Unions have filed suit to protect the infamous backdrops, which made many county employees wealthy.
Three unions have gone to court to protect the lucrative pension backdrop, whose passage caused a public outcry that led to the ouster of former Milwaukee County Executive F. Thomas Ament and seven county supervisors. The unions have filed suit against the county and its Pension Board, arguing the backdrop is a vested property right that can’t be taken away.
As Urban Milwaukee has reported, more than 1,700 county employees have collected a backdrop benefit, with some 255 getting at least $250,000, 40 getting more than $500,000 and three getting more than $1 million. The complete list of backdrops can be found here.
The benefit grows bigger the longer employees work past the date they are eligible for retirement, so the benefit is growing for many current employees on a monthly basis. As a press release by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele noted, the county has already paid out $200 million for backdrops and could pay another $100 million, but the reform championed by him could reduce the blow, by freezing the backdrop benefit for employees who are eligible to retire and eliminating it for future retirees who are eligible for the benefit.
“I’m disappointed the unions are fighting to save the outrageous backdrop that has cost Milwaukee County taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and has put a strain on our ability to provide critical services,” Abele declared. “Instead of suing to stop this, I invite the unions to work with us to move Milwaukee County forward.”
If you check our list of backdrops, you’ll find that Krueger retired with a lump sum benefit of $213,250.
Today, only the unions are publicly defending the benefit they never requested. As I’ve reported, they pressured county supervisors to oppose Abele’s plan, but the board eventually agreed to it.
The unions’ stance prompted this observation from Urban Milwaukee reader and union supporter Bill Sweeney:
“Are Unions being mentored by Mitt Romney? Why do they continue to self-destruct? ‘Something is happening here, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Union Leaders?’ Isn’t there anyone in the Union movement that has a lick of common sense and decency? Big business paints union leaders as thugs who are just interested in their own material welfare, and covering up for slackers, deviants etc, and what is the response? “Well it may not be a pretty picture, but it’s OUR picture.”
At a time when working people, people who work at McDonalds and other fast food outlets, people who work in nursing homes and other care facilities, people who work hard for low pay and benefits, there needs to be unions that can represent them and fight the good fight. Union leaders who muscled through the endorsement of Falk for Governor in the recall election and now this, standing up for what? — retaining entitlement to obscene payouts that never should have happened in the first place. It is pathetic.”