As you know, throughout the negotiations for a new state contract, the AFSCME Bargaining Committee made clear that the union would not enter into a new contract unless the previous contract was honored. In the end, the Quinn Administration agreed to that stipulation, committing to:
- Place all employees at their proper wage level pursuant to the terms of the previous contract (as well as the terms of the new contract), effective July 1, 2013.
- Ensure appropriate dispersal of the FY12 funds held in escrow by order of the Cook County Circuit Court to be used toward making whole employees owed back pay under the terms of the previous contract.
- Work jointly with the union for passage of a supplemental appropriation in the current fiscal year that would allow for all of the FY12 and FY13 pay owed pursuant to the previous contract to be paid.
- Withdraw its appeal of the Cook County Circuit Court ruling which affirms that the back wages are owed pursuant to the union contract.
The Administration has moved forward to fulfill these commitments:
- The FY 14 budget that the governor submitted to the General Assembly includes funding to bring all employees to their proper wage level pursuant to the previous and the current contract.
- The Administration is now moving forward on the dispersal of the escrowed funds. These are monies that the union had demonstrated to the court were appropriated in the FY12 budget and could therefore be used toward payment of the back wages owed for FY12. There is approximately $42 million in this fund. Many of the dollars are restricted in how they can be allocated (e.g., federal grants for specific purposes or appropriations for specific agencies), so the distribution to employees will not be uniform and the restrictions may prevent all of the $42 million from being distributed. Allocation of these funds is in the process of final review and affected employees will be notified in the coming weeks.
- The remainder of the back pay owed (approximately $154 million) requires a supplemental appropriation by the General Assembly. The Administration has drafted the supplemental and expects it to be introduced next week.
- The Governor’s Office notified Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the appeal of the circuit court ruling should be withdrawn. To date, the Attorney General has failed to do so, indicating that she is conducting a thorough review of the case before reaching a decision as to how to proceed.
Council 31 staff have been working intensively for weeks now to finalize the new contract, which requires ensuring the accuracy of the specific wording of the contract language and verifying all elements of the health plan and other economic components.
However, the new contract has not been signed, pending the state’s action on the lawsuit.
If the Attorney General should determine that the appeal of the lawsuit will not be withdrawn, then it is the union’s position that the tentative agreement on the new contract must be submitted again to the full membership for another vote as to whether to ratify or not, as the previous ratification was predicated on the understanding that the appeal of the circuit court ruling would be withdrawn.
The simplest and most straightforward resolution of the longstanding dispute over the unpaid wage increase is for the General Assembly to act swiftly to pass the supplemental appropriation for the back pay which will be introduced next week. Unfortunately, some legislators are hedging as to whether they’ll support appropriating funds for the money owed to employees from the previous contract.
AFSCME local union leaders met with legislators during the Assembly’s “spring break” period to press for appropriations that respect both the old and the new contract. But your legislators will need to hear directly from you! The union will notify you of the bill number and sponsor as soon as the supplemental appropriation has been introduced next week. We’ll provide you with talking points and a hotline number to call. Then we need to make sure that legislators hear from ALL of us. It’s essential that they understand what’s at stake: basic fairness and the integrity of union contracts.
STEP GRIEVANCE RESOLVED
Finally, as you know, when the previous contract expired on June 30, 2012, the Quinn Administration refused to pay the step increase that was due beginning July 1, 2012. AFSCME filed a grievance over that refusal. Earlier this week, the Administration agreed to settle that grievance—with the grievance resolution providing for the implementation of the FY13 step increase that was frozen beginning on July 1, 2012, as well as retroactive payment back to the employee’s FY13 anniversary date. Yesterday CMS notified all departments that they should act immediately to implement the grievance resolution.
This is good news for every employee still moving through the step plan. Employees whose FY 13 anniversary date has already occurred can expect to be moved up one step and receive the related retroactivity in May. Those employees eligible for steps whose anniversary date is between now and June 30 will receive the step increase as scheduled on their anniversary date.
Contrary to rumors being spread by some individuals, the settlement of this grievance pertains only to the step increase that was frozen effective July 1, 2012 (FY 2013). It in no way relieves the state of its obligation to pay all other back pay and step increases owed pursuant to the terms of the previous contract for FY 2012 and FY 2013.
THE WAY FORWARD
The grievance settlement may be just one win in a big battle. But it serves as an important reminder of a fundamental truth: AFSCME will not give up the fight. The forces arrayed against us are powerful, but our power is greater when we stand united and determined.
Working families all over this country are under attack, and Illinois is no different. Big Business elites and their political allies want to strip us of our rights and the economic gains we’ve made. They don’t believe there should be a middle class like us in America anymore—just elites like themselves and the working poor. Our fight for economic fairness, for the integrity of our union contract, for respect and dignity is fundamental to the fight for the values that made our country great. It’s a long, tough battle, no doubt about it, but it’s one we’ve got to stand up and make.
We’re going to keep up the fight to uphold our union contract and safeguard the rights it provides and protects, and we will continue to keep you informed of important developments as they happen. For your part, it’s critical to stay ready to take action when needed, whether it’s making calls, sending emails, sharing information with your co-workers and more. We’ve come this far by standing strong together, and it’s how we intend to prevail.
AFSCME Council 31