Living modestly in inexpensive retirement communities in Florida, many Illinois teacher retirees are deeply concerned about their delayed earned compensation (pensions) and the attempt to steal their indispensable income.
The Illinois Retired Teachers Association (IRTA) met in Sarasota to update retirees living in Florida about the lawsuit to protect their constitutional and contractual rights from the attempted pillage by the legislature and governor.
IRTA President Bob Pinkerton, a truly warm and friendly man, greeted each retiree as each entered the room. Attendees had pre-registered and had paid $15 per person to participate in the meeting; some (myself included) had driven hundreds of miles to attend. The pre-arranged meeting room accommodated the 120 pre-registered attendees who filled the room to the capacity allowed by law; many other requests for attendance had to be denied. The huge number of requests had been unanticipated a year ago when the meeting room had been booked. The IRTA and the retired teachers believe in following the room capacity law, unlike the Illinois legislators and governor who passed SB1 to let the courts decide how much they could violate the state and federal constitutional laws before being stopped.
Bob began the meeting by discussing the IRTA legal defense fund and how it was used to begin the first lawsuit on our behalf. (To contribute, go HERE.) Weeks later the We Are One Illinois Coalition began lawsuits on behalf of all the state employee unions whose members are being hurt by SB1.
IRTA Lobbyist Andrew Bodewes then addressed the “manufactured crisis” that has been created in spite of the reality that our pension system is funded at the same exact level that it was all those decades ago when the state constitutional amendment was made to not diminish or impair our pensions. Since the state has not paid its legally required amount into our pension fund since 1939 (except for 2012 when it made the photo-op and political gesture), the theft (underfunding) has been and will continue to be belittled by politically motivated legislators who wish to scapegoat teachers and retirees. What was not a crisis is now being called a major crisis by politicians and hyped by the immense Tribune Company Syndicate and Media Services Corporation. Since the inception in 1915 of the Illinois Teacher Retirement System (TRS), payments to retirees have never been diminished, impaired or gone unpaid – even during the depths of the Great Depression or later deep Recessions. Now, the manufactured crisis and SB1 threaten us.
Illinois is not broke; our retirement fund is not in the best of conditions, but it is not in an irreparable crisis requiring cuts.
IRTA Executive Director Jim Bachman spoke next and filled in the step by step process by giving details of the focused aim of the IRTA lawsuit to protect the pensions of present retirees. No active teacher concerns are in the specific IRTA lawsuit unless those concerns overlap each other. Read a detailed account HERE on the IRTA site.
Jim then addressed the new healthcare program for retirees. Because UnitedHealthcare® was the sole applicant for the contract to implement the Illinois’ new healthcare program, they were granted the contract by the state. The Teachers’ Retirement Insurance Program, TRIP, was agreed upon by the state and UnitedHealthcare® to provide the services which encompassed the essential points of previous healthcare coverage. (Read the pdf file HERE.) The very short notice for retirees to determine their acceptance or permanent rejection and the lack of details about coverage until after retirees made their choice was addressed by Jim and Andrew.
Additionally, both Jim and Andrew spoke about the fact that Illinois and fourteen other states do not allow teachers and other state employees to pay into or receive Social Security and Medicare, we receive all of our income and healthcare coverage from the state. They believe that media coverage rarely address this reality.
The treatment of teachers and retirees in those fifteen states, and others, is similarly politically motivated by corporate interests as they are scapegoated unjustly for state debt issues.
All three presenters provided carefully concise and accurate information along with their individual insights. The retirees present were appreciative of their efforts on our behalf.
(Part 2 with additional essential information and answers to questions will follow.)
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