srsDear AFSCME Member:

John Terranova, Deputy Director, CMS Office of Labor Relations, recently sent you a document via the state of Illinois email system that is rife with misinformation. His letter clearly seeks to divide and confuse employees, but from everything we’ve heard so far, it’s having just the opposite effect.

The letter was apparently timed to coincide with a spate of harassing phone calls to union members. The callers tried to pressure employees to say whether they’d go out on strike or were willing to accept a pay freeze. When employees asked to know who was behind the call—which asked for the employee by name and came to their home, personal cell, or work number—some of the callers refused to answer, while others reported it was Governor Rauner. Many employees just hung up once they realized it was not a legitimate poll. Council 31 is now investigating to determine who authorized these calls, how employees’ personal contact information was obtained, and who is in possession of the information collected.

With regard to John Terranova’s letter, let me say a couple of things.

  • First, it is absurd to suggest, as Mr. Terranova does, that our union has any reason to provide members with inaccurate information. Your AFSCME Bargaining Committee is made up of more than 200 of your fellow state employees, all elected by their co-workers, along with union staff. All of us are at the bargaining table for one purpose—to secure the best possible contract for union members. There’s no other reason for us to spend days on end in hotel meeting rooms sitting across from Management when we could be back doing our jobs, caring for our families, and living our lives instead.

The great majority of Bargaining Committee members will live under that contract just like you. We want union members to know exactly what the Rauner Administration is proposing. In negotiations, we try to ask questions that expose the full scope, intent and implications of a particular proposal—then we do our best to get that information to you. That’s why AFSCME has put out countless bargaining updates over the past year—and why your AFSCME bargaining team members are currently holding informational meetings all across the state.

Governor Rauner, on the other hand, ran for office on boasts to “take on” the unions and vowed to force a strike if state employees didn’t bend to his will. In other words, he has a very strong interest in misleading employees because he wants to compel you to accept a lower standard of living and weaker workplace rights.

  •  Second, it is not true, as Mr. Terranova repeatedly asserts, that 17 other unions have settled contracts with the Administration on the same or even remotely similar terms and conditions as those being offered to AFSCME members.

While the Teamsters did agree to a four-year freeze on wages and steps, the Rauner Administration agreed to contribute 65% more toward their health insurance coverage than is being offered to AFSCME members in the governor’s last proposal. The Administration agreed to contribute $1,600 per employee per month toward health coverage under the Teamster contract, but the governor is refusing to contribute more than $967 per employee per month toward coverage for AFSCME members. If he offered the same amount per employee to AFSCME as he agreed to for the Teamsters, then AFSCME members would not need to pay one penny more to keep the health care coverage they currently have!

The other settlements that Terranova references were with unions commonly known as “building trades” that have only a small number of members in state government. These unions did agree to the same health care terms being offered to AFSCME members, but did NOT agree to forgo pay increases for four years as the Rauner Administration is demanding AFSCME members do. Instead the Administration agreed to pay the members of these unions the “prevailing rate” for their trade in their region. That amount can be stagnant (it rarely, if ever, decreases), but in recent years it has not been uncommon to see increases of 2-6% annually depending on the region and the trade.

Many employees quickly recognized the letter from the Rauner Administration for the bunk that it is—and so didn’t plow all the way through it. However, if you did read it all, I hope you’ll take the time to get the real facts by reading the Union’s response below. We couldn’t correct all of the many, many inaccuracies in their letter—but we’ve tried to pull out the most egregious misrepresentations in order to set the record straight.

I know that the Governor’s decision to walk away from the bargaining table is very disturbing to AFSCME members. No governor in the history of this state has ever done that. His refusal to negotiate is the reason why AFSCME has gone back to the General Assembly to work for passage of HB 580, legislation that would provide for an independent arbitrator to resolve outstanding issues in this contract dispute. The governor is putting tremendous pressure on Republican legislators to vote against this measure. If you haven’t already done so, take a moment right now to call your state legislators—especially if you are in the district of a Republican legislator–and urge them to support this important bill.

If we all continue to stand together in this conflict and work together for a better future, I’m confident we will prevail over the dishonesty, heedlessness and heartlessness that the Rauner Administration has brought to Illinois state government.

