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CTU not buying mayor's pension deal

The Chicago Teachers Union isn’t buying the pension deal Mayor Rahm Emanuel reached with city workers, saying the “draconian cut” will hurt its lowest-paid staffers who are part of the municipal pension fund and the deal does nothing to address revenue problems.

“This mayor only knows how to cut,” Stacy Davis Gates, the union’s political director, said of the pension deal the mayor laid out Monday that asks for higher property taxes for homeowners and fewer cost -of-living raises from city workers. “These people are our lunch ladies. These people are our janitors. These people are our teachers’ aides. These people live overwhelmingly on the South and West sides of this city.

“This is a terrible deal for these people, and we intend to fight it with every fiber of our union,” she said in the lobby of the union’s Merchandise Mart offices.

The CTU reiterated Tuesday what it said Friday — that it had no direct representation at the bargaining table with the city, and that it wanted Emanuel to consider new sources of revenue instead of property tax hikes and benefit cuts.

The deal “repeats the same old promise that’s been made, that the city will live up to its obligations, which is frankly a promise we’ve heard before,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

It covers the CTU’s nearly 10,000 working and retired paraprofessionals — classroom aides, school clerks and some others who staff schools — but not teachers. The teachers are in a separate retirement fund that continues to negotiate regularly — but not fruitfully, Sharkey said — with Chicago’s Board of Education.

Along with other city white collar workers and laborers, those CTU employees would see their annual pension contributions rise by one-half of 1 percent over the same five-year period beginning in 2015, from 8.5 percent of their annual paychecks to 11 percent by 2019.

Based on an average salary of $60,000, the increased contribution is expected to cost employees $300 more a year.

They will also be asked to forfeit compounded cost-of-living adjustments that have been a driving force behind the city’s pension crisis.

Instead of getting annual 3 percent cost-of-living increases compounded every year, they will get a simple 3 percent increase or 50 percent of the consumer price index, whichever is less.

Sharkey said that amounts to a cut of approximately a third of the value of a pension over 20 years, so a worker who retired now with the average municipal benefit pension of about $33,000 would have about $22,000 in real terms in 20 years after adjusting for 3 percent annual inflation.

“This amounts to balancing the city’s budget on the backs of some of the poorest people in this city who are least able to afford these kind of attacks,” Sharkey said. “If the Mayor wants to make real pension reform, he needs to talk more honestly about more creative ways of finding revenue and not just taking homeowners.”

Several CTU members staged a sit-in at an event Emanuel attended in the Merchandise Mart, chanting “Cut us in or cut it out.” They were asked to leave, Sharkey said, and then escorted back to their own offices by building security.

Contributing: Fran Spielman