Press Release: We Are One Illinois Urges Legislators to Oppose Pension-Cutting Bill

May 25, 2011

CHICAGO, IL—We Are One Illinois, an unprecedented statewide coalition representing more than 1 million members including firefighters, teachers, police, disability caregivers and other public employees, is calling on state lawmakers to oppose Senate Bill 512, which will be heard in a state House committee tomorrow morning.

House Republican leader Tom Cross amended the bill late today to add “forced-choice” language that would make public employees (1) pay up to twice as much or more for their existing modest pension; (2) accept a sharply reduced pension; or (3) earn no pension at all going forward, just a privatized account dependent on the whims of Wall Street.

“This bill would dramatically cut the modest pension earned by every public employee or force them to pay much more to maintain it,” said Michael T. Carrigan, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO. The average pension for an Illinois public employee is $32,000 a year and 80% of public employees do not qualify for Social Security.

For decades, Illinois politicians shorted or skipped the employer contributions required by law, creating the nation’s largest pension debt–even as public employees always paid their share faithfully and in full. “Punishing teachers, nurses, and other public employees who faithfully paid into their pensions for politicians’ mistakes is wrong, unconstitutional, and we won’t stand for it,” said Carrigan.

Floor votes in the House and Senate could come as early as Friday if the bill passes out of the House Personnel and Pensions Committee. 

As part of its effort to educate the public, We Are One Illinois has been airing radio and TV ads statewide. In addition, We Are One Illinois has launched a grassroots educational campaign to mobilize union members and Illinoisans across the state to stop politicians in Springfield from passing legislation to cut the modest pensions earned and paid into by public employees.  Tens of thousands of e-mails have been sent and calls made to Springfield legislators as a result of these efforts.

For interview requests please call 312-368-7533 or e-mail info@weareoneillinois.org. More information on the coalition is available at www.WeAreOneIllinois.org