Illinois Governor Pat Quinn demands the state's $96 billion pension crisis be dealt with by Wednesday. The Senate has adjourned for the week, leaders canceled tomorrow's session, but some of them say reform is up to the House. Representatives don't meet in Springfield until Sunday. Local workers are including themselves in the pension conversation.
Educators are open to make sacrifices, but they won't just wait for Springfield leaders to get back into town and explain the new system.
"We have paid our part of the pension. This is not teachers', or firefighters', or police officers', or nurses' fault. We've paid our part, they haven't, and now we're willing to sit down and work with them and try to make this work for everybody." -says Rockford Education Association President Dawn Granath.
On Thursday, 35 Rockford-area nurses, firefighters, police officers and teachers took a bus downstate. They joined thousands of union members from across Illinois at the capitol and got some face-to-face lobbying time with Republican 34th District State Senator Dave Syverson.
"We spoke with him and told him that we're here, we're from Rockford and we want to protect our pensions." -says Granath.
Some House leaders want state employees to contribute more to their pensions and receive less in benefits. According to union reps, if lawmakers want to change contracts, workers need to be a part of negotiations.
"We need to have a voice in what's going on with pensions and we need to be strong." -Granath adds.
Rockford teachers aren't taking an 'if you can't beat them, join them' attitude. They're not giving up on what they feel they're entitled to.
"A pension is a promise and we're paying into our pensions and they need to fund the money to fund the people who have already retired and those who are planning to retire in the future." -says Barbour Language Academy Teacher Jelena Holcomb.
Granath says a second bus-load from Rockford is scheduled to go Springfield Friday even with the Senate session canceled.
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