At the top of the Nov. 8 ballot is a proposal to change the Illinois Constitution called Amendment 1, which union backers are calling the “Workers’ Rights Amendment.” Just like the controversial decision to include rigid rules about pensions in the 1970 state constitution, Amendment 1 proposes rigid rules regarding how government unions are treated and makes their powers virtually untouchable.

State lawmakers cannot control soaring pension costs without changing the state constitution. Amendment 1 would similarly make it impossible for them to curb government union negotiating powers, and unchecked union power means an unchecked ability to make demands that taxpayers would have no choice but to fund. The cost of those demands is conservatively estimated at $2,100 for the typical Illinois family during the next four years if voters pass Amendment 1, but the tax damage could be far worse.

Looking back, the adoption of the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois Constitution started many of the problems Illinois faces today. Illinois’ pension protection clause has been interpreted to be more rigid than any similar provision in any state constitution. With no ability to rein in the cost of public pensions, payments have crowded out spending on education and public services even as Illinoisans bear some of the highest tax burdens in the country.

The state holds the lowest credit ratings in the country, and residents are consistently leaving for states unrestrained by an unyielding pension clause in their constitutions. State lawmakers made attempts to correct the problem in 2013, but the Illinois Supreme Court struck down most of those reforms. The only option left is to change the state constitution, which could let the state regain fiscal sanity.

Instead, state lawmakers went in the opposite direction and handed voters Amendment 1. Instead of giving Illinois more flexibility to handle its money problems, the proposal takes away options and is potentially more restrictive than even the 1970 constitution’s pension protection clause.

Author(s): Joe Tabor

Publication Date: 14 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute

Union officials sue MBTA after arbitrator proposes slashing pensions of those who retire before age 65



The MBTA’s largest union is challenging an independent arbitrator’s decision that would reshape the rules of the authority’s $1.66 billion retirement system, including slashing the pensions of those who retire before the age of 65.


Still, after more than four years of negotiations over a pension agreement, it’s unclear what exact changes could come to the MBTA’s retirement fund, where the number of retirees has long outpaced the amount of workers paying into it, and MBTA officials have long pressed for sweeping changes.

As of the end of last year, the fund’s unfunded liability hovered at more than $1.3 billion, and, despite changes that went into effect a decade ago to stem what were considered lavish retirement perks, younger retirees have continued to flow into the retirement system, creating more financial pressure.


The arbitrator’s decision included a series of changes, most notably in lifting the age at which a retiree would collect an “unreduced” pension. Under the ruling, workers who opt for early retirement — in this case, before the age of 65 — would have 6 percent deducted from their pension benefit for every year of retirement before the age of 65.

Currently, anyone who is 55 and has at least 25 years of service qualifies for a so-called normal monthly pension, calculated at 2.46 percent of the average of a person’s three consecutive highest-earning years, multiplied by years of service.

Author(s): Matt Stout

Publication Date: 26 Sept 2022

Publication Site: Boston Globe





Amendment 1 would grant government unions unprecedented bargaining powers as a “fundamental right,” including the power to override voters and state lawmakers. Proponents are selling it as a constitutional ban on passing right-to-work laws – laws that protect employees’ rights to keep their jobs without having to pay fees to a union. Illinois is not among the 28 states that currently have right-to-work laws, so that aspect has little meaning.

The amendment does include three other provisions that together would severely weaken taxpayers’ voices in state government and make it easier for government union bosses to make unaffordable demands in collective bargaining contracts. First, virtually anyone would have a fundamental right to collective bargaining if they could be considered an employee in any context, including even prisoners. Second, bargaining would be expanded beyond just wages, hours and working conditions to include broad new subjects covering public policy decisions or how to run a businesses. Third, the amendment prevents lawmakers from ever limiting or scaling back on these rights in any way.

Even without these provisions, powerful government unions helped public sector wages grow 60% faster than the private sector in Illinois from 1998 to 2019.

Peer-reviewed research shows stronger government worker unions cause the cost of government to increase, with powerful unions putting even more upward pressure on benefits than on wages. Government worker retirement benefits, which flow mostly to government union workers, have left Illinois local governments with $75 billion in pension debt and are already the primary cause of rising property taxes. Government unions helped Illinois politicians build the state and local pension crisis by supporting both unaffordable benefits as well as irresponsible funding games that pushed costs into the future.

Nationwide data from 2010 to 2019 show a significant statistical association between the percentage of government workers who are members of a government worker union and each state’s average effective property tax rate.

