Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Send in the Clowns Running for Illinois Governor: Bruce Rauner

To Bruce Rauner, Who Would Run for Illinois Governor: (A Response by Mr. Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana)

“No one should be surprised that Bruce Rauner set foot in the Illinois governor's race recently by trampling all over the state's working families. Despite the billionaire venture capitalist's efforts to portray himself as a regular guy, he took a special pot shot at our union, which represents low-wage health care and child-care workers throughout Illinois. It was a glaring illustration of how little Rauner understands the plight of the state's poor and working class.
Our members earn low wages — sometimes poverty wages — and they don't belong to the state pension systems that Rauner decries. In return for this meager living, they provide vital health care to hospital patients, nursing-home residents, seniors and people with disabilities, and help educate low-income children through child care and early-learning programs.
These are precisely the people who have been shortchanged by Illinois' chronic budget morass, and yet Rauner somehow claims they have too much power in Springfield. While there is no doubt that the union has been instrumental in improving our members' wages, working conditions and the quality of care for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, these workers remain poor and cannot equal the power of Rauner's billions.
Rauner's anti-union vitriol is little more than a rich man's distaste for the less-fortunate."

(By permission of Keith Kellher, president, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana.)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Preliminary Injunction: Coming Attractions

Preliminary Injunction

Noun – an injunction, simply, is an order (or a writ) issued by the court that demands an individual or person(s) to act -  or restrains an individual or person(s) from acting.

For an historical example, recall the attempted desegregation in 1957 of the Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas.  Segregationist groups were able to convince a local chancellor/judge to issue an injunction against the admission of non-white students to the school in the coming fall based on their “concerns” for potential violence. 

Another injunction, delivered by Federal Judge Davies, nullified the earlier writ with a command that forced the school to move forward with the planned integration and removed the National Guard brought in ostensibly to uphold law and order. 

Injunctions are born of other issues and conflicts, and are not a matter of legal right(s).  In fact, a request for an injunction can as easily be denied as approved.  The facts in each case determine whether an injunction will be issued, and the potential details for consideration (no pun intended) in the case of a not-so-distant pension bill cutting benefits will provide many. 

There will of course be the central argument provided by Helen Kinney and Henry Green (thank you) in the 1970 Illinois Constitutional Convention: Article XIII, Section 5.

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

While the General Assembly has acted with impunity in the cutting of benefits to the future public workers in Illinois, they have yet to pass a bill curtailing the benefits of active workers and current retirees.  Indeed, much of the concern raised by those who practice law in the General Assembly has been, as Representative Lou Lang tried to remind the Chicago Tribune, “whether or not it is constitutional.”  Whether it’s legal.  The Tribune is not concerned with legality – or morality.

Bills that may emerge from the “new” summer pension working-group may be an amalgam of Madigan’s benefit-cutting bill SB1 or Cullerton’s union-backed bill SB2404.  In any case, any changes in the wording to SB2404 will provide an immediate refusal to endorse by the unions, and subsequent passage will likely produce a preliminary injunction.  Remember, however, even union-backed SB2404 will face a legal reaction by the Illinois Retired Teachers Association, and such a response might start as described below.

Because of the enormity of impact in the passage of such a bill –one that will affect perhaps hundreds of thousands of Illinois families and millions of citizens – all the unions would likely seek a restraining order immediately.  “A Restraining Order is granted to preserve the status quo of the focus of controversy until the hearing on an application for a temporary injunction.  A Temporary Restraining Order is an extraordinary remedy of short duration that is issued to prevent unnecessary and irreparable injury” ( ).   

The Restraining Order, even if Temporary, suspends further proceedings until a determination whether an injunction is permissible can be filed with the court.
Remember, Restraining Orders have life-spans, and in the case of a Temporary, such a provision can quickly sunset. 

During that interim, union officials would seek a Preliminary Injunction, which would act much like a Restraining Order, except that such a writ would stop all proceeding until legal determinations could be made. 

