RIVER NORTH — The mayor and the Chicago Teachers Union clashed Tuesday over a proposed pension deal, with at least four union leaders at one point ushered out of a news conference at the Merchandise Mart.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel insisted CTU had been part of talks on pension reform for municipal workers and city laborers. But CTU political director Stacy Davis Gates called that "absolutely incorrect."
CTU leaders attempted to question the mayor on pension reform at his media event Tuesday at the offices of the 1871 technology incubator. They were led out, as CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey led chants that Emanuel "needs to cut us in or cut it out."
The mayor said city negotiators had been dealing with a collection of municipal and labor leaders and that CTU "had a seat at the table." Calling it "a balanced approach," Emanuel said, "Revenue and reform went together" in the proposed deal, with union members adding an estimated $300 a year in pension contributions and Chicago homeowners paying an average increase of $50 a year following five straight years of hikes in property taxes starting next year and totaling $250 million.
"Benefits continue to grow," Emanuel said, allowing that the rate of that growth would be slowed from its current schedule, which he said was fiscally untenable. "I'll tell you what a cut looks like," Emanuel added. "Not getting a retirement check. ... These funds were going belly-up in 10 years."
But union officials ripped the deal.
"This is a terrible deal for our people, and we intend to fight it with every fiber of our union," Gates said. "Our members are enraged by this. We're not at the table."
Added Sharkey: "If the mayor wants to really make real pension reform, he needs to talk more honestly about creative ways of finding revenue and not just taxing homeowners." He suggested "taxing luxury services ... and people who make over $1 million a year."
The proposed deal affects approximately 10,000 CTU members, mainly in building maintenance and service jobs. It applies to municipal workers and city laborers and does not affect teachers. It's expected to be presented downstate for approval by the General Assembly on Chicago pension reform.
Teachers, police officers and firefighters are all involved in separate talks on pension reform with the city, but have united under the banner We Are One Chicago, which put out a statement Monday opposing the proposed pension deal.