Pensions are a debt due, not a privilege granted. As I type this the governor and the Illinois General Assembly are pretending that the state employee pension systems are the root of Illinois' budget woes. Proposals are being put forth that would eliminate cost of living adjustments for retirees, eliminate health insurance, raise the retirement age to 67 or delay implementation of some benefits until then.
There is a misunderstanding about these benefits that has been spread by the politicians and media. They behave as if earned pension packages are some government program that, while nice, are a luxury the state can no longer pay. This is false. These pensions are compensation, not a bonus. The price of our labor was our wage PLUS our pension PLUS the cost of living adjustment PLUS health insurance. It's an 'and' statement. We did the work. Now we must be paid. All of it.
If we are robbed of this compensation due us, every vendor should know that the legislature's solution to the larger budget problem is to declare the debt due null and void. Doctors, suppliers, construction companies are all in peril. If they can renege on our contract, you are all at risk. Don't let them do this to us.
Focus is always put on directors of state departments and on university faculty and administrators who make six figure salaries. They are not representative of state or university employees. Many of us started in entry level staff positions making barely above minimum wage. When readers think of university employees, they should not think of coaches and chancellors. Think of the lady washing dishes or cooking the food in the dorm where your child lives. Think of the data entry operator entering your child's application to college into the student information system. Think of the space administrator scheduling classrooms for your child to be taught in, and the academic advisor guiding your child toward her dream of being a teacher. They will never make $50,000. But, they should be paid the compensation for the work they have done.
Politicians and pundits all declare that there must be "reform." We are told that even though the problems are not the employees' fault, "we're all going to have to accept some pain now." No. This is theft. We not only did the work; we paid into the system.
Illinois has for the last several decades been run by five people: the governor, the speaker of the house, the senate president and the house and senate minority leaders. That does not absolve the small fry. All those house and senate members, like John Bradley, Gary Forby, Mike Bost and David Luechtefeld voted these guys into power. Now they need to take some responsibility. Mike Madigan has been speaker for 25 years. In places like Japan, if someone had failed this spectacularly, they would resign in shame.
We can't take the work back. Our benefits package is not a tip; it is not a gratuity. It's the price of our labor. The bill is due in full. ----------------------------------- PHOTO SIDEBAR: Guest View Jim Carl ----------------------------------- Jim Carl of Carterville is associate director of undergraduate admissions at SIU Carbondale and a 29-year university employee. ************************************ -- Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University 625 Wham Drive Mail Code 4610 Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O] (618) 457-8903 [H] Fax: (618) 453-4244 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org