Such an injunction freezes or holds the conflicting matter in its present state to preserve the existing condition and  “ensures the ability of the court to render a meaningful decision and serves to prevent a change of circumstances that would hamper or block the granting of proper relief following a trial on the merits of the case” (

Then, it’s the court’s turn to consider the legality of the proposed bill.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Real Pension Obstructionist: A Letter to a Legislator

Pension Obstructionist: Chicago Tribune

Dear Representative and Senator,

We do not often get second chances, but all of you in the General Assembly are about to be granted another test of your allegiance to the Illinois Constitution and your political fortitude to find real and honorable answers to the Illinois “pension crisis.”

Let’s be clear about one real truth.  No matter how many of you are singled out and castigated by the Chicago Tribune for being hesitant or even thoughtful, the egregious falsehood perpetrated by the corporate media – even without Koch brother ownership – is the following: a characterization that budget woes in Illinois are a result of “diverting money from education and health care and other essential services to preserve pension benefits that are crushing the state” (Tribune Editorial  June 16, 13). 

That’s an untruth, Representative and Senator.   You know it and I know it.

Having to pay down a $100 billion debt on past avoidance (not diversion) of making required pension payments is actually what’s financially crushing the State of Illinois.  In fact the normal costs of pension payments have remained quite static or, as in last year, even less. 

The Tribune editorial board and Bruce Dold, always a willing messenger for the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, have enacted this falsity in order to avoid the very real financial remedies available to any state, but not one like ours -  subjected to the onerous dictatorship of a single politician like Speaker Madigan. 

Notice how the Tribune always combines the debt payment and the normal costs to make its specious points?  By not separating the two, the normal person does not realize a re-amortization of the debt owed for stealing pension moneys could be paid off without the crazy and punitive climbing cost developed by the General Assembly (with help fom the corporates) in 1995.  Why isn’t Madigan or someone promoting that possibility? 

And if you think that Speaker Madigan is about to allow you as an elected official to think independently about what is possibly unconstitutional, or what is immoral, what is financially possible or ameliorative, think again.  He has eviscerated the union backed bill SB2404 to hold over the head of Senate Leader Cullerton – a childish and twisted parody of Solomon.  Extreme power without wisdom.

Will the Representatives in the House scurry under the domination of the Speaker and vote “aye” on his new machination?  Will my own Representative fall into line as she did so easily with SB1?  I hope not.  I hope that she and others realize that another forced vote on a mutant original bill is a slap in the face of not only thoughtful colleagues in the Senate, but a derisive and cynical demonstration of just how little the Speaker thinks of their offices – in both houses. 

Will the Senate also allow SB1 reviving life and fall into line with the leader's dark vision in the other house? 

I wish you well, and I wish you the strength to look for better answers to the financial hole Illinois politicians (not public workers) have excavated for nearly eighty years.  


John Dillon

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Ernesto's Governor Ratings: Wake Up Worker!

Ernesto Ratings: Welcome to (south) America

Ernesto, a gentleman from a Latin country who is a good friend of the family, often schools me about the strange and mistaken notions of middle class Americans like myself.  Many servants raised Ernesto south of the equator with his wealthy family in the hills overlooking the multi-colored roofs of the crowded city below.  There were no confusions in Ernesto’s world.  There were classes, classes that were clearly delineated not only by the clothing one might wear but also the future one could expect to have.  Things were clear.

“Here,” he would remind me in carefully selected words, “people do not respect or understand the nature of and the need for classes.  This is a problem, and it breeds distrust and frustration.  Ironically, you pseudo-intellectuals actually believe you can make things work differently here, but of course you cannot.  Once you accept this truism, the frustration that comes of false expectations will cease and life can go on peacefully.”

For Ernesto, social contracts (like pensions, Medicare, Social Security, public schooling, etc.) are merely mistaken promises that assuage the needy and undeserving.  But Ernesto is also quick to remind me, he does not need any of my middle-class offerings.

