The We Are One Coalition, made up of public-sector workers in numerous Illinois unions, are in a struggle to save worker pensions.
Unionists from Bloomington-Normal, mostly from AFSCME and the Illinois Education Association, traveled on Thursday to Springfield to participate in a 400-strong rally and lobbying effort to stop any bill not accepted by public sector unions. Just a day earlier, over 1300 people rallied at the capitol and conducted a sit-in inside until representatives of the governor spoke with them.
It is thought that state politicians, headed by Governor Quinn, might attempt to force through a bill prior to May 31st. From plans circulating the capitol, the unions have determined that a bill could include austerity measures, which would attempt to resolve the state’s fiscal crisis on the backs of workers who did not cause the crisis.
Proposals circulating around the capitol included an increase to worker contributions to pensions, a reduction in the current 3% annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) during retirement, and an increase of the “normal” retirement age from 60 to 67. House speaker Michael Madigan is now pushing for reductions in the COLA as the single measure, which the We Are One coalition opposes, as well as a shift of costs from the state of Illinois to local institutions such as school districts and colleges.
Numerous speakers pointed out that the fiscal crisis is that of the 1% elite, not workers. The crisis arises from built-in stagnation of the economic system, as well as regressive taxing policies and loopholes whereby the 1% and corporations do not pay their fair share.
Joanna Webb-Gauvin, lobbyist with Illinois AFSCME, told the rally that the state lawmakers had already cut 3 billion dollars from Medicaid, money spent on services to the disabled and senior citizens. Lawmakers also took away premium retirement health care from state workers covered by AFSCME.
Ms. Webb-Gauvin said, “We didn’t cause the crisis. This is their failure, not ours. They have not lived up to their obligations.”
Below are pictures of BloNo participation during the day.