By Alan Barcelona
FOP Lodge 77 President and State Trustee
Recent pension rulings by the Illinois Supreme Court and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Riverside may have you feeling like you can breathe a sigh of relief, but words of warning - don't get too comfortable, our fight to protect your pension is just beginning.
As I informed you earlier, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and former San Diego City Councilmember Carl DeMaio are directly attacking all of us in public service and will push a pension reform initiative in 2016. Some statewide polling indicates voters are in favorite of such.
Recent victory came last week when the Illinois Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor of employee unions which went up against a landmark Illinois state pension law signed in December 2013. That law targeted government worker benefits in order to wipe out billions of dollars in retirement system debt. The Court ruled the Illinois state constitution is clear that pension benefits are a contractual agreement that cannot be "diminished or impaired." The law violated the pension protection clause in the 1970 Illinois constitution.
Another victory occurred when a U.S. bankruptcy judge in Riverside dismissed a lawsuit two creditors filed because the city of San Bernardino decided to make its pension payments in full to CalPERS. The creditors stand to lose out on money San Bernardino owes them if San Bernardino continues to make payments in full to CalPERS. This was a big win for public employees who work day in and day out and are keeping their promises, expecting the government to do the same.
Your pension is your retirement security, something you earned as part of your compensation package for serving the State of California. Public pensions have been used to recruit and to retain public employees. You have worked under the promise that this security in retirement would be there for you. Promises made should be promises kept.
CSLEA, and the coalitions CSLEA is affiliated with, are preparing for what will likely be a huge political and possibly legal battle over attempts at pension reform. While these recent wins may instill confidence, we must not sit quietly, we must let our voices be heard. Protect our pensions, we worked for them.