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AFSCME Now Less Likely to Negotiate on Pensions

Illinois lawmakers hope to have a second shot at reaching a compromise with public employees over pensions, but the unions are pinning their hopes on the court system.

There was a time that a coalition of Illinois' largest unions signed onto a plan that would leave members with reduced pensions. 

It was a deal negotiated with Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) that called for giving workers some options for how it would be done.

But the legislature decided to go a different route and voted to reduce Illinois' massive pension debt by unilaterally reducing benefits.

The constitutionality of that legislation is in question, and in a recent Chicago Tribune column, Cullerton hinted at the idea of going back to the model that had union backing.

But it sounds as though unions are no longer interested.

"Until and unless we prevail in the courts, there is no room to continue those discussions now,” said Anders Lindall of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees

The unions recently had what's widely viewed as a court victory on a separate but related issue tied to retirees' healthcare.

A spokesman for President Cullerton said his office is continuing to research the state's pension protections, and that Cullerton is hopeful the courts will reach a decision quickly so the lingering issue of Illinois' pensions can be resolved.