Unionized public employees once again are clashing with state leaders who want to roll back benefits and weaken collective bargaining to shore up a government budget. But this time, the threat isn’t coming from a Republican stronghold, but rather from a generally “blue” state: Illinois.
Leaders in both parties in Springfield appear ready to push a major pension reform bill this fall that would remove Illinois workers’ current defined-benefit plan and replace it with less-lucrative options, including a 401(k) plan.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is also being accused by labor of trying to renege on salary and benefit guarantees for union workers. He says he is acting for the long-term fiscal stability of the state, which faces about $7 billion in unpaid bills and a worst-in-the-nation unfunded pension liability of at least $80 billion.
Gov. Quinn announced this summer that he would not honor pay raises that had been scheduled by contract for 30,000 union workers across 14 state agencies because the legislature had not appropriated the money and the state could not afford the expense. An arbitrator ruled against the decision, but the governor is fighting that ruling.
A version of this article appeared in the August 31, 2011 edition of Education Week as Benefits Fight Hits ‘Blue’ State