Taxpayer Alert

CAPCON | $23K School Employee Upset that MEA President’s Pension Spiked by $200K Union Salary

Taxpayers United of America’s Rae Ann McNeilly was quoted by CAPCON on an article about MEA president Steve Cook being considered a ‘school employee’ for Lansing Schools – where he doesn’t work.


LaKiesha Allen is a 35-year old Lansing school secretary who pays the Michigan Education Association $38 a month in union dues from her $23,000 annual salary. Local union officials have threatened to get her fired if she stops paying those dues.
So Allen was stunned to learn that MEA President Steve Cook, a man she has never met, swung a deal with her employer to parlay his six-figure union salary into a richer pension payout. Cook’s payout will come from the same pension fund that Allen is counting on for her own retirement – a fund that is currently underfunded by nearly $26 capconartbillion.
“It terrifies me,” Allen said. “And if others knew what was going on, I’m sure they’d be frightened, too. Secretaries are severely unpaid. We, the working class, are the ones who are going to suffer behind the Steve Cooks of the world and the school district for allowing this to happen.”
Allen said she is hardly surprised by the deal. Her observation is that the administration and union look out for their own interests ahead of district employees and schoolchildren. She enjoys her job as a secretary in an elementary school, but her relationships with the Lansing School District and union have been troubled. Allen endured recrimination and what she describes as outright hostility that forced her, at one point, to take time off to recover from stress.
Allen started working at the school district in 2010 after working as a church secretary. In 2011, due to budget cutbacks and her low rung on the seniority list, she was laid off. She was recalled three months later but not to the same job. The district offered her a “2.5” secretarial position in which she would get full-time hours by splitting her day between two different schools. District officials told her she would be first in line when a one-location job became available.
That’s not what happened, though. A few months later, Allen learned that an acquaintance of hers with less seniority was given a one-location job. As it turned out, her acquaintance preferred a split shift because it would allow her to pick up her child in the middle of the day. The two employees approached the district about swapping jobs, to which it agreed – until the union stepped in.
“The union didn’t want to agree to it because they were afraid it would set a precedent. I told them there was nothing in the contract prohibiting us from switching, but they weren’t budging,” said Allen.
Allen prevailed and made the switch, but the union wasn’t done. It and the district inserted a clause into the next union contract, prohibiting switches without union approval. A short time later, she said, the reprisals began.
Over the course of the next school year, Allen noticed that she seemed to be held to a different standard than others. Secretaries were allowed to listen to the radio in their offices but Allen says she was told gospel music was inappropriate.
Allen worked in the discipline-and-attendance office. Allen’s relationship with her boss deteriorated. She asked for a transfer and called on the union for help.
Allen said that at a subsequent grievance hearing it was hard to tell whose side the union was on.
“The union reps did more yelling at me than the school principals who were giving me such a hard time. When the meeting ended, I called the MEA office in tears, asking for better help,” Allen said.
Allen said the MEA promised her it would resolve the situation. The union appointed someone new to the case, but that person turned out to be equally unhelpful. Allen decided to deal with the district’s human resource office on her own and got her transfer after applying for the next secretarial job that opened up.
Allen began seriously questioning the union’s value. She says that since 2010, her dues have gone from $19 to $38 a month. Knowing that Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect in March 2013, Allen informed the MEA in January 2014 that she wanted to end her membership.
That was no simple matter. She learned that she would still be forced to pay dues because the day before the right-to-work law went into effect, the union and the school board signed a so-called “union-security clause” deal that requires district employees to keep paying union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Since the right-to-work law applies only to union contracts signed after it went into effect, the deal requires Allen to keep paying the MEA until June 2018.
Her only option now is to become an “agency fee” payer, in which she is no longer a union “member,” but still has to pay a monthly fee. In most situations, a union will tell the employee that the agency fee is nearly the same as the dues. Many members don’t bother to change their status, because fee payers can no longer vote in union elections or on contracts, and they don’t think the modest savings are worth the trouble. Allen has inquired about being an agency fee payer, but has yet to receive information from the union.
The deal between the Lansing schools and Cook lets the union president collect a six-figure salary from a private organization but still vest in the state-run school pension system. The Lansing School District pays his salary and a contribution to his pension, and is reimbursed by the MEA. Currently, however, the pension-fund contributions that schools make do not cover the system’s ongoing underfunding, for which taxpayers remain on the hook. The extent to which some individuals are allowed to “spike” their benefits only contributes to that problem.
Cook worked as a teacher’s aide in the Lansing School District but phased out those duties when he was elected an MEA officer in 1991. The arrangement with district allows him to not only collect a public pension, but also collect one that will be based on his MEA salary, which exceeds $200,000. The pension system he is in is for “Michigan Public School Employees,” but the union and the district worked out an arrangement to allow an employee of a private organization to reap benefits, as well.
The deal is similar to an arrangement uncovered in Chicago in 2011, in which a union official was able to amass a $158,000 annual public pension by working one day on the city payroll.
“These cases clearly illustrate that the government unions are not here for the benefit of ‘the children’ much less the benefit of their own rank and file. The union bosses are hanging on for dear life to a system that keeps them in power and makes them rich at the expense of taxpayers,” said Rae Ann McNeilly, executive director of Taxpayers United of America.
Taxpayers United of America is a nonprofit organization that in 2006 began publishing data on the top state and municipal pensions throughout the country. It holds workshops to teach the media and the public how to get access to the data.
Allen believes the deal with Cook allows the district to buy leverage with the union at member expense.
“It is another slap in the face and even more reason to not trust the union or the district. Secretaries are severely underpaid and can’t afford to pay a union that doesn’t help us or answer our questions. And we especially shouldn’t have to pay a union that threatens and intimidates us,” said Allen.
The Lansing School District, the Lansing Schools Education Association and the MEA did not return calls and emails for comment.

