Saturday, April 18, 2015

Who's Got Your Back? IEA?

When I lost my bid to be an IEA – Retired Representative a few months ago, I wasn’t surprised.  My good friend and fellow blogger Glen Brown was successful in his bid, as was our friend Fred Klonsky.  Fred is more than a blogger; he’s a force for progressive reform on all fronts.  Glen has been a stalwart defender of our constitutional pension promises since the day he began retirement – no fishing, little traveling.  Just ongoing battle using his keen mind and a moral position. 

If you’ve read their blogs, you also know that their arguments include concerns for active teachers as well as future educators – not just those who got out before SB1/Rauner/SB2404/PARCC/Arne Duncan/Pat Quinn/Pearson/Charters/Tier 2/ forced 401K’s.…

When they confront something wrong-headed, they don’t sit back quietly.  You’d expect that, and you’d expect they’d attend the IEA assembly to represent all of us – retired and active and future.

But you might not expect the kind of equivocation and political slipperiness they’re both reporting this morning, after the IEA Representative Assembly this week. 

Under the rule of “if you see something (or smell something), say something," I offer the following blog from Glen Brown this morning.

An Initial Response from a Retired Delegate to the IEA-RA Representative Assembly

Re: IEA-NEA Proposed legislative Platform Amendment #2, April 17, 2015 

The Association also remains opposed to any unconstitutional changes to the laws governing retirement benefits that diminish or impair current members’ benefits. However, the Association supports any proposal that otherwise creates fair, practical, and constitutional solutions which sustain the long term viability of the pension systems. 

Proposed Language Changes to the above Decree: 

The Association opposes any diminishment or impairment of the pension benefits for current and future members.  

Rationale for the one sentence revision (submitted by ShiAnne Shively and seconded by Tim Allaire): 

Senate Bill 1 is currently in the courts and hopefully will be ruled as unconstitutional. This change removes any ambiguity and clarifies what the IEA will oppose.

Unfortunately, the proposed changes to the wording was struck down by the majority of delegates of the IEA-RA Assembly (and to the delight of the IEA president) without thorough discussion.

I agreed with the proposed changes to the language and spoke to the Representative Assembly, hoping the IEA leadership had a comprehensive plan already in place to address the next wave of attacks on our defined-benefit pension plan, regardless of the Illinois Supreme Court ruling:

We know Illinois politicians will continue to ignore legal and moral solutions for the state’s budget problems and pension debt, and they will continue their assaults on the Pension Protection Clause, no matter what the Illinois Supreme Court decides.

Never before has there been a need for dynamic leadership with a determination to build the rank-and-file’s collective capacity to resist then there is now.

I urge the Association to be fully prepared to oppose House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 9, a constitutional amendment meant to subvert our only retirement plan. I urge the Association to be fully prepared to oppose any transferring of the normal costs to the pension system to local school districts (HB 429, SB 72). I urge the Association to be fully prepared to oppose a Tier III pension plan for new teachers (HB 134). I also urge the Association to be absolutely prepared to defend our pension benefits and rights without apologies, without concessions, and without compromise. 

I would have also said to the Representative Assembly:

Let us remember the flawed “Pension Ramp” (Public Act 88-0593) signed into law in 1995 that exacerbated the unfunded liability. Let us remember a previous IEA leadership supported Public Act 88-0593. 

Let us remember that the current IEA leadership “proudly supported” Senate Bill 7 that was signed into law in June 2011, the bill that ensured that teachers’ evaluations and their tenure were tied to the Performance Evaluation Reform Act (Public Act 96-0861), the bill that ensured a so-called “streamlined process for the dismissal of teacher tenure,” the bill that required an authorization of 75% for a strike vote in Chicago, to name just a few complications that confront today's teachers.

Let us remember the current IEA leadership proposed Senate Bill 2404 in May, 2013: “A unilateral reduction of pension rights [that might have been deemed] unconstitutional, even if coupled with equally unilateral benefits that the [Labor Coalition] imagines retired and active public employees might theoretically find desirable (4)…” (Gino L. DiVito, John M. Fitzgerald, and Katherine M. O’Brien of Tabet, DiVito & Rothstein LLC, Constitutional Issues Concerning Legislative Pension Reform Proposals).  

Let us remember the IEA leadership had agreed to diminish and impair current teachers’ and retirees’ constitutionally-guaranteed benefits that had been protected by previous Illinois Supreme Court rulings. (The IEA does not represent the majority of retirees). The IEA leadership believed SB 2404 would thwart any further attacks on our Pension Protection Clause.

Though forgetfulness is a cousin to naivety, it took a calculated political manipulation by a speaker against amendment #2, a forgetfulness of the aforementioned IEA supported agreements in the past, and an outright fabrication meant to instill fear and doubt to make sure the majority of the IEA delegates voted against the new unequivocal language that was proposed in amendment #2.

I am saddened that the IEA leadership has created such an acquiescent provincialism. I am saddened that the IEA leadership avoids challenges to their authority and critical discussion. I am saddened that current teachers have lost so much already in these past few years and will lose even more in the future.

There should never be any negotiation of our constitutionally guaranteed benefits with an Illinois General Assembly that has proven over and over again they will not negotiate to “create fair, practical, and constitutional solutions.” We already have the definitive “fair, practical, and constitutional solution” in place for us. It’s called the Pension Protection Clause, and it has always been and should remain non-negotiable.

From my friend, colleague and fellow retired delegate, Fred Klonsky: The Sad State of the IEA

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