Nearly two-dozen labor leaders are slated to receive a combined $56 million in municipal pension funds during their lifetimes, according to the Chicago Tribune.
A 20-year-old law which changed Illinois’ pension code has left 23 retired union officials in a position to collect that large sum from two of the city of Chicago’s ailing pension funds.
These changes became law without any public debate among state legislators and without cost analysis.
Since the law bases pension payouts on labor leaders’ union salaries, instead of on the more modest salaries they received as city officials, their pensions average three times higher than what the typical city worker receives after retirement.
State legislators and city government officials are now refusing to take responsibility for the law, passed in 1991, leaving many questioning whom should be held accountable.
Experts tell the Tribune they have never heard of such a large perk for union leaders, noting the potential problems it could create for a city struggling to control pension costs. Chicago does not control salaries paid to leaders of municipal employees’ unions, the most important factor in determining pensions.
A decade ago, Chicago’s pension plans had ample funds. Today, in light of the economic recession, the need for huge, unanticipated payouts could burden taxpayers and dues-paying union workers alike.
The situation could also get worse: City workers who take leaves of absence to work full-time for unions have historically been able to remain in city pension funds if they so choose. The time they spend working at the union — while on leave from municipal duties — is then counted towards their city pensions.