Chicago union bosses raking in millions from city pension fund

In case any of you were having too nice of a day, here’s something sure to get your heart rate worked up toward the red zone. Out in the Windy City (where else?) we find a heartwarming tale of hard working union bosses scraping by in their golden years with a little help from the taxpayers.

All it took to give nearly two dozen labor leaders from Chicago a windfall worth millions was a few tweaks to a handful of sentences in the state’s lengthy pension code.

The changes became law with no public debate among state legislators and, more importantly, no cost analysis.

Twenty years later, 23 retired union officials from Chicago stand to collect about $56 million from two ailing city pension funds thanks to the changes, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation found.

The short version of the story is that a couple of decades ago, somebody (amazingly they can’t seem to find anyone willing to admit they did it) inserted a change into the pension laws which essentially says that the pension city workers receive can be based on the last salary they drew from the union instead of the actual salary they earned working on the public payroll. Here’s a couple of the notable results:

Liberato “Al” Naimoli, president of the Cement Workers Union Local 76. He retired last year from a $15,000-a-year city job that he last held a quarter-century ago. Today, Naimoli receives more than $13,000 a month from the city laborers’ pension fund even as he continues to earn nearly $300,000 annually as president of Local 76. His city laborers’ pension will pay him about $4 million during his lifetime, according to a Tribune/WGN-TV analysis based on the funds’ actuarial assumptions.

James McNally, vice president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. He receives nearly $115,000 a year even though at the time he retired, in 2008, he had not worked for the city in more than 13 years. He was only 51 when he started collecting a city pension. By the time he turns 78, he will have received roughly $4 million from the city laborers’ fund.

Dennis Gannon, former president of the Chicago Federation of Labor. In 2004, he began receiving more than $150,000 a year after retiring at age 50 from a $56,000-a-year city job that he had left nearly 13 years earlier. He received his city pension while collecting a salary of about $200,000 from the federation. During his lifetime, the city municipal pension fund will pay him approximately $5 million. Gannon told the Tribune that he was only following the law in filing for a city pension.

There’s more meat on this bone at the link, but I thought I’d stop before we get blamed for one of you jamming your fist through your monitor. In case you’re thinking we can at least clean up the mess now that it’s been exposed… think again! It seems that the state constitution includes a provision stating that pensions “can not be diminished once they are earned.”

Just makes you want to move to Illinois, doesn’t it? The City of Big Shoulders… and Even Bigger Pensions!