The Chicago Police Sergeants Union voted overwhelmingly to reject a new contract that included changes to retirement plans.
This vote by about 1100 union members, was a test to see if the rank and file would go along with a path to pension reform. That test failed miserably today.
Still, the mayor says he plans to forge ahead with reforms in Springfield while the much larger Fraternal Order of Police, which represents about 17,000 Chicago officers says the plan is unconstitutional.
Chicago Police Sergeants Union president Jim Ade thought the deal was a good one, and a seat at the table for pension reform. The agreement was part of a larger contract vote, which would have raised the retirement age from 50 to 53 over four years and frozen cost of living increases every other year.
The vote by more than 1000 sergeants was overwhelmingly rejected.
“We believe we did the best we could do for our membership and the point got down to where there wasn’t going to be an agreement on tying pension legislation into the contract. I think that’s what the vote was really about,” Ade said.
Mayor Emanuel touted the plan last month as a roadmap to broader pension reform. Today, in statement, he called the vote disappointing saying the plan found “…common ground and a fair compromise that put our city first. Neither public employees nor taxpayers should be asked to pay into a system that is unsustainable.”
The mayor’s office says current state law puts city taxpayers on the hook for an additional $700 million dollars in pension funding in 2015, which they say would cripple city services.
FOP President Mike Shields is happy the contract and agreement was rejected calling the mayor’s plan unconstitutional.
“The sergeants spoke up here and they spoke up loud and clear to the mayor,” said Shields. “And it’s a true message to the 5th floor that they need to get in touch with Chicago and stop living in a fantasy world where they’re blaming the employee for the problems of management. “
The police sergeants union will now go into arbitration over its contract, which likely won’t include that pension agreement.
The mayor says his plan for reform will go forward, with or without the unions at the table. His office said the city simply cannot afford that $700 million dollar balloon payment in two years.
Ultimately, it’s up to state lawmakers.