Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Pensions & collective bargaining...

Concerns over pensions was one reason why Illinois voted down the Constitutional Convention in 2008 (which was the same year Obama has been elected President).

At the State House recently, the Capitol Fax reported the back and forth over pensions. There has been some back and forth over pension. Such as their underfunded or they're costly or indeed you have public workers or politicians gaming the system to up their pensions.

In this case however the issue is whether or not the Illinois General Assembly can even unilaterally touch state public pensions. The answer from one side appears to be now as there is a pensions clause in Illinois' state constitution (Article 13, Section 5).

The key apparently is collective bargaining at Rich Miller quotes an abstract provided by Illinois' Senate Democrats who have posted dissenting and supporting opinions on their caucus website:
Finally, while the Clause bars the General Assembly from adversely changing the benefit rights of current employees via unilateral action, these rights are “contractual” in nature and may be modified through contractual principles. In sum, while welching on public pension promises is not an option for Illinois as some legal and civic commentators have suggested, legitimate contract principles provide a solution to mitigate this crisis.
Speaking of collective bargaining - a buzzword in the political situation in Wisconsin with regards to both their new Republican Governor and public employee unions - an article from Heritage (via Instapundit) regarding that term:
There is a big difference between rights and privileges. Americans have the right to vote. The state, barring a felony conviction, cannot take that right away. Driving, on the hand, is privilege. The state can refuse you the privilege of driving for a myriad of reasons including failure to pass a test showing you know the rules of the road or failing to purchase auto insurance.

Similarly the freedom of association is a right shared by all Americans and protected by the First Amendment. In contrast, collective bargaining is a special power occasionally granted to some unions. In upholding North Carolina’s ban on government union collective bargaining, a federal court wrote in Atkins vs. City of Charlotte: “All citizens have the right to associate in groups to advocate their special interests to the government. It is something entirely different to grant any one interest group special status and access to the decision making process.”

Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) budget bill in Wisconsin in no way infringes on any Americans’ right to associate and lobby government. What it does do is allow Wisconsin employees to choose not to join a union and keep their job at the same time. It also forces the government unions in Wisconsin to collect their own union dues instead of using the power of the state to withhold them directly from employee paychecks.
Two unrelated issues I know well indirectly in any event. Collective bargaining to work on Illinois' underfunded pensions. Then to Wisconsin to address their issues of collective bargaining with their public employee unions.

Perhaps a benefit to solving the issues in Illinois, but a battle for our fellow Midwesterners up there in Dairyland.

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