Back Pay Appropriation Bills in the House and Senate

With a new session of the Illinois General Assembly getting underway, AFSCME is renewing the push for legislation to fund back pay owed to thousands of state employees since a pay raise was withheld in 2011.

The courts have ruled that the money is owed to the employees, but that it cannot be paid without a legislative appropriation.

Senator Andy Manar (D-Macoupin) is the chief sponsor of the appropriation bill, SB 2269, in the Senate. A companion bill, HB 4290, has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Randolph).

Sen. Manar has stressed that back pay is a bipartisan issue that should be supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. In fact, his chief co-sponsor in the Senate is Sam McCann, a Republican from an adjoining central Illinois district.

This will undoubtedly be another year of budget battles without sufficient revenues to meet the state’s needs. So it won’t be easy to win passage of the back pay appropriation. We’ve got to make sure that legislators know that state employees deserve to be paid the money owed to them.

Contact your state senator and state representative today and urge him or her to vote YES on SB 2269 and HB 4290! Call 1-888-912-5959 or click-to-call.

Rauner’s Anti-worker Lawsuit goes to Supreme Court

From his earliest days of campaigning for Illinois governor, Bruce Rauner made clear that his real agenda was not to improve our state, but rather to take down labor unions. The “turnaround agenda” he unveiled as governor lacked any serious plan to create jobs or improve citizens’ lives, instead focusing almost exclusively on driving down workers’ wages and weakening labor unions. Just a few weeks’ ago, Rauner reaffirmed to the Tribune editorial board that, if re-elected, his number one goal remains crushing unions.

When asked how he would succeed in his anti-union crusade in a second term, having failed so badly in his first, Rauner bragged about a lawsuit now before the U.S. Supreme Court that he claims would enable him to take thousands of employees out of the union.

Now called Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the lawsuit that Rauner originated would totally and permanently ban fair share fees, requiring that unions represent employees who contribute nothing toward the cost of that representation.

Rauner and his cronies at the Illinois Policy Institute and similar groups have raised tens of millions of dollars for the sole purpose of pressuring union members—correctional officers, caseworkers, teachers, nurses, firefighters, and every other kind of public employee—to drop out of their unions.

They’ll soon be filling up our mailboxes, ringing our phones, even banging on our doors trying to convince us that we can benefit from the union’s gains without contributing anything toward the costs. But the simple fact is if fewer folks are contributing toward the costs, it will be a whole lot harder to make any gains.

You can resist Rauner’s scheme to weaken our union by signing an AFSCME Strong card and pledging to remain a union member. Or, if you’re currently a feepayer, make sure you sign a union membership card right away. Let’s make sure that Bruce Rauner and his fellow billionaires keep on failing in their efforts to destroy the labor movement in our country.

Rally: Stand Together on Feb. 24

On Saturday, February 24, in cities across the country working people will come together in a Day of Action to stand up against the shadowy network of millionaires and billionaires who are trying to drive down our standard of living and silence our voices on the job and in the larger society.

In Illinois, we’ll rally in Chicago at Daley Plaza (50 W. Washington St.) at 12 Noon.

We’ll be joining with other unions to send a powerful message that no court, no politicians, no big-money forces can shut down our unions. Be there to make your voice heard!

Join the Working People’s Day of Action in Chicago on Saturday, February 24! If you’re in Chicago, get together with your co-workers and head downtown on Saturday morning. Buses will be coming from various locations in other areas of the state. You can click here to find out if there is availability on a bus near you. Or check with your local union about other travel options.

Contract Fight Continues in the Courts

When Bruce Rauner walked out on state contract negotiations more than two years ago, the battle for a fair contract—and fair treatment—for state employees shifted to the legal arena. Claiming negotiations were at an impasse, Rauner moved immediately to try to impose his extreme terms on state employees, including a 100% increase in the cost of employee health care premiums.
In response, the union moved forward with interest arbitration for employees in the RC-6 and CU-500 security units. The law prohibits the employer from changing any conditions of employment during the course of the arbitration. After the Rauner Administration dragged out proceedings in the case for nearly a year, the record is closed and we are awaiting a ruling from the arbitrator.

To prevent Rauner from imposing his terms on all other employees, AFSCME had to go to court. The state labor board—composed entirely of Rauner appointees—had upheld his position that negotiations were at an impasse, green-lighting the administration to impose its terms on employees. Council 31 then appealed the Labor Board ruling in the Fourth District Appellate Court and secured a court order barring Rauner from imposing his terms while the case is being heard. Oral arguments in that case have not yet been scheduled.

AFSCME is also fighting on another legal front to secure step increases for employees. Rauner has refused to pay those increases since July 1, 2015 even though the law clearly requires that the current conditions of employment remain in place. Once again the Rauner-appointed Labor Board sided with him and denied the union’s Unfair Labor Practice charge, arguing that the steps should be paid.

AFSCME also appealed that decision and in November, the Fifth District Appellate Court agreed with the union and ruled that the Rauner Administration violated the law when it refused to continue paying step increases after the expiration date of the union contract. The court found that employees are owed step increases going back to 2015 and remanded the case back to the Labor Board for action.

However, the Rauner Administration has filed a Petition for Leave to Appeal with the Illinois Supreme Court and we are currently awaiting a response from the court as to whether it will take the appeal or allow the Appellate Court’s ruling to stand.

Although the Appellate Court did not specifically rule on the issue of longevity increases, the union believes that the ruling is applicable to longevity increases as well as steps. The court did not rule on the related issue of longevity because the administration falsely claimed that it had backed off its refusal to pay longevity increases and that it has actually been giving employees longevity pay increases since 2015.

Because of the State’s misrepresentation of the facts, the Court did not understand that longevity was still an issue. The ruling in the step case is a very strong ruling on Rauner’s legal obligation to maintain the status quo after the expiration of the contract, and this legal interpretation should ultimately be controlling the issue of longevity too. If the Rauner Administration continues to refuse to implement longevity increases retroactively to 2015, then the longevity issue will continue to be litigated as well.

Courtesy of AFSCME Council 31