CTU President Karen Lewis: Union remains far from pension deal

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Though other unions might be close to striking pension deals with the city, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said Friday her union remains far from a deal — and a segment of her membership has yet to join city officials at the bargaining table.

“We have never been involved in any negotiations regarding the municipal fund, ever,” she said at the union’s headquarters in the Merchandise Mart. “If we’re going to see any changes to our members’ pensions, we want to be a part of that.”

Nearly 4,000 CTU paraprofessionals — how the union categorizes school employees such as nurses and social workers — are part of the city’s Municipal Employees pension fund, which is separate from the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund that provides for the retirement of CTU’s 26,000 or so teachers.

Those teacher pension talks are ongoing with the Board of Education and took place as recently as two weeks ago, Lewis said — but are far from over.

“If it were going well, we’d be dancing,” she said. “We need someone in the room who can actually make decisions.”

City Hall sources told the Sun-Times on Thursday that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is closing in on a pension deal with unions representing building trades and white collar employees that could strengthen his hand with police and firefighters.

Neither the city nor the unions whose members draw their retirement checks from the Municipal and Laborers pension funds would discuss details of the framework, for fear that it could fall apart before the Illinois General Assembly has a chance to approve it.

Contributing: Fran Spielman

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