WBEZ | SEIU Local 73 http://www.wbez.org/tags/seiu-local-73 Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Chicago unions organize to fight potential pension cuts http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-unions-organize-fight-potential-pension-cuts-109720 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/401K2012bank_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s most powerful public workers&rsquo; unions are banding together to fend off potential cuts to employee pensions. This effort comes as City Hall and Springfield struggle to dig Chicago out of its multi-billion-dollar pension crisis.</p><p>The coalition, announced Monday, is called We Are One Chicago. It brings together nine labor groups representing nearly 140,000 city workers, from cops to nurses to teachers.</p><p>Organizers say the goal is to humanize the people who might be affected by changes to public pension benefits, like those in the controversial pension law affecting state workers that was passed by state lawmakers in December and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel&rsquo;s administration has suggested that law might be a model for overhauling some of the city&rsquo;s pensions, which together are underfunded by at least $27.5 billion.</p><p>The prospect of a slash in monthly retirement benefits ruffled public workers who spoke at a coalition press conference on Monday.</p><p>&ldquo;I paid my money into the pension, and the employment contract was that I would receive a pension,&rdquo; said firefighter Tom Ruane, who said he hopes to retire at the end of this year after 34 years on the job. &ldquo;If they&rsquo;re gonna break an employment contract, how about they start with the Skyway or the parking meters?&rdquo;</p><p>Also on Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union released a <a href="http://www.ctunet.com/blog/report-great-chicago-pension-caper" target="_blank">report</a> calling for higher or expanded taxes to pay help pay for city pension benefits, in order to avert benefit cuts that they contend violate the Illinois constitution.</p><p>The union&rsquo;s &ldquo;revenue solutions&rdquo; include a graduated state income tax, rather than the current flat one; a city income tax that would encompass suburbanites who work in Chicago; closing corporate tax loopholes; and expanding the sales tax to include services as well as goods, while lowering the tax rate overall.</p><p>Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey dismissed notions that the state-level pension overhaul, now facing <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588" target="_blank">several legal challenges</a>, could be a model for Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s not a starting point we&rsquo;re willing to accept. There needs to be some meaningful conversations about revenue,&rdquo; Sharkey said.</p><p>A spokesman for Chicago Public Schools would not immediately comment for this story.</p><p>Coalition members are planning to rally in Springfield on Wednesday in hopes of persuading lawmakers not to trim city worker benefits. City Hall and CPS are both facing massive, state-mandated spikes in their required pension contributions this year, after decades of underfunding of their retirement systems.</p><p>Unless lawmakers heed Emanuel&rsquo;s call to delay those increases, the city&rsquo;s required contribution for police and fire pensions alone will jump by nearly $590 million this year. Chicago Public Schools, which has a separate budget but is still funded largely by property taxes, faces a roughly $400 million payment hike to its fund for Chicago teachers.</p><p>Emanuel, who as mayor also controls the CPS school board, has said the city simply cannot afford those payments, even though his administration has long known about the impending contribution spikes.</p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, a close ally of Emanuel&rsquo;s, has said the Chicago teachers will have to accept some benefit changes in order to avoid bigger class sizes and drastic layoffs. <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/after-massive-layoffs-cps-suggests-teachers-contribute-more-their-pensions-108125" target="_blank">CPS has said</a> an earlier version of the state-level pension reform bill, sometimes referred to as SB1, should be used for Chicago teachers&rsquo; pensions.</p><p>That version would have capped teachers&rsquo; pensionable salaries and required them to kick in more money toward their retirement benefits. It also would have revised annual benefit increases and raised retirement ages.</p><p>It is unclear exactly what kind of fix Emanuel or state lawmakers envision for the city&rsquo;s other two troubled funds, for city laborers and white-collar workers. Mayoral aides have said one option could look similar to a recently-approved <a href="http://www.bondbuyer.com/issues/123_6/chicago-park-district-pension-reforms-signed-into-law-1058808-1.html" target="_blank">overhaul</a> of Chicago Park District pensions.</p><p>In an emailed statement, Emanuel said the city must provide &ldquo;financial security&rdquo; for city workers, but did not offer any specifics.</p><p>&ldquo;The resolution to this crisis must provide a secure retirement for them and retirees, while also looking out for taxpayers and homeowners in every neighborhood who struggle to make ends meet,&rdquo; the statement reads. &ldquo;We need a balanced approach to solve the biggest financial threat our city and school system have ever seen, and look forward to working on these solutions together.&quot;</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe">Alex Keefe</a> is a political reporter at WBEZ. You can follow him on <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZpolitics">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/102759794640397640028">Google+</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 17 Feb 2014 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-unions-organize-fight-potential-pension-cuts-109720 Sister union’s vote could affect leverage of teachers http://www.wbez.org/news/sister-union%E2%80%99s-vote-could-affect-leverage-teachers-99962 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Local73.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 276px; height: 480px; " title="SEIU members march with the Chicago Teachers Union in a 2011 downtown protest to support public education. (Photo courtesy of Local 73)" /></div><p>As the Chicago Teachers Union tallies <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/ctu-president-karen-lewis-talks-strike-authorization-vote-99844">a vote</a> that could lead to a strike, some balloting Saturday by the school district&rsquo;s second-largest union could affect the teachers&rsquo; bargaining strength.</p><p>Service Employees International Union Local 73 is holding a ratification vote on a tentative contract covering 5,500 Chicago Public Schools employees ranging from bus aides and special-education assistants to custodians and child-welfare attendants.</p><p>Local 73 Vice President Taalib-Din Ziyad and other union leaders are urging members to approve the deal because the district has privatized a lot of the work once done by the union&rsquo;s members.</p><p>&ldquo;We were able to save those jobs that were threatened as well as get language that there would be no further contracting out of any of our jobs,&rdquo; Ziyad said.</p><p>Local 73 and CPS said they would not release a copy of the agreement until after the ratification vote. Union leaders say the deal covers three years and sets up 2 percent annual raises.</p><p>The tentative pact follows a CPS contract settlement with Unite Here Local 1 announced last month. That agreement, a five-year deal, covers about 3,200 lunchroom workers and limits the district&rsquo;s switch to &ldquo;warming kitchens&rdquo; in which private venders provide preprepared food.</p><p>It&rsquo;s not clear whether the two settlements leave the CTU&rsquo;s 25,000 members out on a limb or increase their leverage. The teachers are finishing a vote on whether to authorize union leaders to call a strike. That vote, which began Wednesday, comes amid tough contract talks involving everything from pay to the school-day length.</p><p>Orlando Sepúlveda, a Local 73 member campaigning against ratification, calls the tentative agreement &ldquo;a hollow victory&rdquo; and says his union could have done better by waiting for the teachers to get a deal.</p><p>&ldquo;The defense of public education &mdash; meaning not only halting privatization, but also the improvement of all its constituent elements &mdash; will require the unity of all the community that it serves and all the workers involved in it,&rdquo; Sepúlveda wrote in a Web commentary.</p><p>The settlements could affect the CTU&rsquo;s negotiations, according to leaders of that union.</p><p>&ldquo;The members of both Unite Here and SEIU are hourly workers so they&rsquo;re not a good precedent for salaried teachers,&rdquo; CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said. &ldquo;But one thing that could set a precedent for us is the job-security language that those unions won.&rdquo;</p><p>The CTU has lost thousands of members in recent years, partly as a result of the district&rsquo;s approval of nonunion charter schools.</p></p> Fri, 08 Jun 2012 19:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/sister-union%E2%80%99s-vote-could-affect-leverage-teachers-99962