Retirees who worked for the state for decades try to stop lawmakers from approving a deal, they fear will seriously cut their monthly income. Mary Ann Ahern reports.
Calling the pension reform law passed last year “pension theft”, a coalition of unions has filed suit to overturn the legislation in a downstate court.
The group, known as the We Are One Coalition, represents a collection of powerful unions across the state, including the Illinois AFL-CIO, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and others.
We Are One filed suit Tuesday in Sangamon County Circuit Court to overturn Senate Bill 1 while naming Governor Pat Quinn, state retirement systems boards and other officials as defendants.
The suit argues the law violates the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution, which unequivocally states that a public employee’s pension is a contract that the state cannot diminish or impair.
“Our suit makes clear that pension theft is not only unfair, it’s clearly unconstitutional,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan said in a statement. “Teachers, nurses, emergency responders, and other workers and retirees will not stand by while politicians try to take away their life savings illegally.”
Almost from the moment the pension law was passed by the Illinois legislature, groups have jockeyed to file suit, hoping to overturn the law. In recent weeks, both the Retired State Employees Association, which has more than 9,000 retired state workers as members, and the Illinois State Employees Association Retirees have sued.
Opposition to the pension reform package center on provisions that reduce and suspend cost-of-living increases for pensions, raise retirement ages and limit the salaries on which pensions are based.
The We Are One motion names 25 state employees or retirees who contributed to the State Employees Retirement System, the State Universities Retirement System, or the Teachers Retirement System before January 1, 2011 as members of the class action suit.