Madigan Blocks Back Pay Supplemental
The General Assembly wrapped up its spring legislation session without taking any action on HB 212 HA 2, a supplemental appropriation for some $160 million to pay back wages owed to members of AFSCME, INA, IFT, LIUNA and PBPA in six state agencies under the terms of their union contracts.
As a condition of the settlement of a new union contract with AFSCME, the Quinn Administration had agreed to work together with the union to seek passage of the back pay supplemental appropriation. The Administration did its part by introducing the supplemental and cooperating with the union in an aggressive lobbying effort to build support for it. All of the other affected unions joined in the lobbying, as did the Illinois AFL-CIO. As a result of this effort, the bill garnered more than 20 cosponsors in the House and had strong bipartisan support. Many senators had already pledged to support it when it came over to the Senate.
The measure was assigned to the House Public Safety Appropriations Committee weeks ago. Rep. John Bradley, the bill’s chief sponsor, as well as a number of the cosponsors, had repeatedly told union members that it would be adopted as part of any “final deal” on the budget. However, House Speaker Michael Madigan refused to go along with including the supplemental appropriation in the final budget plan and would not allow it be called for a vote in the Appropriations Committee.
Just as he is doing by refusing to allow a vote on fair pension reform (SB 2404,) and instead trying to impose draconian pension cuts on hundreds of thousands of public employees and retirees, so Madigan is also in this instance subverting the democratic process in the Illinois General Assembly. No one disputes that HB 212 would have been enacted if legislators had the opportunity to vote on it. But one individual was able to prevent them from doing so—and so block the swift and sure payment of money that has been owed to tens of thousands of employees for more than two years now.
While Speaker Madigan has near-unilateral power to prevent a bill from being called for a vote, he is not the only one at fault. It’s up to every state representative to demand accountability.
Call your state representatives today, Tell them: State employees are on the frontlines every day doing the vital work of state government. Yet the General Assembly went home without doing the work needed to ensure that we’re paid the money we’re owed. What are you going to do now to help ensure that our back wages are paid?
You can call toll-free on the AFSCME legislative hotline at 888-912-5959.
Status of Back Pay
Both an independent arbitrator and a circuit court judge have ruled that the wage increase owed to state employees under the terms of the previous union contract must be paid. The Quinn Administration had originally filed an appeal of the judge’s ruling in the pay case to the state appellate court. At the time that the appeal was filed, the court issued a stay of the judge’s order that the back wages must be paid, pending the outcome of the appeal. That stay is still in effect.
The Administration subsequently agreed to drop the appeal of the circuit court decision when the new union contract was settled. However, it was unable to fulfill that commitment because the pay case was in the control of Attorney General Lisa Madigan who would not agree to withdraw the appeal. Instead, the AG said that any action on the litigation should be put on hold, issuing the following statement:
“It’s our understanding that the full payment of back pay is dependent on a special appropriation. We know the Legislature, the Governor and AFSCME are working on that. In the meantime, until a special appropriation bill moves forward, it’s most appropriate to put the lawsuits on hold, as the Governor, the legislature and AFSCME continue their work.”
Now that the General Assembly has adjourned without taking action, AFSCME is once again calling on Attorney General Madigan to immediately withdraw the appeal. If the appeal is not withdrawn, you can be assured that the Union will continue to pursue the very aggressive legal strategy to secure justice for employees that has prevailed in court thus far.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that even if the appeal is withdrawn, the General Assembly would still need to act on a supplemental appropriation to provide the funds needed to pay the back wages owed.
That’s why it’s so important to let your state legislators know that you expect them to make the funds available to pay the wages that are owed to employees in DHS, DOC, DJJ, DNR, DPH and HRC.
*Wage Increases Due on July 1
The General Assembly’s failure to act on the back pay supplemental does not affect the raises that are due to go into effect on July 1, 2013.
All employees will still receive the 2% pay raise that is due on that date under the terms of the new union contract. In addition, those employees who did not receive the raises due under the previous union contract will be placed at the salary level and step they would have been at had the previous contract been honored in its entirety.
So employees in the six agencies that did not receive their increases under the previous contract will receive a salary adjustment of 7.25% (5.25% per previous contract + 2% per new contract) on July 1, 2013.
*Payment of Step Increase Withheld in FY 13
Most AFSCME members who are eligible for step increases were moved up one step—and paid related back pay—during the month of May. This action was the result of a recent settlement of a union grievance pertaining to step increases that were withheld in FY 13.
When the previous union contract expired on June 30, 2012, the Employer took the position that it was not obligated to pay the step increase that was due to employees on their next creditable service date. The Union immediately filed a grievance to contest this decision. Several months ago in settlement of that grievance the Quinn Administration agreed to move all employees who were due a step increase up one step effective on their creditable service date—and to pay any wages owed for that step back to the date in FY’13 it was due.
If any employee who is eligible for a step increase did not receive this adjustment in May, there are two possible reasons:
1) They may not have reached their FY 13 creditable service date prior to the issuance of the paycheck. In that case, they should receive the adjustment on the paycheck following their creditable service date.
2) The amount owed may have involved more complex calculations as a result of an extended leave or other unusual circumstances. Those individuals should receive the adjustment on their next paycheck.
*Partial Back Wage Payments from Escrow Funds
In the course of the legal battle in Cook County Circuit Court over the unpaid wage increases, AFSCME attorneys were able to demonstrate to the Court that there were funds available in the FY12 budget that could be used toward payment of the back wages owed.
The judge placed those funds in escrow so they could not be used for other purposes pending the outcome of the case. Once he ruled that the back wages were owed, the Union requested that the funds be released from the escrow account and paid out. Even though his ruling has been stayed as a result of the state’s appeal, the court approved dispersal of the escrowed funds which total approximately $42 million.
These funds were appropriated in the FY 12 budget and so can only be used for back pay owed from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.
In addition, many of these dollars are restricted in how they can be distributed, e.g. federal grants made only for specific purposes or appropriations for specific agencies or facilities. This means that the distribution to employees will not be uniform—even within a particular agency—and many employees will not receive any payment at all from the escrow funds.
CMS has recently notified employees in the affected agencies that the escrowed funds are in the process of being dispersed. If an employee is in a position that is eligible to be paid from these funds, the calculation of the amount he or she is owed will include wages, steps, overtime, stand-by, call-back, temporary assignment, premium, bilingual and longevity pay. This payment will be issued as a separate check or direct deposit, not included in the regular paycheck, with appropriate taxes withheld.
Eligible employees in DPH and the HRC have already received the escrow monies that were available in their agencies. Other agencies will follow in the coming weeks.