893+ Lake County and Waukegan Gov. Retirees Raking in Pensions Over $100,000!

View as PDF
Chicago – Taxpayers United of America (TUA) reveals in their latest government pension study that over 893 Lake County and Waukegan government retirees are collecting annual pension payments over $100,000.
“It’s unconscionable that taxpayers are still on the hook for such outrageous pensions,” stated TUA’s operations director, Jared Labell. “Across the state pension funds, there are 11,054 government pensioners collecting six-figure pensions and over 78,526 pensioners collecting more than $50,000 where the per-capita income is slightly higher than $34,000.”
“Lake County taxpayers struggle to make ends meet with 6.2% unemployment and bank-owned homes on the rise, but are forced to pay for these outrageous pensions rather than save for their own retirement, much less afford to hang on to their own homes.”
“It is time to preserve the future of the taxpayers who have been scammed by politicians and union thugs into going along with a system that creates and constitutionally protects a special class of government elite.”
“It’s also time for union leadership to have a frank discussion with the rank and file, educating them on the inevitable collapse of an unsustainable crony system designed to siphon money from taxpayers for the benefit of the few. The unions should use those dues forced from members to bail out the pension system rather than use those funds to elect political cronies who keep them in power.”
“Those of us in the private sector must reduce our spending if our income decreases; we can’t just go to our employer and demand more money to fund irresponsible spending. Mercifully, Waukegan has staved off a property tax increase for at least this year.”
“Consider the annual pension of $258,163 being paid to retired government teacher, Larry K. Fleming from Lincolnshire-Prairie View 103. His estimated lifetime payout is $11.2 million! Retiring at the ripe old age of 55, his personal investment in that gold-plated payout was a mere $326,507, or 2.9%.”
 
“Then there is Peter Krupczak, retired from the College of Lake County. He gets $216,287 in annual pension payments and because he retired at only 57, those payments with compounded annual cost of living adjustments will accumulate to more than $6.3 million! His personal investment was only about 3.6% or $228,997.”
Click to view pensions for

 
“The average Social Security ‘pension’ is only about $15,000 a year and taxpayers pay 15% of every penny they earn for that modest payout.”
“This pension system is the single cause of Illinois’ critical financial situation and it is mathematically impossible to tax our way out of this situation.”
“This financial squeeze of paying for yesterday’s services with today’s tax dollars is only going to get worse as yesterday’s services rendered compete for today’s tax dollars tendered.”
“The Illinois government has failed us; local governments have failed us. It is in everyone’s best interest to solve the pension problem before the system completely collapses. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ it will collapse, but when.”
“Immediately place all new hires into 401(k) style retirement savings accounts, increase member contributions to their retirement fund, increase retirement age for full benefits, and increase member contributions to 50% of health care premiums. Anything short of these reforms will do nothing to permanently solve the problem. If it takes a Constitutional Amendment, then what are we waiting for?”