Author(s): Adam Schuster

Publication Date: 15 Jun 2022

Publication Site: Illinois Policy Institute

Chicago police vaccine mandate: New CPD memo threatens discipline, firing for non-compliance




 A second memo, obtained by the I-Team, was distributed throughout CPD Sunday. The latest memo threatens the firing of officers who do not follow the city’s vaccine policy and orders it be communicated to officers at all police roll calls.

“TO BE READ AT ALL ROLL CALLS FOR SEVEN (7) CONSECUTIVE DAYS. This AMC message informs Department members of consequences of disobeying a direct order to comply with the City of Chicago’s Vaccination POlice issued 8 October 2021 and being the subject of the resulting disciplinary investigation. A Department member, civilian or sworn, who disobeys a direct order by a supervisor to comply with the City of Chicago’s Vaccination Police issued 8 October 2021 will become the subject of a disciplinary investigation that could result in a penalty up to and including separation from the Chicago Police Department. Furthermore, sworn members who retire while under disciplinary investigations may be denied retirement credentials. Any questions concerning this AMC message may be directed to the Legal Affairs Division via e-mail,” the memo said.


“Roughly 38% of the sworn officers on this job, almost 40% can lock in a pension and walk away today,” Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara, Jr. said.

Author(s): Michelle Gallardo, Chuck Goudie

Publication Date: 18 Oct 2021

Publication Site: ABC7 Chicago

The New York City Unions Whose Backdoor Deal Sold Out Retirees, Helped Insurance Industry



In recent years, leadership of some of the nation’s largest unions have publicly opposed single-payer health care proposals, angering their rank-and-file and forcing Democratic politicians who back single-payer to take on a key constituency.

In New York City, for example, the umbrella organization for the city’s public sector unions—the Municipal Labor Committee (MLC)—recently helped the health insurance industry block a statewide single-payer bill, on the grounds that their members wanted to keep the health care benefits for which they had sacrificed wage increases.

But it turns out that the MLC, which bargains for health care benefits for city unions, was also engaging in backdoor negotiations with the city, resulting in a proposal to switch nearly a quarter-million people from Medicare to privately administered Medicare Advantage plans.


Following the 2018 cost-cutting agreement, union leaders and officials came up with eight proposals to meet the cost-cutting requirements, including switching to a statewide single-payer system or setting up a self-insurance system.

A January 2021 study by The New School found that the city could save about $1.6 billion per year if it adopted a self-insurance program, as most major cities and large companies have done. That would involve setting up a health insurance plan just for the city’s employees and paying for claims directly, rather than paying premiums to a health insurance company which tends to be more expensive because insurance company profit margins are so large.

But since the negotiations between the MLC and Office of Labor Relations were held behind closed doors, retirees don’t know whether this option was ever considered.


Publication Date: 28 June 2021

Publication Site: Newsweek

Known unknowns – teacher salaries



 My colleague at Bloomberg writes we’ll have to pay teachers more to get them to return to work. Their pay has been stagnant for a decade. But their compensation has not been. A very large part of teachers’ compensation comes in the form of a massive risk-free asset—a defined benefit pension. The value of this pension increased as real interest rates fell. It not only took more resources for the states and municipalities to finance (assuming the pension funds were well funded—a big if) the pension when rates were low. The pension became more valuable.

So teachers really got large raises in the form of their more valuable pension. The problem is they don’t fully internalize how much more their pension is worth. Also, pensions are less valuable for young teachers who may change jobs one day. If we do want to increase teachers’ pay, we really need to reform the pensions. Reform would free up more money for salaries, and there’s evidence young teachers prefer more flexible compensation.

That probably won’t happen since the teachers’ union is very attached to its defined benefit plan. But you can’t have it all, even in this labor market.

Author(s): Allison Schrager

Publication Date: 7 June 2021

Publication Site: Known unknowns at substack

How the Police Bank Millions Through Their Union Contracts




Despite attempts to rein in police union contracts in New Jersey, costly provisions remain common, an unprecedented analysis by the Asbury Park Press and ProPublica found. The news outlets identified contract clauses throughout the state that protect officer payouts that cost the public hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 2010, state lawmakers passed a law to stop huge retirement payouts for unused sick days, but taxpayers are still funding the largesse. North Bergen approved generous payments to four retiring officers in 2019, including a sergeant who got $75,330.32 for unused sick time. Some retirement payouts can be even higher. In 2017, a chief in Jersey City collected more than half a million dollars.

The debt for unused sick time and vacation time, which is largely dictated by the contracts, totaled at least $492.9 million for municipal police alone in 2019, according to a review of town budget records. The liability is primarily due to officers who were hired before the 2010 law passed.

Author(s): Andrew Ford, Asbury Park Press, and Agnes Chang, Jeff Kao and Agnel Philip

Publication Date: 8 February 2021

Publication Site: ProPublica