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Taking money from retirees who earned it isn’t the answer

Updated: January 23, 2014 6:32AM

Brian P. McGuire, who represents manufacturing business interests, recently wrote to the Sun-Times to urge politicians to take a “second step” to make deeper cuts to the life savings of teachers, nurses, first responders and other public employees and retirees.

But he fails to recognize that politicians’ first step — Senate Bill 1 — was actually a step backward.

SB 1 is unfair, unconstitutional legislation that takes retirement benefits earned over decades. Some 80 percent of those affected don’t receive Social Security — their pensions are all they have.

Public servants are not at fault for Illinois’ fiscal disorder; they paid their share toward their pensions.

Politicians didn’t. They shorted and skipped payments largely because they’ve refused to admit that Illinos has a major revenue problem. For years, corporate welfare and tax giveaways to big business were the norm, starving the state of resources.

Illinois won’t step forward until our political leaders get their priorities straight. Illegal attempts to slash modest pensions and deprive senior citizens of dignity in their retirement years are not the answer. Instead, elected officials must focus on investing the resources it takes to educate our children, meet our transportation and infrastructure needs, provide public safety, and ensure Illinois citizens can lead healthy and productive lives.

That would be a true step forward for everyone.

Michael T. Carrigan,president, Illinois AFL-CIO

Protecting domestic violence victims

The former city of Chicago employee described in Fran Spielman’s recent article, who was terminated from employment because she is a domestic violence survivor, was able to win her job back due to her successful Victims Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) claim against the city. VESSA is a state law that promotes employment security, economic stability and safety for survivors of domestic or sexual violence and their families. As the drafter of the legislation and the lead proponent of the bill, in 2003 I worked closely with then-state Sen. Barack Obama, the chief sponsor of the bill, to ensure that survivors do not suffer economic insecurity as a result of domestic or sexual violence. In 2009 I worked with state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Greg Harris to expand VESSA so that more workers are protected by the law — private employers with 15 or more employees and all government entities and school districts. I can attest that the outcome in this case is exactly the intent of the law — to preserve survivors’ economic security by preserving their employment. Employment protections are a crucial element in helping survivors escape the violence, recover from the violence, and move forward with their lives.

Wendy Pollack, director,

Women’s Law & Policy Project

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law

Helping the rich

The Republicans, and their wealthy benefactors, want to provide average Americans with another right-wing holiday season. So, it’s back to the same old conservative mantra:

† Defund Obamacare before it provides too many people with affordable insurance

† Refuse to increase minimum wage so that workers can get off public assistance

† Reduce food stamps so more children and old people are hungry

† Cut back on unemployment insurance as a “disservice” to those who can’t find work

† Continue to ignore jobs and infrastructure bills proposed by the president designed to reduce unemployment by rebuilding bridges, roads, airports, ports

† “Voucherize” Medicare to shrink benefits

† Limit the COLA or privatize Social Security

† Renege on pension commitments to public employees

† Ignore the economic and social benefits of comprehensive immigration reform

The GOP, once again, demonstrates that they are all about protecting the rich as the income gap widens between the top 1 percent and the rest of us. Just another holiday Season gift from your Republican representatives.

Tom Minnerick, Elgin

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