Dixon & Sterling Government Bureaucrats Still Stealing From Taxpayers

View as PDF Dixon, IL – Lee and Whiteside County area government pensions are decimating area taxpayers according to a study by the state’s largest taxpayer group, Taxpayers United of America (TUA). The study reveals the individual pensions paid to the retirees of Sterling, Dixon, Lee County, Whiteside County government employees.
“Our study shows that Lee and Whiteside County taxpayers are still being robbed blind by government bureaucrats in the form of lavish, gold-plated pensions,” stated TUA’s executive director, Rae Ann McNeilly.
“Dixon taxpayers should have taken back some of the money stolen from them by former comptroller, Rita Crundwell, when they had the chance.”
“Instead, Dixon politicians took the money from one thief and spread it around many thieves by dumping recovered millions into the immoral pension cabal.”
“This is the epitome of throwing good money after bad. This one-time infusion of cash will only slightly delay the inevitable hard-fail of an unsustainable crony system designed to siphon money from taxpayers for the benefit a the few.”
“Dixon and Sterling are increasing the property tax levy by the maximum allowable amount without a referendum or hearing year after year. True to bureaucratic form, Sterling city administrator, Scott Shumer, blames other bureaucrats for making the increase necessary because ‘the cities have no say’ in setting pension benefits.”
“But as the state budget is cut and less money will be sent back to municipalities, bureaucrats like Shumer will continue to reach into taxpayers’ wallets to feed their lust for other peoples’ money rather than cut expenses to balance budgets.”
“For those of us in the private sector, we must reduce our spending if our income decreases; we can’t just go to our employer and demand more money to fund irresponsible spending.”
“Yes, the pension promises made constitute irresponsible spending! Where else can a person get guaranteed payouts of millions on such a small personal investment?”
“Consider the annual pension of $169,467 being paid to retired government teacher, Boyce J. Wolf from Rock Falls TWP HSD 301. His estimated lifetime payout is $5.7 million! Retiring at the ripe old age of 57, his personal investment in that gold-plated payout was a mere $174,215, or 3.1%.”
 
“Then there is Gerald L. Carslon, retired from the Dixon municipal government. He get’s $44,911 in annual pension payments but because he retired at only 55, those payments with compounded annual cost of living adjustments will accumulate to more than $2 million! His personal investment was only about 3.1% or $62,918.”
Click to view pensions for

 
“The average Social Security ‘pension’ is only about $15,000 a year and taxpayers pay about 15% of every penny they earn for that modest payout.”
“There are hundreds of area government pensions getting theses lavish, million dollar pensions. Statewide there are more than 11,000 government retirees getting more than $100,000 a year in pension payments.”
“This pension cabal is the single cause of Illinois’ critical financial situation and it is mathematically impossible to tax our way out of this situation.”
“This financial squeeze of paying for yesterday’s services with today’s tax dollars is only going to get worse if Governor Rauner successfully cuts spending in the coming years. Any relief of those spending cuts will never reach taxpayers if municipal governments continue to increase the property tax levies as is happening throughout Lee and Whiteside Counties.”
“The Illinois government has failed us; local governments have failed us. Government employees would rally behind pension reform if their union bosses and the pols they elect were honest with them about the future of their pensions. It is in everyone’s best interest to solve the pension problem before the system completely collapses. It is no longer a matter of ‘if’ it will collapse, but when.”
“Immediately place all new hires into 401(k) style retirement savings accounts, increase member contributions to their retirement fund, increase retirement age for full benefits, and increase member contributions to 50% of health care premiums. Anything short of these reforms will do nothing to permanently solve the problem. If it takes a Constitutional Amendment, then what are we waiting for?”

BLOG POSTS

DISCLAIMER

Taxpayers United Of America: (TUA). is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(4) taxpayer advocacy group. Founded June 27, 1976 in Chicago, Illinois by activist and economist Jim Tobin, TUA works on behalf of taxpayers to reduce local, state, and federal taxes. In the past forty years, TUA has saved taxpayers more than $200 billion n taxes and has become one of the largest taxpayer organizations in America. Check All posts. s.

ADDRESS

Chicago, IL 60606 205 W. Randolph Street, Suite 1305
Phone: (312) 427-5128
Fax: (312) 427-5139
Website: https://taxpayersunitedofamerica.org
Email: info@taxpayersunited.org

Donate