Monday, January 28, 2013

IEA President Cinda Klickna's reply to an IEA member (not me) as to why she would not support the petition


I've had a couple of inquiries about why IEA has declined to formally support or promote a member's e-petition on the pension issue. Let me explain: The short answer is that the petition in question is not reflective of the IEA/We Are One Illinois coalition position on the pension issue. The petition reflects its drafters' very strongly held belief that we (IEA and the coalition) should not be trying to negotiate a solution to the pension problem. While anyone is entitled to hold an opinion on the pension issue, the view expressed in the petition conflicts with the position of the IEA officers, the IEA board and with the other members of the coalition (including any who might have signed the petition).

It also, most importantly, conflicts with the opinion of our members, who have told us repeatedly, in growing numbers, that they want IEA leadership try to forge an agreement that is fair, constitutional and will result in every TRS and SURS participant getting the pension they have been promised. For IEA to support or promote this petition would be, at best, disingenuous and could interfere with the effort to convince the state to avoid unconstitutional pension proposals. It also could give a false impression to IEA members and, possibly to the General Assembly and the general public that IEA and labor do truly not wish to participate in finding a solution to the pension mess. That would be the opposite of what we've been saying for many months. It also would not be true. In a sense, our choices are simple:

* We can roll the dice, refuse to engage, watch the General Assembly pass unconstitutional proposals that have been endorsed by the governor and legislative leaders, then see what the state supreme court says. Or,
* We can work like hell to negotiate a fair and constitutional solution that protects your pension and the pensions of every other affected IEA member.

The former is, by far, the easier lift. Nothing could be easier, less stressful and less time-consuming than the non-engagement strategy. But that's not what the members elected us to do and it’s not what they want us to do. We've asked them. They've told us. IEA members want and deserve more than a leadership team that sits on its hands sand says, "See you in court." That's not the responsible thing to do. On February 11, the labor coalition is holding a pension summit. The point of the summit is to use all the influence we can muster to convince Governor Quinn and the legislative leaders to reject illegal pension proposals and work with the unions for a fair and constitutional solution to this problem. At the top of the list of things we want the state to understand is that revenue must be part of any solution.

Delivering that message is our focus. We don't need any distractions. The stakes are too high.

We don't mind people disagreeing with the strategy, but we're obligated to take the steps that we think are most likely to result in every IEA member getting the pension they've been promised. Thank you for your email.

Cinda

Dear Cinda,

First, let’s re-read the petition:

Illinois Revenue and Debt Reform, Not Pension Reform!

Many Illinois legislators want to challenge the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions instead of addressing the causes of the state's budget deficits. Illinois public employees have earned their pensions. Their pension is a constitutionally-guaranteed contract. That's why I created a petition to The Illinois State House, The Illinois State Senate, and Governor Pat Quinn, which says:

"Illinois has a pension debt and revenue problem. Most legislators know this, and they also understand the concept of justice and what lawfulness demands: that people must keep their covenants with one another. No justice is accomplished when diminishing public employees' earned benefits and rights because of decades of legislators' irresponsibility, corruption and incompetence. Stop Illinois pension reform. It is immoral and illegal."

Will you sign this petition? Click here: Illinois Revenue and Debt Reform, Not Pension Reform!

Cinda, 

It is disappointing to discover that you chose not to respond to me personally but to another IEA member instead. The petition does not say to avoid negotiation! Indeed, the IEA (and the rest of the Illinois We Are One Coalition) should “negotiate a solution to the pension problem.” That solution, however, should address the pension debt and revenue problems without consideration to increase teachers’ contributions, to diminish the teachers’ COLA, or to impair the constitutionally-guaranteed contract through modification of contract principles. A “fair” and “constitutional” solution does not mean sacrificing teachers and other public employees again and again.

Furthermore, when you state, “[the petition] conflicts with opinions of [the IEA] members… We’ve asked them. They’ve told us”: according to Jim Reed, only “600” members were polled. This is not a reliable and sufficient sampling of the IEA membership or of any other organization for that matter. An interesting point of comparison is this petition has 5900+ signers [as of April 19th].

In my previous post, I stated that many of us (especially retirees that the IEA does not legally represent) believe there will never be enough impairments of the Pension Clause to satisfy unscrupulous legislators with a mania for so-called “pension reform.” Too many legislators are dependent on the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago’s campaign money and influenced by the Committee’s collective ill-will toward public employees. 

Eric M. Madiar, Chief Legal Counsel to Illinois Senate President John J. Cullerton and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, states it this way: “Pension benefits are under siege for two reasons: opportunity and political motives” (Defending and Protecting Public Employees’ Pensions against the Legislative Siege). Many public employees (read the comments on our petition online) argue that unions should not bargain away any of the public employees’ “constitutionally-guaranteed,” earned rights and benefits. 

Why? Because “a public employee obtains ‘vested rights’ in the Pension Code provisions relevant to pension benefits when the employee becomes a member of a pension system by making his or her initial employee contribution to the system. In addition, the ‘Pension Clause’ protects pension benefit rights as an enforceable contractual relationship” (Madiar, “Is Welching on Public Pensions an Option for the State of Illinois…”).

Despite this important assurance from the Chief Legal Counsel and Parliamentarian of the Illinois Senate, key legislators are still saying, “Let the courts decide” on the issue of breaking a contract. It’s unfair that you assume I would advocate letting the courts decide or “rolling the dice” (the “easier lift”) as you call it regarding this crisis. This is a falsehood that needs no rebuttal.

If legislators agree to meet with the Coalition, please “work like hell to negotiate a fair and constitutional solution” that does not diminish the existing contract already in place. Consider that any modification of contract principles will never be enough because it’s a revenue and pension debt problem. To be sure, “The stakes are too high.”

Without a doubt, most of us believe every public employee has a “promised pension” guaranteed by the Illinois and U.S. Constitutions, and I will continue to support only competent, dynamic union leadership. Though your and my “entitled… opinion on the pension issue” might be “conflicting,” it should never be “disingenuous.” “The gravest of [offenses] is to argue sophistically, to suppress facts or arguments, to misstate the elements of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinion…” (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty).

Please read my previous post for elucidation and intention: Modification of Contract Principles (and what many petitioners want their unions to do.

Respectfully, 

2 comments:

  1. The spin that Cinda Klickna uses in her reply is disappointing and inappropriate. Her reply is calculated and disingenuous. She should be ashamed of herself.
    Ken Previti

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  2. WHO IS SHE LISTENING TO????? When Cinda Klickna states that she has heard from her members - who is telling her that we want to increase our dues by 2%! Is she kidding?????? I cannot afford to send another 2% to the State when they absolutely have mismanaged the money I have and am currently sending them!

    First it will start with a 2% increase. Who knows what will come after that!

    The IEA Leadership is NOT speaking for me! I am disgusted with the way this is turning out and it seems that we have a leadership who 1) not working for it's members and/or 2) it's politics as usual in Illinois and we're screwed!!!!

    Keep sending that petition on! When we have the signatures - they'll see!

    Cathy Lenzini

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