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Illinois: Where politicians say 'middle class' and mean 'state workers'

Belleville News Democrat

Saturday, June 30, 2018  |  Editorial  |  By the BND Editorial Board

Labor (55) , Pensions (70) , Unions, labor (55)
A long-time, activist member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees called from Granite City to decry the Janus versus AFSCME decision. She said Janus needed to be exposed as a shill for Rauner, and then she went on to worry that the younger union members would not protect her pension.

As AFSCME and the courts have said, a "pension is a promise." Yes it is. And that promise is bankrupting Illinois, with each Illinois taxpayer liable for $50,800 in unmet promises.

This should not be an "us-them" situation, but it is important to understand the difference between us and them, and how it got Illinois to this sorry state.

Us, the folks without state jobs, choose union membership 6.5 percent of the time. Them government workers choose it 34.4 percent of the time.

Us Illinoisans earn a median salary of $32,500 a year. Them AFSCME members average $66,000, plus benefits totaling nearly $110,000.

Us private sector workers make political donations from our earnings to whom we choose. Them, until Wednesday, had 25 percent of the forced union fees taken from their earnings spent on pure politicking with an unknown percentage extra spent entertaining, lobbying and otherwise influencing politicians. Democrats got 90 percent of that money — AFSCME's 2016 convention was a huge Hillary rally.

Call Janus a shill, but would you like someone speaking for you without your consent? Requiring “a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical.” Thomas Jefferson said that.

The U.S. Supreme Court previously said money is speech — which ironically protected New Jersey public unions' ability to donate to politicians. Chris Christie tried to prohibit their campaign contributions to state lawmakers because it was driving up taxes, driving out residents and putting them in the same death spiral Illinois remains in.

The justices on Wednesday agreed with Janus that the union could not use his money as political speech on his behalf. Until now, they have spoken loudly for him.

AFSCME was No. 3 during the past 20 years for federal campaign spending at $43 million. Public sector unions also weigh in on political issues with nothing to do with salary and benefits, such as the American Federation of Teachers' pro-choice stance. Imagine being a devout Catholic who just wants to teach kindergarten.

AFSCME has been very successful for its Illinois membership, making them the nation's highest-paid state workers. But it reached that mark by negotiating with the same state politicians whose palms are greased by its political donations.

Janus impacted 22 states that forced union fees from their workers. There were 28 other right-to-work states with unions doing just fine, disproving those who cry that Janus will kill public sector unions.

What it will do is make it harder for AFSCME to buy Illinois politicians who reward their taxpayer-supported armies with overly generous pay and benefits. What it might do is start breaking that cycle and putting the public pension monster on a diet.

But that won't happen unless voters demand it.

You can't allow politicians to claim they are for the middle class when they really mean they are for state workers. You can't accept their assertions that your taxes aren't that bad or that there is no spending they can cut.

And you can't trust their new taxation scheme when they won't offer even broad details about how it will affect your middle-class income or whether it will drive your family members to states that aren't dying.