“Why should I pay for your pensions?  Or anything else for that matter?  I do not need your schools – my children are educated privately.  I do not need your medical or retirement programs, because I have taken care of my family and myself in far better fashion.  I don’t need anything you might provide.

“Fire Department?” I counter.

“I have a superior sprinkler system.”


“We have our own security systems, safe rooms, and private officers on the grounds of our gated community Diamond Arbor.”

And when it comes to government by the people for the people, Ernesto can bring the pain. 

“You think the next governor of Illinois will care about you, your pensions, those who need medical assistance, public education, or anything else I consider welfare?  Think again”

Dan Rutherford, a business executive and one-term treasurer for the State of Illinois has thrown his hat into the ring for 2014.  By the way, Mr. Rutherford is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (a.k.a. ALEC). Also, according to Project Vote Smart, Rutherford is keen on Right to Life groups and the Illinois Policy Institute is very keen on Dan, giving him a 100% score for following their positions.  Think beyond a 401(k), and you’ll lose Dan in any discussion of pensions. Ernesto Rating A.

Bruce Rauner, a self-made millionaire (unlike Ernesto), is a Tea Party favorite, or at least he is very generous to those who are.  He has financially supported prospective legislators like Susan Sweeney and others endorsed by Illinois Crossroads, the Tea Party organization in Illinois.  In fact, Rauner financially has supported gubernatorial candidate Kirk Dillard in the past, but probably not this time around.  On a recent WTTW interview, Rauner was reticent to discuss his actual positions regarding issues like abortion or same-sex marriage; this after saying he was a candidate who would speak openly and honestly.  He also preferred a broad brush 401 (k) for all public workers.  He never discussed whether Social Security would be a problem.  Ernesto Rating A+.

To say Kirk Dillard is appreciated would be an understatement when it comes to the NRA, Chamber of Commerce,  American Conservative Union, Illinois Manufacturers Associaition, Illinois Policy Institute, and Illinois Churches Association.  Kirk does not fare so well with union organizations, independent voters groups, Planned Parenthood, or the Illinois Environmental Council (Project Vote Smart).  On the other hand, long time assistant to BIG Jim Thompson and leader of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Illinois, Kirk earned Ernesto’s A+ rating.  (Why would IEA give this guy $35,000?)

Senator Bill Brady is owner of a home construction outfit who promised last time to “cut a dime from every dollar of the state budget” (ballotpedia).  Last run at Governor was marred by the information that Senator Brady endorsed a bill allowing euthanizing multiple animals in one area (box).  The Illinois Policy Institute is enamored of Brady, giving his a 100% endorsement on Project Vote Smart.  He is also revered by Illinois Gun Owners Organization, the Illinois Manufacturers Association, the NRA,  and the American Conservative Union.  Ernesto Rating A+.

William Daley, a failure in multiple areas on the Federal level (Gore’s unsuccessful bid for the Presidency, Chief of Staff for Obama after Emanuel) was truly what big business needed when Clinton was in office, and he spearheaded the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which has done so much to those with so little in our country.  Success for Daley has come in his financial affiliations depite the hard times following the 2007-08 collapse of housing markets.  “A longtime banker and businessman, Daley headed the Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, served as president of SBC and later held top positions at JPMorgan Chase….On pension reform, Daley favors a proposal that would require workers to pay more toward their retirement, scale back the automatic annual 3 percent compounded increase in retiree checks and raise the retirement age” ( ).  Ernesto Rating A++.

Lisa Madigan was a senator in Illinois and is daughter of Speaker Mike Madigan.  Ernesto does not expect her to win.  “She’s a woman for God’s sake.”  He also feels past associations with Acorn and meager attempts to put bank foreclosures on stall or slow motion will destroy her possibilities with the business community.  Ernesto rating: C+.
When I asked why that passing rating, he responded matter-of-factly, “Don’t forget her Dad.”
“By the way, my pseudo-intellectual friend,” Ernesto summarized with a nice sip of Pinot Noir, “if you think any of these American political leaders are interested in those who depend on the social contracts made, you need a nice fitting straight jacket.”

