‘We’re in a Very, Almost Desperate Situation’

Forced-Unionism Illinois Faces Unfunded-Pension-Liability Crisis

For years, Harold Schaitberger and his lieutenants have colluded with their puppet politicians to underfund rank-and-file pensions. Meanwhile, he has reportedly illegally taken over $1 million from his union’s pension system.

The now mercifully receding COVID-19 pandemic and the unparalleled economic shock resulting from efforts to contain it have only exacerbated what journalist Kristin Tate aptly describes as a “debilitating and growing disease in the management of many state capitals.”

And National Right to Work Committee members and supporters recognize that the primary malady preventing states from managing themselves prudently is wide-ranging monopoly privileges accorded to government officials by state law.

Perhaps no other state is currently in a deeper fiscal hole than forced-unionism Illinois, where there are more than $12 billion in unfunded liabilities of local public-safety pension funds alone.

In April, union-label state Senate President Don Harmon (Chicago), acting on behalf of the entire Democrat caucus in his chamber, sought to get Illinois out of its fix by prodding Congress to approve a multi-billion-dollar federal taxpayer bailout of the state’s underwater government pension funds.

Mr. Harmon brazenly attempted to use COVID-19 as an excuse for his solicitation of $41.6 billion in federal money for Illinois, including $10 billion explicitly earmarked for the state’s retirement systems and $9.6 billion for municipalities, which could “help fund” local government pensions.  

Roughly a month after the Harmon gambit, H.R.6800 — a $3 trillion, federal taxpayer-funded bailout package that would reward fiscally irresponsible state politicians in Illinois and a number of other Big Labor-dominated states, was rubber-stamped by Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) U.S. House.

‘It’s Almost Like We’ve Waited Too Long to Properly Fix the Problem’

However, this scheme met stiff resistance in the U.S. Senate and the White House, and is currently stalled. 

Consequently, Illinoisans are feeling increasing pressure to decide what to do about their enormous fiscal imbalances assuming a new no-strings-attached federal bailout isn’t on the way.

A number of Prairie State elected officials are heeding hard-pressed taxpaying constituents and calling for a reworking of the pension deals government union bosses have, by wielding their monopoly-bargaining privileges, cut with Big Labor politicians in the past.

One example is Springfield Alderman Joe McMenamin (I). “We’re in a very, almost deseprate situation with our long-term financing,” he recently acknowledged to a radio station based in his city. He later added: “It’s grown worse and worse. It’s almost like we’ve waited too long to properly fix the problem.”

Under the circumstances, Mr. McMenamin believes Illinois has no choice but to change the formula for how pension benefits government employees have not earned yet accrue in the future, despite the enormous political obstacles Big Labor and its allies have erected for would-be reformers. 

Meanwhile, union chiefs like the top bosses of the Illinois subsidiary of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) are insisting that the only possible solution to pension shortfalls for which they and their predecessors are largely responsible is ever-heavier taxation.

Union Bosses Lobby to Open Tax-Hike Floodgates

This fall, government union dons are the core supporters of an Illinois state constitutional amendment that would gut longstanding restraints on the taxation power of Illinois politicians and thus help them jack up taxes, again and again, on people at all income levels.

Right to Work Vice President Mary King suggested IAFF President Harold Schaitberger is emblematic of the elite group of union bosses who will benefit if Illinois’s cynically mislabeled “fair tax” amendment passes.

“For years,” said Ms. King, “Harold Schaitberger and other IAFF officials have failed to arrange for adequate funding of rank-and-file pensions in state after state. Illinois is perhaps the most egregious example, but it is only one of many.

“Meanwhile, as far back as 2014, Mr. Schaitberger has faced allegations of financial misconduct. For example, according to IAFF Treasurer Edward Kelly, Mr. Schaitberger has illegally taken over $1 million from the union’s own pension system since 2000. 

“To fix Illinois, National Right to Work supporters in the state are calling for a rollback of the special privileges for government union bosses that got the state in its current mess. 

“And if ordinary citizens thwart the so-called ‘fair tax’ scheme this November, the stage could finally be set for real reform in Illinois.”