Chicago pushes to change city pensions, but workers push back

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing to cut costs associated with the city’s pension system, which is among the unhealthiest in the nation. But city workers are pushing back—with the help of a powerful coalition of unions.

Mayor Emanuel is staring at tens of billions of dollars in unfunded pension liabilities, and has warned that deep changes to the pension system or sharp increases in taxes are likely on the horizon.

But We Are One Chicago, a coalition of public unions that represent the city’s teachers, police and firefighters, and other municipal workers, stands in stark opposition to the idea of pension cuts.

The group instead supports various tax measures to help fill the city’s funding shortfall, including expanding the sales tax, raising tax rates for higher earners and closing corporate tax loopholes.

ABC talked to city workers about their grievances:

“I keep saying that I feel that we’ve been robbed that someone is stealing from us,” said retired teacher Patricia Boughton.

“I paid my money into the pension and the employment contract was that I would receive a pension,” said firefighter Tom Ruane.

“It is wrong to blame us for wanting what is due us,” retired nurse Helen Ramirez said.

Chicago currently owes $18, 596 in pension debt for every resident, including children, of the city.

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