New Contract, Next Steps —The battle for a new state contract was long and hard-fought. All across the state, AFSCME members came together time and again to stand up for basic fairness on the job. The contract we achieved is fair and responsible. It recognizes the vitally important work that state employees do—while also taking into account the state’s current budget problems.
But now some state legislators are attacking the contract—claiming that state employees don’t deserve even the modest raises that the contract includes.
And even more disturbing, some of those legislators are also criticizing the Quinn Administration for agreeing to honor the terms of the previous contract. They are objecting to paying the back wages that employees are owed—and to bringing employees to their appropriate pay grades.
To counter these criticisms, AFSCME local union leaders have been meeting with legislators in their area while they are back in the districts for spring break. We’re reminding these legislators of the vitally important work that state employees do—often without adequate staff and under stressful or dangerous conditions. And we’re also pointing out that a Circuit Court judge has ruled that the previous contract must be honored and the back wages owed must be paid—with interest.
As part of its agreement to honor the previous contract, the Quinn Administration had agreed to withdraw its appeal of that Circuit Court ruling. The Governor’s Office has notified Attorney General Lisa Madigan to proceed with the withdrawal, but she has not yet done so.
AFSCME continues to meet with the Quinn Administration to work through the legal issues involved in dispersing the funds for back pay that the circuit court is holding in escrow and to develop the supplemental appropriation needed to fund the rest of the back pay.
It took tremendous unity and solidarity to achieve the new contract settlement—and to secure a commitment to honor the previous contract. But in the current political climate—where so many politicians have painted a target on the backs of public employees—our fight really doesn’t end with a handshake and a promise. It will take continued mobilization, grassroots lobbying and political action to make sure that elected officials respect and value the work that we do and that our union contract is honored and enforced.