The We Are One coalition of unions is calling for a fair solution to the state's pension problem, "a crisis politicians themselves caused by failing for years to pay their share to public retirement systems," according to the group.
The coalition of unions representing public employees has launched an ad campaign to push back against proposals for pension reforms that, they say, will punish workers who have done their part to help the state deal with the consequences of years of chronically underfunding the retirement accounts.
Here's a look at the coalition's latest TV ad:
To address the $83 billion in pension liabilities, Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed controversial reforms that include increasing the retirement age to 67, a three percent increase in employee contributions, and an overall reduction in the cost of living adjustment to about half the rate of inflation. Public employees would have the option to maintain their current level of contributions, but they would have to forgo subsidized retirement health insurance and all retirement benefits related to pay increases to do so. Currently, pensions cover the entire cost of retirees' health insurance. Quinn also proposed moving pension obligations for schools and public universities from the state to local school districts.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's pension proposal was even less palatable to labor, suggesting a one percent increase in contributions annually over the next five years for current employees, a 10-year moratorium on the cost of living adjustment for current retirees, and the choice of a 401k or pension plan for new employees.
Labor leaders say legislators need to listen to state workers instead of corporate interests as they look to resolve the state's pension problems.
"Corporate CEOs and lobbyists pushing unfair, unconstitutional cuts are drowning out the voices of middle class public employees who earn modest pensions—just $32,000 a year on average—typically contribute 8 to 10 percent of every paycheck toward their pension, and rely on the pension they earn since nearly 80 percent aren’t eligible for Social Security," reads a coalition press release. "We Are One Illinois unions have met repeatedly with legislative leaders and the governor, offering to help save the state billions of dollars in pension costs. But rumors persist that legislation may sabotage the prospect of a collaborative, fair solution."