IEA, IFT, SEIU executives supported skipping pension payments

IEA, IFT, SEIU executives supported skipping pension payments

Government-worker union officials filed papers with the Illinois General Assembly in favor of the “pension holiday” that contributed to the state’s $111 billion pension debt.

As Illinois’ government-worker pension debt has skyrocketed to $111 billion, resulting in the state’s worst-in-the-nation credit rating and causing borrowing costs to soar, union officials refuse to share the blame, arguing that the fault for the massive pension debt lies with politicians who failed to fund pensions. In response to the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in May 2015, which struck down a modest pension-reform law, the union pension lobby group We Are One Illinois applauded the decision, insisting, “While workers always paid their share, politicians caused the debt by failing to make adequate contributions to the pension funds.”

But when the state of Illinois instituted its “pension holiday” in 2005, three key unions – the Illinois Federation of Teachers, Illinois Education Association and Service Employees International Union – all supported it.

The pension holiday meant that the state would not make its contributions to the state-run, government-worker pensions. As the bill authorizing the “holiday” worked its way through the General Assembly, lobbyists representing these unions filed witness slips in favor of the bill and the pension holiday.

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So government-worker union officials have to accept a large share of the blame for missed pension payments. Union leaders actually supported the state in taking pension holidays and skipping payments to the pension funds.

Defined-benefit pensions are appealing on paper, but they provide too many opportunities for politicians and union leaders to cut deals at the expense of workers and taxpayers.

Government workers and taxpayers should insist that state and local governments move toward self-managed, 401(k)-style retirement plans that put workers, not politicians, in control of their future.

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