A Special Update for AFSCME Members in State Government

Pat Quinn = Scott Walker, Jr.

Pat Quinn is trying to bring Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s policies to Illinois. First Quinn refused to honor state employee union contracts—withholding negotiated pay raises. Now he has acted to terminate the AFSCME contract in its totality.

Quinn doesn’t have a state legislature that will back him up in his efforts to destroy collective bargaining in Illinois by passing legislation abolishing bargaining rights. So he’s trying to do it one step at a time.

In over 40 years of negotiations with the state of Illinois, no governor has ever terminated a union contract.

Governor Quinn’s termination of the contract sends a clear message that he is seeking to sabotage the contract negotiations that are now underway.

This is an extreme, unprecedented and completely unwarranted attack on all state employees and on the collective bargaining process in Illinois. You are on the frontlines every day, providing critically important services, very often without enough staff and certainly without any support from the governor who is the employer.

Quinn thinks his termination of the contract will frighten employees into submission. But the initial response from union members indicates exactly the opposite—We’re disgusted, we’re angry, and we’re going to fight back.

Lies and Half-Truths

Quinn has only lies and misinformation to justify his actions.

  • Quinn is attempting to give the impression that AFSCME has been making excessive demands in negotiations. In truth your union representatives have been at the bargaining table for almost a year now working in good faith to try to reach a contract settlement. Contrary to the governor’s claims, the Union’s economic proposals have been very moderate in recognition of the state’s dire fiscal condition.
  • Quinn is basing his efforts to drive down employee wages on the false claim that Illinois state employee salaries are the highest in the country. The truth is that Illinois is generally a high-wage state. But contrary to the Governor’s claims, Illinois state employees are NOT the highest paid. In fact, Illinois ranks 7th in the country for wages for all workers, but Illinois state employees rank 9th compared to other states.

Contract Termination—What it Means

Here’s what the termination of the contract means in practical terms:

  • Under the collective bargaining law, AFSCME remains the exclusive bargaining representative for all employees in an AFSCME bargaining unit.
  • The fact that the contract is no longer in effect does NOT mean that management has unfettered rights to do what it wants.
  • Pursuant to state law, so long as bargaining is ongoing the State is still prohibited from making any unilateral changes in Wages, Hours, Benefits or Conditions of Employment/Working Conditions.
  • Employees still have the right to union representation in any grievance proceeding.
  • Grievances can continue to be filed, and the grievance procedure remains in place, although Management might argue that it is not required to process certain grievances.
  • The Employer did not attempt to claim that contract negotiations are at an impasse. Further negotiations are scheduled for December 11.

Given that this is an unprecedented situation, there is no way to know exactly what will occur in each specific situation. Be sure to contact your union steward or local officers if management at your worksite takes any action that you believe is a violation of your rights or a change in your working conditions.
What’s At Stake

Management negotiators continue to demand that employees’ wages be frozen for all three years of the contract—and to insist on massive increases in health care premiums for active employees, as well as significant increases in co-pays and deductibles.

These proposals would result in thousands of dollars coming out of your pocket.

At the same time, the Quinn administration continues to reject the Union’s demand that employees who did not receive the contractual pay increases from the last contract be made whole by having their pay set at the negotiated rates now with full back pay.

Management’s proposals hit especially hard at retirees. They would impact all current retirees and every current employee when he/she retirees. The Administration wants to drastically increase the cost of health care for retirees—forcing them to pay 10% – 25% of their pension check for health insurance premiums—and take the increases in co-pays and deductibles too.

Fighting for Our Future

It’s very clear that all of Quinn’s efforts are aimed at trying to undermine union rights for state employees so that he can unilaterally dictate your wages, benefits and working conditions. It’s very possible that after the next round of bargaining, which is set for December 11-13, the Administration will take steps impose its own terms on employees. Even though this will be in violation of state law, we know from past experience that Quinn’s philosophy is “so sue me.” He believes he can break the law whenever he chooses and that any effort to overturn his actions will be tied up in the courts for years.

The only way to stop this power grab is with unified direct action at the worksite!

Over the coming days your local union will be reaching out to you to develop a unified response to the governor’s action. By coming together, state employees can send a strong message: We will not bow down to Quinn’s efforts to drive down our standard of living and trample on our union contract.