Annual Report 2017 From President Brenda Russell
This has been an uneventful year in Illinois politics. That is bad news. But perhaps no news is good news, with respect to our pension and benefits, because everything has remained the same. Nonetheless, we continue to monitor legislative actions closely so that we can protect our pensions and benefits. Behind the scenes, we attended state SUAA meetings in June and November, talked to politicians and the media, and read everything that we could find to try to understand what all of this means for us.
Membership in our UIC SUAA chapter dropped in the past year but is still a significant number, with over 1550 members. There are about 16,000 SUAA members living in most senate and representative districts statewide, where they are able to exert influence on our behalf. Membership rises when there is a perceived threat to our pensions and falls with complacency. We are making an effort to recruit more UIC employees. Within UIC, I have met with President Timothy Killeen, Provost Susan Poser, several Deans, the Senate Executive Committee, Academic Professional Advisory Committee, and the Faculty Union.
We held several major events this year.
These events would not be possible without the organizational skills of Debbie Matthews and Karen Scherman. In the past year, Jim Limber has videorecorded several of these events for our web video archives (see our YouTube channel).
We held the annual Fall Forum on 26 October 2016. We changed format to generate more interaction and participation with attendees by hosting a lunch and informal discussions prior to the program. President of the statewide SUAA, Larry Alferink talked about “the importance of SUAA”, and his visit was greatly appreciated. The official discussion topic was “The Impact of Higher Education on the Illinois Economy”. Opening comments were made by UI President, Dr. Timothy Killeen and Peter Skosey, former Executive Vice President of the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), followed by an insightful question and answer session. We had positive feedback about the new format for the fall meeting but I am not sure what we will do next year.
UIC Prof. Dick Simpson gave a well-attended presentation on Nov. 18th with a lively and informed analysis of the Nov. 8th 2016 election. It may be viewed on the chapter’s YouTube channel. The video is in two parts: the first is 29min long, and the second is about 22 minutes in length.
We had a lively crowd at the Greek Islands restaurant for our Winter Holiday lunch in December 2016.
On April 19, 2017, at the annual meeting of our chapter, State Senator Daniel Biss delivered a presentation entitled “How to make Illinois Flourish” and answered questions from the audience afterwards (see the videos archived at our YouTube channel).
Our pensions remain intact
Pension benefits cannot legally be changed for retirees, but might be cut for current employees. There are ongoing attempts to develop an even weaker Tier III pension and to offer “choices” to current employees with several bad options, such as cuts to the 3% COLA, changes in free health insurance on retirement, or other gimmicks. Governor Rauner has stated that he will not support extending the state income tax to pensions.
It is important to continue communicating our concerns to our elected State representatives. Emails, phone calls, and petitions all help. However, nothing beats a personal visit at their local office or attending a local meeting. Goals for you: (1) know who your elected officials are and (2) get them to know you. The only realistic way that the State can become solvent is by raising revenue to pay its past debts and current expenses. Increasing revenue is part of the SUAA legislative platform.
Our website has been successfully migrated from the “Tigger” website to the “Publish” site; each of the archived files, minutes, etc. are being individually transferred to the new web host (see http://www.uicsuaa.org). I express gratitude to Merrill Gassman for his heroic effort. About half of our chapter now has provided us with an email contact for our newsletter and numerous timely e-messages; this number continues to grow and help us save on postage.
At the annual meeting we elected new members to the UIC SUAA board. We are always looking for new people to join our efforts and thank those for their work on our behalf. Gloria Henderson and David Bardack left the board during the past year, and Dick Johnson and Lascelles Anderson officially ended their terms after many years of service to our board. We thank them all.
Finally, and most sadly, there was an untimely death of one of our board members, John Cepek, who had developed and published our newsletter for the past few years. He died March 15 at a hospital in Munich, Germany of a head injury suffered in a fall while vacationing overseas. Our board set up a GoFundMe website to offset some of the major expenses for the Cepek family. This effort has raised nearly $40,000, including a donation from the SUAA Foundation. Sonya Booth took over as Newsletter editor amidst this crisis and wrote an article and an obituary for UIC News. John’s Memorial Service will be held at 4 p.m. Friday, May 12, in the Cardinal Room at UIC’s Student Center East, 750 S. Halsted. Refreshments are to follow.