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Attacks on public worker unions were misleading

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

The misleading attacks on public sector unions highlighted in Yuri Vanetik and Thomas Tucker’s recent op-ed, “Government unions rob working class blind,” should be acknowledged for what they are – extreme attitudes from the writers’ respective conservative think tanks, Gen Next and The New Majority California. Throughout the op-ed, the authors attempt to enumerate the ways in which public sector unions game the system, giving public employees supposed advantages over the private sector. Their allegations drastically distort reality.

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Perhaps the favorite attack on public sector unions is that union members retire with “lavish compensation packages,” as the writers describe them. In reality, these so-called “lavish compensation packages” equate to an average of $32,000 a year, with many Illinois retirees receiving much less than this amount. This comes after years of workers contributing 8 percent to 10 percent of every paycheck toward their retirement fund. It is also important to note that in Illinois, public sector employees pay into Social Security, however are unable to claim it upon retirement. Most Americans would consider these compensation packages modest.

Additionally, people like these think-tank authors like to claim pension costs are swamping local budgets, even leading to municipal bankruptcies. While everyone acknowledges the pension crisis is a dire issue, it is hardly fair to say it is the fault of public sector employees. Rather, the politicians who for decades shorted or skipped the employer contributions required by law are at fault. Pension holidays are what caused the nation’s largest pension debt, not the people contributing 8 percent to 10 percent of every paycheck on time and in full.

In another misleading attack, the authors tap into the unfounded fear that public sector unions dominate the political sphere and control campaigns by allegedly contributing the most money. Public sector unions represent nearly 35 percent of the population in the United States. In Illinois, 244 labor unions represent 825,000 people, roughly 15 percent of households. In the 2014 election cycle, the billionaire hedge fund manager, Ken Griffin, contributed more money to his favored candidates than all unions in the state. It is absolutely necessary for unions to contribute and compete in the political sphere; otherwise hedge fund billionaires would control the political landscape.

In short, these attacks on public sector unions are ideological. With the middle class dwindling, it is more important than ever to have strong public sector unions representing the working class and fighting back against hedge fund billionaires, like Ken Griffin, who are able to apply their clout financially. One person shouldn’t have more of a say than the very people who keep our state running. Public employees deserve a voice in Illinois politics. Unions are that voice.

Tony Johnston, president, Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600

Missing father

Police have identified a suspect in the shooting of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee, execution style, in retaliation against the boy’s father.

The Sun-Times quoted the suspect’s mother as saying, “You don’t think I would try to do all I could to turn my baby around?” Yet the two-page article makes no mention of his father, which may be the most telling reason killers like him grow up with no moral compass.

A mother can do just so much to raise a boy to have respect for himself and others. Gun laws don’t mean much if a boy grows up in a home with no attentive male role model to love and nurture him, and show by example how a responsible man should act.

J.L. Stern, Highland Park

Build a peninsula

Just as Navy Pier was built as an entertainment attraction/venue for the people of Chicago, building a peninsula specifically for the LUCAS MUSEUM just off the Metropolitan Reclamation Facility next to Navy Pier would be appropriate. It would be an addition to the Navy Pier attraction and would not take valuable lakefront property or detract from the beautiful south side older style architecture that Chicagoans relish.

C.J. Martelli, Pullman

Silent victims

Recent photos of refugees and migrants show mostly young adult men and women with and without children and also unaccompanied children. Since I am now no longer young, I’m wondering about all the older people in those many zones of war and unrest. They are not strong enough to trek on foot or try to escape in dangerous rafts and run-down boats. They are often left alone, along with the very poor, becoming the silent victims we don’t see. They are in hiding, they are injured, they are dead.

Mary F. Warren, Wheaton

There’s no money

Is it time to ask Karen Lewis where the CPS should get the money needed to continue to fund education in Chicago at the high level that she is used to? Or, should somebody simply explain to her that there is no money left in the coffers, and all people have to tighten their belts a little, including the teachers union.

Larry Casey, Forest Glen

Stop the taunts

I was watching part of the Republican debate and once again they looked like schoolyard children taunting each other and calling each other names. Why would anyone be proud to call themselves a Republican and vote for any one of these guys?

Don Sakosky, Dunning