The We Are One Illinois coalition of labor unions and a group of active and retired public employees filed a lawsuit in Springfield Tuesday seeking to overturn the controversial statewide pension reform measure Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed into law.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court, argues that the Illinois pension reform package is unconstitutional. It also equates the legislation to "pension theft."
“Those plaintiffs who are current employees teach our children, care for the sick and disabled, protect us from harm and perform myriad other essential services for Illinois and its citizens. Those plaintiffs who already have retired similarly dedicated their careers to the men, women and children of Illinois. And, each faithfully has contributed to his or her respective pension system the substantial portion of their paychecks the Illinois pension code requires," the suit reads.
Read the full complaint here.
“Our suit makes clear that pension theft is not only unfair, it’s clearly unconstitutional,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said in a statement. “Teachers, nurses, emergency responders, and other workers and retirees will not stand by while politicians try to take away their life savings illegally. The legislature and governor shirked their responsibility to uphold the constitution, so we are seeking justice in court to right their wrongs. Promises must be kept, and the rule of law must prevail over politics.”
Quinn, State Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka and State Treasurer Dan Rutherford along with the state retirement systems and their boards are named as defendants in the lawsuit.
We Are One Illinois Coalition members include the Illinois AFL-CIO; Illinois Federation of Teachers; Illinois Education Association; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31; Service Employees International Union (SEIU*) Local 73; Illinois Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge; Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association; Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois; Illinois Nurses Association; Laborers' International Union of North America Local 2002; Teamsters Local 700; and Teamsters Joint Council 25.
"We strongly believe SB1 should not be implemented before a court makes its decision on its constitutionality," We Are One Illinois wrote in a statement on its website. "Consequently, We Are One Illinois has sought for the past several weeks to reach agreement with the state Attorney General and the named defendants on a joint request to the court to enjoin the law’s implementation. Regrettably, the Attorney General refused. In our filing, our coalition reserves the right to seek an injunction."
The pension reform law, which is set to go into effect on June 1, looks to erase the state's $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities over 30 years. New data, however, show the measure will not deliver the savings lawmakers claimed it would.
UPDATED: Mitch Roth, general counsel of the Illinois Eduation Association, released the following statement about the lawsuit's filing:
This morning, the We Are One Illinois (WAOI) coalition, of which IEA is a founding union, and 25 active and retired members of TRS, SURS and SERS, on behalf of themselves and a class of others like them, filed a 55-page lawsuit (attached) in Sangamon County challenging the constitutionality of SB 1 (Public Act 98-599).
The lawsuit was filed against the 3 pension systems, their boards of trustees, Governor Quinn (who signed SB 1 into law and is charged with execution of all state laws) and Comptroller Topinka and Treasurer Rutherford (both of whom have responsibility for part of the process by which the pension systems disburse pension annuity payments to their members).
The suit claims that the changes made by SB 1 to COLA, pensionable salary and retirement age violate the Pension, Contract and Takings Clauses of the Illinois Constitution. It seeks to have the law declared unconstitutional and its implementation halted.
It additionally seeks to have the State fund the pension systems in an amount which ensures that members receive all pension benefits to which they are entitled; that the failure of the State to do so has unconstitutionally taken vested pension benefits from members.
In order to prevent irreparable harm to public employees and retirees who face immediate and irrevocable life decisions, and to avert unduly burdensome administrative complications for the state retirement systems, WAOI sought for the past several weeks to reach agreement with the state Attorney General and the named defendants on a joint request to the court to enjoin the law’s implementation. Regrettably, the Attorney General refused to agree. Therefore, the suit reserves the right to file a request for an immediate injunction stopping the law’s implementation.
Six IEA members are plaintiffs in the lawsuit: Dave Behymer, Elaine Ferguson, Denise Funfsinn, Terri Gifford, Marlene Koerner and D’Ann Urish.
* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.