08 am:

    Don’t know what “modifications” means, but during the lifespan of my career, I was paying more into my pension fund at the end than in the beginning. That being said, new hires should be the focus of any changes. If they accept the terms of employment as offered (as all those currently working and those retired did), then what’s the complaint?


  6. - funny guy - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 10:17 am:

    How many times do I have to say this–sell O’Hare and Midway–problem solved without raising taxes and without reducing benefits. The airports’ revenue, unlike the parking meters, does not contribute $1 to the City’s operating budget per federal law. Why should City resources be used to operate airports–other than to protect patronage rich concession and construction contracts. Sorry Rahm–but the jig is up.


  7. - Norseman - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 10:23 am:

    It’s nice that she cares for the retirees, but the narrative so far by the pension reduction advocates is that the costs of the retirees needs to be reigned in. We’ll see if this opening leads to any agreement.


  8. - lake county democrat - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 10:44 am:

    Lewis might be realizing that while she may (may) have the majority of parents of schoolage kids on her side, she may not have the majority of Chicago voters on her side and thus might not want to turn the next mayoral election into a referrendum on herself.


  9. - anon - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 11:21 am:

    Still not sure how the unions have authority to bargain away a benefit that was earned in the past. Prospective changes, sure, but does collective bargaining reach to a benefit which has already vested due to full performance? And where is the consideration?


  10. - Formerly Known As... - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    == Ms. Lewis specifically said the union is willing to consider reducing benefits for those who still are working ==

    Very surprised to hear this. Changing the rules of the game after someone has started their career? That seems unjust.


  11. - A guy... - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 12:33 pm:

    Hmmmm. Who would’ve thought she would be the one to get a ball rolling here? Embrace it. It’s a start.


  12. - Geronimo - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 3:46 pm:

    anon…..had a chuckle. In the manic frenzy to get every penny from all educators, maybe a tax on estates of deceased teachers going back decades would help the funds. People think they got too much and should pay it back.


  13. - A guy... - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 4:05 pm:

    Geronimo, in this political climate you should be careful what you share.lol :)


  14. - foster brooks - Thursday, May 8, 14 @ 9:39 pm:

    RE:I think in any pension “reforms” changes to current retirees should always be off the table..pension clause could care less if your active or retired.


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