A writer must “know and have an ever-present consciousness that this world is a world of fools and rogues… tormented with envy, consumed with vanity; selfish, false, cruel, cursed with illusions… He should free himself of all doctrines, theories, etiquettes, politics…” —Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?). “The nobility of the writer's occupation lies in resisting oppression, thus in accepting isolation” —Albert Camus (1913-1960). “What are you gonna do” —Bertha Brown (1895-1987).
The Illinois Federation of Teachers Calls on the Teachers Retirement System Director to Resign
by the Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery
Since 1939, the Illinois Teachers Retirement
System (TRS) has done a tremendous public service in stewarding and
safeguarding the life savings of the state’s teachers. The state benefits from a
system where teachers--who do not collect Social Security--can avoid poverty in
retirement. But, once again, the current executive director of TRS, Dick
Ingram, has announced his personal views about diminishing key benefits for
existing workers and retirees.
In an interview with Crain’s Chicago
Business last week, Ingram focused his remarks, as he did in April, 2012,
on reducing cost of living adjustments (COLAs). It is inappropriate for Mr.
Ingram, who is responsible for safeguarding the retirement benefits of 360,000
teachers, to promote his personal views by advocating for the destruction of
TRS members’ retirement security. Such actions contradict his fiduciary duty
and are in violation of a resolution passed by the TRS Board of Trustees. Mr.
Ingram’s insubordinate and irresponsible actions can only result in one
honorable outcome—his resignation.
Mr. Ingram fails to mention in his many
interviews that teachers in the system have already paid for the cost of living
benefits he wants to cut—their payments are built into the contribution
calculations they are required to make in every paycheck. In addition, it seems
not to matter to Mr. Ingram that the Illinois Constitution expressly forbids
the benefit cuts he finds so attractive. Mr. Ingram says the Constitution is
“unfortunate.” We say it is just and fair.
Mr. Ingram may think that he can mislead the
members of the TRS Board of Trustees into believing that his remarks do not
violate their fiduciary responsibility or their own resolutions regarding TRS
advocacy. We have more faith in the board members than that.
Mr. Ingram would like the public and other
unions to believe his comments are merely an intellectual exercise and are not
meant to promote his own preferred solutions to the pension crisis. To this we
say, “We will not be fooled.” The Teachers Retirement System must work for its
members, not the politicians, corporate executives, or newspapers its leaders
may be bullied by.
When the fox is guarding the hen house, it is
the fox that must go. Mr. Ingram has lost the trust of those he is employed to
protect. He should resign from his position as TRS executive director.