Legislation from state Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, and House GOP
Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego, targets these labor leaders who are
collecting taxpayer-guaranteed pensions based on the time and salary
they acquired while working for their unions.
spokesman for the state's largest teachers' union, the Illinois
Federation of Teachers said the union is "reviewing the legislation
and has no further comment at this time." Calls to the Illinois
Education Association teachers' union were not returned.
Senate Bill 2499, takes action against education union leaders
with the IFT and IEA as well as the Illinois Association of School
Boards, an organization that helps school boards with professional
development and is indirectly funded by taxpayers. The proposal
seeks to prevent the leaders from using their jobs with the unions
or association to pad a pension they earned inside a classroom or
"The most glaring examples of what we're trying to get to,
frankly, are in the Teachers' Retirement System, where you have
individuals who have worked for years for a union, who are using
their time in the union and their final salary from the union to set
their public pension," said Murphy.
Murphy is quick to point to Reginald Weaver, former head of the
country's largest teacher union, the National Education Association,
who is collecting $242,000 annually based on his salary working with
the union. Weaver earned just $60,000 as a middle school teacher in
1996 in Harvey, Ill.
An investigation by Illinois Statehouse News found that 119 union
and nonprofit leaders are eligible for taxpayer-guaranteed pensions.
Sixty union officials and other nongovernmental workers are
collecting those pensions.
"These union leaders ... have been paid handsomely through
teachers' dues for years and were supposed to have the backs of
these rank-and-file teachers," Murphy said. "This individual, Mr.
Weaver, is taking out six times as much as the average teacher from
their very pension fund."
Weaver and other labor leaders in Illinois are taking advantage
of vague language in a 1991 law that allows union leaders to
maximize their pensions by basing their taxpayer-backed retirement
income on their salary and years of service in their unions. That
law was enacted under former Republican Gov. Jim Thompson's
Murphy, however, said closing the 1991 loophole will require help
from Democrats who control state government.
"My hope is that my friends on the other side of the aisle will
recognize the need to address, not only a fairness issue with this,
but also the cynicism from taxpayers toward their government for
even allowing this type of insider deal," Murphy said.
State Rep. Dan Biss, D-Evanston, is leading a House working group
on pension reform. However, Biss didn't comment Wednesday on
Murphy's legislation or any other pension-reform measures that may
go before the General Assembly.
"We want to have open and honest discussions at this point," Biss
[to top of second column]
Cross said he plans to ride the coattails of stories from the
Chicago Tribune and WGN television in Chicago that highlight union
leaders who have used the 1991 loophole to force pension plans
though the Legislature.
"Unfortunately, top union officials used a questionable
interpretation of the pension law that allowed them to use a
loophole in to grab two or sometimes three pensions," said Cross.
Cross' proposals are:
House Bill 3832 would bar union leaders from avoiding
criminal charges of pension fraud if they collect union and city
of Chicago pensions.
House Bill 3827 would replace members of the city of Chicago
and Cook County pension boards in order to promote
accountability to taxpayers.
House Bill 3813 would repeal a portion of the 1991 law that
allows city of Chicago employees to retire with a city pension
based on their higher union salary. The bill would allow union
officials to accept a city pension based on their city salary
when they left public service.
"You should only get a public pension for public work," said
Murphy of the measures.
Adam Andrzejewski, a former GOP candidate for governor and
founder of the taxpayer advocate group For the Good of Illinois,
which calls for "limited, accountable and transparent government,"
said most people statewide would agree that public pensions should
be only for public work.
"This legislation defends the hardworking public employee, the
hardworking teacher who pays into their (retirement) system," said
Andrzejewski. "The systems are, literally, being drained by tens of
millions of dollars from nongovernment entities like public-sector
unions (and) the nonprofit groups."
Statehouse News; By BENJAMIN YOUNT]