Last week, AFSCME and our union partners won another critical round in the ongoing effort to ensure that state employees are paid during the current budget standoff. In a unanimous decision, the Fifth District Appellate Court upheld the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) granted to the unions by the St. Clair County Circuit Court which requires that all state employees be paid on time and in full, even if no FY 16 budget has been enacted.
This order will remain in effect until the issues in the case have been fully litigated—which could take many months, or even longer. (Thus far, the Attorney General has not filed an appeal of this ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.) This means that you can count on receiving the paycheck you are due this week or next, and all subsequent checks.
Yesterday, in another development important to ensuring some further stability for state employees, the AFSCME Bargaining Committee reached an agreement with the Rauner Administration to extend through September 30 the terms and conditions of the union contract that were in place on June 30. This allows the parties to continue negotiations toward a new contract.
As you know, those negotiations for a new contract have been extremely difficult and contentious. The Rauner Administration has been pressing for a multitude of changes to the union contract that would undermine fair treatment for employees, eliminate any restrictions on subcontracting, and drastically increase employee health care costs.
Contrary to information circulated recently by the Administration, many of the governor’s extreme demands still remain on the bargaining table. The only notable exception occurred just this week when his representatives finally withdrew their plainly unconstitutional proposal that would have required most employees to “voluntarily” agree to cut their own pension benefits.
Your local union representatives on the AFSCME Bargaining Committee are the best source of information on the status of contract negotiations. They regularly provide Bargaining Updates that keep you informed of key developments and let you know how you can be involved in the effort to secure a fair contract settlement.
Unfortunately, recent media accounts call into question whether the Rauner Administration is truly committed to reaching that settlement—or rather remains committed to a strategy of conflict and confrontation. Despite the fact that AFSCME has repeatedly stressed that union members want to reach a contract settlement at the bargaining table, media reports indicate that the Administration has actively been recruiting retired state employees to return to work as strikebreakers over the coming months—and even seeking to bring in the Illinois National Guard! Fortunately, many retirees are saying, “NO WAY will we cross a union picket line—we’ll be ON the picket line.” And a leading Republican legislator who is also a former Adjutant General spoke out strongly against using the National Guard as strikebreakers.
Another disturbing signal came yesterday with the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 1229, legislation that would provide for binding arbitration as an alternative to a strike or lockout should the unions representing state employees be unable to reach agreement with the Administration at the bargaining table. Along with every other union that represents employees in state government, AFSCME is supporting this legislation because we want to do everything possible to avoid the disruption to vital state services that a strike or lockout would inevitably cause. Contrary to the governor’s claims in his veto message, the bill does not mandate arbitration, but allows either party to invoke arbitration if it is the only recourse to avoid a strike or lockout.
In the coming days, AFSCME will be working with our union partners to seek to override the governor’s veto in the Illinois General Assembly. You can help by calling your state legislators right away to urge them to vote YES on the motion to override the governor’s veto of SB 1229! Use the AFSCME legislative hotline at 888-912-5959.
Finally, we wanted to be sure you are aware that the Rauner Administration has acted unilaterally to freeze all step increases and semi-automatic promotions for all state employees effective July 1. AFSCME objected strongly and has filed both a grievance and an Unfair Labor Practice charge challenging the Administration’s action.
Your AFSCME Bargaining Committee representing local union members all across the state has been at the negotiating table for months now doing everything possible to achieve a fair contract settlement for every state employee. We’re determined to keep working toward that goal, and your support and involvement are critical to that effort. I know if we all continue to stand together, we can preserve the job rights, the fundamental fairness, and the economic security so essential to us all.
Via AFSCME Council 31