In Unity,

 

Mike Newman
Deputy Director

Fact Check – Setting the Record Straight (AGAIN)

“Luxury” Health Plans?
Rauner Administration Claim: The average actuarial plan value (what federal regulations and insurance companies use to assess how rich a health plan is) for the State’s current plans is 92%… “Platinum” under the Affordable Care Act is defined as plans that are between 88 % and 92%. Platinum is the highest level under the Affordable Care Act-above Gold, Silver, and Bronze. And as mentioned, the State’s average plan value is 92%-the high end of Platinum…Moreover, to be clear: under the State’s proposal, employees will have the option to continue this rich coverage at higher premiums, should they so choose. Alternatively, employees would have the option to have less-rich coverage and maintain current premiums. Employees will not have to both pay higher premiums and receive less-rich coverage.

AFSCME Accurate: As AFSCME has consistently stated, the state’s current health plan is on par with the health benefits of other state workforces across the nation. The typical state government employee in this country is enrolled in a health plan with an actuarial value of 92%—the same plan value as Illinois currently has. Our health plan is simply not too rich as the Administration would like you to believe. (The “actuarial value” is based on plan design and reflects what employees pay in co-pays and deductibles, but does not take into account the amount employees pay in premium contributions.)

Terranova acknowledges that under the Administration’s proposal, in order to keep your current health care coverage you will have “higher” premiums. What he doesn’t say is that, in fact, your premiums will increase by 100%. Yes, as he points out, rather than paying those exceedingly high new premiums, you could choose to have less-generous coverage at your current premium level. But then your co-pays and deductibles would drastically increase, by an average of 250%.

Further, under the Administration’s proposal, employee premiums could increase by up to 10% more in both FY 18 and FY 19, no matter which option you choose. So even if you opted for what the Administration calls “less-rich coverage”, you would almost certainly pay both higher premium contributions and higher out-of-pocket costs over the term of the new contract than under the current plan.

Health Care Comparisons
Rauner Administration Claim: With retiree coverage included, Illinois pays nearly 3/4 of the total cost of coverage for its workers. In comparison, Indiana pays less than 45% of the total cost of coverage …. Even if we only look at coverage for active employees—where the State is proposing to pay 60% of costs—the State’s proposal is still better than many other States and on par with the private sector.

AFSCME Accurate: First, for retirees, the state contributes 5% of the premium cost for each full year of creditable service up to 100%. In FY 15, retirees and retiree dependents paid 12% of their total health care costs. Moreover, when John Terranova states that the proposal to pay 60% of health care costs is still “better than many other states”- he means better than just 4 states. The Administration’s proposal would move Illinois from average to bottom tier when it comes to the health benefits offered to employees.

Reduced Layoff Rights
Rauner Administration Claim: Myth: The State’s proposal would wipe out all job security rights. Fact: The State’s offer does not eliminate these rights. Layoffs would still happen in reverse seniority order. Employees would still have the opportunity to “bump” less senior individuals in the same position and qualifications. Employees would also still have the opportunity to transfer to other vacancies for which they are qualified.

AFSCME Accurate: In fact, the Administration’s original proposal would have completely eliminated bumping rights. Since it modified that proposal, what the Union is saying—and what Terranova conveniently fails to mention –is completely accurate: That under Management’s current proposal, employees would lose several bumping options, particularly the ability to bump into a lower classification, even one previously held.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket Limits
Rauner Administration Claim: Myth: If I have a major medical issue under the new insurance, there is no limit on what I could pay. I could go bankrupt! Fact: The Affordable Care Act has an annual out-of-pocket maximum of $6,850 for an individual. While that’s a lot of money, it prevents people from being financially ruined due to a medical issue. You can go here to fact-check this for yourself: http://obamacarefacts.com/health-insurance/out-of-pocket-maximum. The bottom line is no matter what coverage level employees select, there will be strict limits on how much each employee is going to be asked to pay in any given year.

AFSCME Accurate: This is a made-up myth. The Union isn’t saying there will be no limits—we’re saying that the limits will be unaffordable for many employees. Management never told the AFSCME Bargaining Committee what the new insurance plan would look like other than that it would be comparable to a ‘silver plan’ per the ACA. On the Illinois ACA exchange, the average ‘silver’ plan has out-of-pocket maximums of $6,400 for an individual and $12,800 for a family. Many employees facing serious medical problems could not afford that kind of expense in one year—and then the clock starts ticking all over again and they could have to pay those same amounts in the next year (and the year after, etc.) if their health problem persisted or new ones arose.

Merit Pay
Rauner Administration Claim: Myth: Merit pay is just political pay. Fact: Politics has nothing to do with it. In fact, the State would prohibit any Governor’s staff and appointees from being eligible for performance bonuses.

