Chicago Union Bosses Double-dip on Pensions, Reap Millions

From The Chicago Tribune:

At least eight Chicago labor leaders who are eligible for inflated city pensions also stand to receive union pensions covering the same work period, thanks to a charitable interpretation of state law by officials representing two city pension funds, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

By double and even triple dipping on pensions, these union officials stand to reap millions more in retirement while thousands of rank-and-file union members face hard times and city pension funds stagger toward insolvency.

Union pension benefits are not public record, but the Tribune and WGN-TV obtained information confirming that at least seven union officials are accruing benefits in multiple pensions and another retired official already is receiving money from two pensions.

One labor leader stands to reap more than $400,000 a year from three pensions — the city laborers fund, a union district council fund and a national union fund — all covering the same time period. During his expected lifetime, he stands to receive approximately $9 million, according to an analysis based on the funds’ actuarial assumptions.

Union officials are accumulating these benefits even though the state pension code includes language aimed at preventing double dipping.

Pension experts, state lawmakers and attorneys specializing in pension law say the spirit of the statute clearly prohibits labor leaders from receiving a second pension from funds established by their locals, although it does appear to contain a loophole that allows pensions from national unions.

City pension fund directors and their attorney, Fredrick Heiss, say that the law is vague and that if the Legislature had wanted to bar labor leaders from participating in union pension plans, they would have said so more clearly.

“The Legislature never told us how to administer this thing,” Heiss said. “They could have said ‘no second pension at all,’ but they didn’t say that.”

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