Monday, June 10, 2013

Forget the Gun; Take the Pensions

Forget the Gun; Take the Pensions

(Please forgive the classical allusion and sudden jump to modern media...)

In The Odyssey, the tired and war-beaten protagonist is told that to find an answer to his present dilemma, he needs capture by hand a shape-shifting god and hold him until all of his various forms have been exhausted.  At that point, the god may cower and agree to deliver potential resolutions to his perpetual predicament.  Ah, to be Odysseus, or even to live in a world of real gods.

Today, the very lesser gods of the General Assembly convened for a working lunch, but they remained shape-shifters in every sense as effective as our old hero’s god Proteus, whom Odysseus finally overcame.  Would it were so for the hundreds of thousands of state employees (millions counting families), who work and wait, never knowing when or what will happen to their financial futures given the arbitrary and capricious forces that swirl in Springfield.

Three very different fellows populated lunch, although all three swear (to the media) to be close party friends.  One is an ersatz leader looking for any solution from the other two to make him look potentially as a front-runner.  Another, who worries about legal ramifications (after all, he is a lawyer), holds on to the argument that giving choice or consideration will pass constitutional scrutiny, especially with unions signing on.  Finally, the last gourmand has little in common with either of the others, hoping the first one’s political self-immolation will provide a four-lane avenue for his daughter’s ascension to the state mansion, and the second’s sleeping with the enemy will provide him with coveted acceptance with the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago.

Imagine the dinner at Louis’ Restaurant on the West Side.

Gov. Quinn – I’m glad you came, Mike.  I hope we can straighten everything out.  I mean this is terrible… It’s not the way I wanted things to go at all.  It should never have happened.

Speaker Madigan – We’ll straighten everything out tonight.  I don’t want my people bothered anymore.

Senate Leader Cullerton – They won’t be, Mike.  I swear on my children they won’t.  But you gotta keep an open mind when we talk.  I mean I hope you’re not a hothead like that IRTA guy Elman.  You can’t talk with him.

Gov. Quinn – Ah, he’s a good kid. (leans forward and offers handshake) Sorry about the senate vote on SB1, but you know how it is.  Getting’ old and grouchy.  (Frisks Michael)
He’s clean.  

Senate Leader Cullerton – Good.

Gov. Quinn - Whaddaya say we combine the two bills together like before.  We put SB1 in front and SB2404 in back, tandem like.  If one don’t work, we can maybe get the other through?

Senate Leader Cullerton –  We’ll maybe they’ll take that.  I dunno.  Unions might not like being used, ya know?  But I can try it…

Gov. Quinn - How 'bout it, Mike? 

Speaker Madigan – They deserve it.  Sounds good to me.  By the way…I have to go to the bathroom.  Is that all right?  (Madigan heads toward the bathroom while the other two sit and eat quietly)

Chances are the union will not love this new hybrid at all, but after helping in the generation of SB2404, they may find themselves in the awkward position of not backing the “tandem” bill, or hoping that the bill’s passage fails but the secondary does not, or trying to disagree with any changes offered to them by good gangster/bad gangster act called Cullerton and Madigan.  Decisions, decisions.  Especially when you’ve helped craft half of what might kill you.  No pun intended, but when your healthcare is part of what you might give up, and you’ll pay more for lesser coverage anyway – that just might kill you. 

Whatever form of proposed legal maneuver to avoid the required payment for stolen moneys from pensioners and refusal to find real revenue answers for the state’s structural deficit problem have yet to appear.  You can bet that was not a topic of conversation over the cannoli.

According to WTTW Chicago Tonight, Governor Quinn was satisfied that both leaders of the General Assembly were “good friends” and “the meeting was pleasant.” 

Of course, real Mike hasn’t emerged from the bathroom yet...and that might just kill you.