AFSCME Accurate: This misstates the issue. The Union doesn’t say merit pay is fundamentally political pay because it will only go to the governor’s staff and appointees. Rather, “political pay” refers to the fact that the Rauner Administration alone would determine what constitutes “exceptional performance standards,” and which employees qualify. We all know the kind of cronyism, favoritism, and pure politics that will enter into those judgments.

Not “substantially similar”
Rauner Administration Claim: Myth: The Governor is “now seeking to impose on state employees” his contract…. Fact: It is critical to mention that the last offer made by the State to AFSCME is substantially similar to the agreements signed by 17 other unions. These agreements were ratified in many cases by over 80% of state employees in those unions. This is not a radical or extreme contract as AFSCME has portrayed, but one that is fair, reasonable, and overwhelming accepted by several thousand State employees already.

AFSCME Accurate: Again, the contracts ratified by other unions were NOT “substantially similar.” They were far more generous than what is being offered to AFSCME and other unions still in negotiations with the Rauner Administration. AFSCME specifically asked across the bargaining table if the Administration would agree to the same employer health insurance contribution as that made to the Teamsters, and the answer from Management was absolutely not.

Labor Board
Rauner Administration Claim: By submitting this dispute to the Labor Board, the Governor did nothing more than invoke the very process to which both parties voluntarily agreed.

AFSCME Accurate: In reality, rather than merely “submitting” the matter to the Labor Board, the governor filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Union on the grounds that AFSCME refuses to agree that negotiations are at impasse. In other words, he is objecting to the fact that the Union wants to continue negotiating to reach an agreement that is fair to all!

Refusal to Negotiate
Rauner Administration Claim: What the Governor is seeking, and AFSCME is refusing, is for AFSCME to submit the Governor’s actual proposal to employees for a vote. What better way is there to determine whether the proposal is deemed fair and reasonable by the very people whose work will be governed by that proposed contract?

AFSCME Truth: John Terranova attached Management’s proposal to the Union to his letter to employees and labeled it “for Tentative Agreement”. This is an attempt to mislead or confuse union members. AFSCME has NOT reached a Tentative Agreement with the Rauner Administration. In fact, the Administration is refusing to continue to negotiate to try to reach a Tentative Agreement. When one is reached, it will be presented to the full membership for a vote—as has been done in every set of contract negotiations over many decades. This is just a ploy by the governor to avoid returning to the bargaining table.

Teamster Comparison
Rauner Administration Claim: Myth: The Teamsters’ agreements provide “far more generous health insurance terms.” Fact: Comparing Teamsters’ health insurance to AFSCME’s is like comparing apples and platypuses. AFSCME employees’ health insurance is provided by the State, where the State charges premiums. Teamsters’ health insurance is provided by Teamsters’ own health and welfare funds. The State contributes to those funds but does not get to decide the level of coverage or premiums.

AFSCME Accurate: The issue is how much the Employer contributes toward each employee’s health care coverage, not who administers or designs the plan. In the proposal the Administration is trying to impose on AFSCME members, it would contribute only $967 per employee per month—a steep cut from the $1224 per employee per month the State currently contributes. In the Teamsters agreement, the Administration has already agreed to contribute $1,600 per employee per month—a big increase over the current $1224 contribution. This is a gross inequity.

Building Trades Comparison
Rauner Administration Claim: AFSCME claims the distinguishing feature is that the trades’ agreements do not include a wage freeze. But what AFSCME fails to mention is the trades get compensated on a wholly different metric, known as the prevailing wage.

AFSCME Accurate: Far from failing to mention the “prevailing wage”, AFSCME has put out a number of fact sheets and bulletins explaining that the building trades agreements are based on the prevailing wage.

Prevailing Wage
Rauner Administration Claim: That wage is determined through a certification process administered by the Department of Labor and is not guaranteed to increase during the course of the contract. In fact, the prevailing wage could go down over the life of the contract.

AFSCME Accurate: In recent years, the prevailing wage has gone up and very rarely gone down. AFSCME members, on the other hand, would have no possibility whatsoever of getting any wage or step increases for all four years under the Administration’s proposal.

Other Unions Haven’t Settled
Rauner Administration Claim: AFSCME stands alone in demanding guaranteed wage increases and luxury health insurance coverage.

AFSCME Accurate: AFSCME does not ‘stand alone’. There are six other unions that have not reached settlements with the state—and all of them are seeking wage increases and rejecting the Administration’s demand for huge health care cost hikes. Together, these seven unions represent more than 10 times the number of state employees represented by the unions that have settled.

