It took 15 long and difficult months to negotiate a new union contract—and to uphold the integrity of the previous contract. I wanted to update you on the Union’s efforts to ensure the full implementation of that agreement.
As you know, as a condition of the settlement the Quinn Administration agreed to: 1) place all employees at their proper wage level effective 7/1/13; 2) ensure appropriate dispersal of the funds held in escrow by the circuit court; 3) work jointly with the Union for passage of a supplemental appropriation to cover the back pay owed to employees; 4) withdraw its appeal of the court ruling which affirms that the back wages are owed.
The Administration is continuing to move forward to fulfill these commitments.
- The FY 14 budget proposal that Governor Quinn submitted to the General Assembly includes funding to bring all employees to their proper wage level pursuant to the previous contract, as well as the new contract. Under the terms of the contract, employees would be placed at the new wage levels effective July 1, 2013.
- The administration resolved an AFSCME grievance regarding the step increase that was due on or after July 1, 2012. The settlement provides for all eligible employees to be moved up one step effective on their anniversary date, with any back pay due for that step to be paid in FY 13, most likely sometime in May.
- The Administration is moving forward to disperse the funds that have been held in escrow by the Circuit Court in the AFSCME pay case. These are monies that the Union had demonstrated to the Court were appropriated in the FY12 budget and could be used toward payment of the back wages owed for FY12. There is some $42 million in this fund—approximately 20% of the total amount in back pay still owed to employees.
Although the lawsuit has not been resolved, the administration and the union jointly requested that the funds be released from the escrow account and paid out, and the court approved that course of action.
This week, DCMS began notifying employees (and affected retirees) that the funds in escrow would be dispersed to pay back wages (including step increases) owed July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012. It’s important to keep in mind that 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. Some employees will receive only a portion of what they are owed and many employees will not receive any back pay from these escrowed funds.
- The remainder of the back pay owed will require a supplemental appropriation by the General Assembly. Contrary to some press reports, the Quinn Administration is working with AFSCME to pass such a measure. Now that the amount of the escrow funds to be dispersed has been calculated, the Administration has prepared a supplemental appropriation covering the remainder of the backpay that will be submitted to the General Assembly in the coming days.
- The Governor’s Office notified Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the appeal of the circuit court ruling in the pay case should be withdrawn.
Unfortunately, the Attorney General has taken the position that the decision as to how to proceed on the lawsuit is entirely within her purview and she has not withdrawn the appeal at this time.
Yesterday the Attorney General’s office issued the following statement with regard to the status of the lawsuit:
“It’s our understanding that the full payment of backpay 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.”
Clearly the course of action most fair to employees (who have waited far too long for the money they’re owed) and to taxpayers (who have seen far too much money wasted on this legal battle) is for the General Assembly to act swiftly to adopt the back pay supplemental appropriation, which would effectively nullify the lawsuit. But at this point, legislative leaders have not firmly committed to support its passage.
Your involvement will be key. As soon as the bill is filed and a bill number assigned, the Union will notify you. As soon as you have the information, take action right away to call, write, email, text and otherwise contact your legislators to urge them to immediately pass the back pay supplemental.
In the meantime, AFSCME has informed the Quinn Administration that the union is not prepared to sign the new contract without further authorization from the union membership. Your AFSCME Bargaining Committee is convening on Monday to recommend a course of action—and further information will be coming to you soon.
I know that the situation can be confusing and frustrating—especially for those employees who have not received their negotiated raises. However, it’s critical to keep in mind how far we have come by standing together and standing firm.
When the pay raise was initially withheld, AFSCME immediately took the issue to arbitration—and won. When the State appealed that decision to court, the Union battled through all the legal delays and maneuvers and secured a ruling that the contract must be honored. When the state said it had no money to pay any raises, AFSCME’s research turned up tens of millions of dollars which resulted in thousands of employees receiving the wages owed over the past two years and many more in line to receive monies from the funds held in escrow.
We’ve succeeded time and again when others said it couldn’t be done. We’re not going to give up now. We’ll keep on fighting to ensure that justice is done for all members. And if all members stand together, we can succeed once more.
Henry Bayer Executive Director
Via, AFSCME Council 31