AFSCME promises to appeal after Illinois Labor Relations Board formalizes impasse ruling

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
December 7, 2016

AFSCME promises to appeal after Illinois Labor Relations Board formalizes impasse ruling

A recent labor board decision means Gov. Bruce Rauner can start implementing his last contract offer to state workers. But the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees continues to obstruct progress toward a contract for state workers, vowing to appeal the labor board’s decision.

On Nov. 16, the Illinois Labor Relations Board determined that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the state are at an impasse in negotiations for a new contract. That determination meant Rauner could start implementing his last, best offer to state workers.

But AFSCME argued that the state could not implement the contract because the decision was not yet in writing. AFSCME’s argument became moot on Dec. 5, when the board issued its written decision.

Now AFSCME is appealing the labor board’s decision – yet another obstacle that AFSCME has placed in the way of a contract that is fair to both state workers and taxpayers. An appeal could delay the implementation of contract provisions that are beneficial to the state employees AFSCME claims to represent – such as $1,000 dollar bonuses and the addition of bereavement leave.

At the crux of the stalemate between AFSCME and the state are the union’s unreasonable demands – demands that would cost taxpayers an additional $3 billion in salary and benefit increases.

Despite the state’s financial crisis and the fact that Illinois state employees are already the highest-paid state employees in the nation when adjusted for cost of living, AFSCME demanded wage increases of 11.5 to 29 percent by 2019, platinum-level health insurance at little cost to workers, and a workweek that included overtime for workers after just 37.5 hours.

It was AFSCME’s failure to budge on these contract demands that led the Illinois Labor Relations Board to declare an impasse between the parties.

Rauner, on the other hand, was trying to bring union costs in line with what Illinoisans can afford, while avoiding widespread state worker layoffs.

To ease the financial burden on taxpayers, Rauner’s proposal to the union included a temporary four-year wage freeze on AFSCME salaries. At least 19 other unions have already ratified contracts with the state that include provisions similar to those offered to AFSCME. Both the Teamsters and the Illinois Federation of Teachers have agreed to a temporary four-year wage freeze.

And instead of continuing to provide platinum-level health insurance at bronze-level prices, the governor asked AFSCME workers to pay 40 percent of their health care premiums – up from the 23 percent they pay now. This means state taxpayers would continue subsidizing 60 percent of an AFSCME employee’s health care, at $11,600 per worker annually – still a significant amount by any standard.

The governor also proposed overtime provisions that more closely reflect what exists in the private sector. Currently, many state workers earn overtime after working just 37.5 hours in a workweek. Rauner’s proposal would require 40-hour workweeks for state workers before overtime kicks in. The difference between a 37.5-hour workweek and a 40-hour workweek alone would save the state $63 million dollars over the term of the contract.

The governor’s proposal also includes many provisions that would benefit AFSCME workers. For example, the governor proposed over $200 million in additional compensation in the form of bonuses when employees meet simple, objective standards – such as not having unexcused absences. Also known as merit pay, this performance-based incentive would reward good employees with bonuses above and beyond normal salary.

Other lavish perks – such as lax disciplinary rules allowing workers up to 10 unauthorized absences without repercussions – would continue under Rauner’s last offer.

An appeal of the labor board decision will place yet another AFSCME obstacle in the way of a contract that is fair to both state taxpayers and state workers.

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