More Unions Sue Illinois over Its New Pension Law

January 29, 2014

A coalition of labor unions Tuesday filed the latest lawsuit seeking to torpedo the state's new pension law.

The We Are One coalition's lawsuit, filed in Sangamon County Circuit Court, is the fourth to be filed in connection with the retirement system changes approved by lawmakers and Gov. Pat Quinn in December.

"Our suit makes clear that pension theft is not only unfair, it's clearly unconstitutional," said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan of Decatur. "Teachers, nurses, emergency responders and other workers and retirees will not stand by while politicians try to take away their life savings illegally."

The suit was filed one day before Quinn, who is seeking re-election this year, is expected to highlight the pension changes during his State of the State speech to lawmakers. The governor's office didn't have an immediate response to the legal action.

Like the three other lawsuits, the union-led litigation argues that the changes violate Illinois' 1970 Constitution, which states that pension benefits cannot be diminished.

The new law, which affects pensions for an estimated 621,000 teachers, state workers, lawmakers and university employees, reduces annual cost-of-living increases for retirees and raises the retirement age for workers age 45 and younger.

Under the changes, the cost-of-living adjustments would be reduced from a 3 percent compounded increase each year, to a 3 percent, non-compounding boost based on a formula that includes an employee's length of service.

In exchange for a reduction in the cost-of-living adjustments, the new law reduces the amount of money workers are required to pay toward their pensions.

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