Wage Comparison
Rauner Administration Claim: State employees in Illinois make more than their counterparts in other Midwestern States. For example, Illinois state workers made, on average, over $20,000 more per year in 2014 than state workers in Indiana or Missouri. In absolute dollars, Illinois state worker pay was third-highest.

AFSCME Accurate: Illinois ranks 9th nationally, not 3rd, for state employee pay. Illinois is in the top tier because, generally speaking, it is a high-wage state. Overall, Illinois wages rank 10th in the nation—putting state employees right on a par with their fellow citizens.

Bad Note-Taking
Rauner Administration Claim: Fact: Here’s what AFSCME’s Executive Director Roberta Lynch said during bargaining: “People who came up with this [merit pay proposal] ought to go to f**king prison . . . fact that you want to give measly 25% to some who are doing the job already . . . 75% of people not doing their best – that’s a f**king lie. I think it’s an insult to every single person who works for the State of Illinois.” Here’s how AFSCME interprets the above quote: “it wasn’t fair to leave out 75% of employees from getting a bonus, given the difficult jobs that employees do-and that whoever came up with that idea should try going and actually working in a prison so they’d know how hard the job is.” We appreciate that AFSCME’s Executive Director regrets her choice of words when she reads those words on paper. Nonetheless, she does not get to rewrite the history of negotiations based on what she wishes she has said.

AFSCME Accurate: The “history of negotiations”? Only if we want to let the Rauner Administration write our history for us. In reality, that supposed ‘quote’ is nothing more than what someone on Management’s team wrote down. He or she may have deliberately misrepresented the facts or was just a very poor note-taker. The whole AFSCME Bargaining Committee heard Roberta’s argument and knows that what the Union reported is what she was saying. In any event, AFSCME has no interest in getting into a prolonged argument over this—though it’s not accurate, the purported ‘quote’ shows Roberta standing up for union members.

Fair Arbitration Bill
Rauner Administration Claim: SB1229 was AFSCME’s attempt to … saddle the State’s taxpayers with a multi-billion dollar cost of AFSCME’s unreasonable contract proposal that it knew, under the existing laws, it could never get the State to agree to at the bargaining table.

AFSCME Accurate: The Union’s contract proposal is not “unreasonable” and does not cost “multi-billion” more dollars. The health care coverage and pay increases—averaging little more than 2% per year—that the Union proposed are comparable to those negotiated in union contracts with other states, cities and counties all across this country. The most recent US DOL data shows that the average pay raise for all U.S. workers last year was 2.5%.

Moreover, AFSCME has indicated time and again that the proposal the Union has on the table is not our final proposal. In fact, the Union has already modified our wage proposal and had done so again just last month, right before Management broke off negotiations. It is the governor who is refusing to negotiate, thus making clear that the Union is correct to press for passage of legislation that would require arbitration. If the Rauner Administration truly believed it had a reasonable and fair contract proposal, it wouldn’t hesitate to submit it to an independent arbitrator for consideration.

Passing HB 580
Rauner Administration Claim: HB580—another version of the same failed bill, which would strip the Governor of his constitutional authority—is as unaffordable and damaging now as it was then.

AFSCME Accurate: Under current labor law arbitration procedures have been in place for decades for law enforcement and fire safety employees all across Illinois. Neither the governor nor any other employer has a “constitutional authority” to control negotiations. The same law already requires him to submit to arbitration for security employees. If he thinks arbitration is unconstitutional, why hasn’t he challenged that provision in court? Because it’s not, of course. What the governor doesn’t like about arbitration is it allows an impartial third party to decide on a reasonable settlement, instead of letting the governor do an end run around the collective bargaining process and impose his own terms.

Rauner Administration Claim: This is as clear a signal as any that AFSCME is not interested in negotiating… AFSCME is only interested in imposing its will through an unelected, unaccountable arbitrator. This is bad faith in spades, and why the matter is now before the Labor Board.

AFSCME Accurate: An Administration that walks away from the bargaining table and flatly refuses to return says the Union doesn’t want to negotiate? That doesn’t pass the laugh test. In fact, our Union has clearly and consistently stated our willingness to continue to negotiate, while the Rauner Administration is trying to persuade the Labor Board to allow it to force its extreme demands on employees—or force the disruption that a strike would cause. In the end, we’ve come full circle—nearly three years ago, as a candidate, the governor said he wanted a strike—and he’s still doing his very best to try to provoke one now.