AFSCME stays silent regarding generous benefits, continues to demand $3B in pay raises, lavish perks

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
July 5, 2016

AFSCME stays silent regarding generous benefits, continues to demand $3B in pay raises, lavish perks

More than a year without a contract, the state’s largest government-worker union is requesting unreasonable and unaffordable perks, even though the governor has already offered several extravagant benefits.

June 30, 2016, marked one year since the state’s contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees expired, and the state’s largest government-worker union still has not let up on its unreasonable demands. Those demands include salary increases of up to 29 percent and platinum-level health care at little cost to state workers.

And while AFSCME decries the Gov. Bruce Rauner’s attempts to bring state-worker costs in line with what Illinois taxpayers can afford, the union has never acknowledged that many extravagant employee benefits remain largely intact in the governor’s most recent proposal.

That’s probably because those perks would stun private-sector workers and undercut AFSCME’s message that Rauner is the “bad guy” for trying to rein in the state’s labor costs.

The perks: Up to 25 paid vacation days, 13 paid holidays, double-time cash payment for holiday overtime pay and more

How generous are AFSCME workers’ benefits? Take holidays, for example. In addition to generous vacation time – AFSCME employees are entitled to 10 to 25 vacation days each calendar year – the contract guarantees 13 paid, scheduled holidays. That exceeds the 10 federal holidays outlined by the federal Department of Labor, adding Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, the day after Thanksgiving and Election Day.

And consider holiday overtime pay. If an AFSCME employee ends up working on a holiday, he or she is entitled to lavish overtime pay. In lieu of equivalent time off, the employee may choose instead to receive double-time cash payment for working on the following holidays or their observed days: New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Lincoln’s birthday, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving and Election Day.

This means an AFSCME employee working on Election Day will earn double his or her normal rate of pay for each hour worked. No doubt this perk helps ensure that AFSCME employees get out and vote for AFSCME-supported candidates. The governor’s proposal would modify but not eliminate this benefit, providing that AFSCME employees would continue to receive overtime on all these holidays, at time-and-one-half, rather than double-time, pay.

And under the last contract, employees were paid even more than double time for certain holidays. Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day are sort of “super holidays” – if an AFSCME employee works on one of those days, or the day on which the holiday is observed, the employee can choose to receive double-time-and-one-half cash payment in lieu of time off. Under Rauner’s proposal, employees would obtain double-time, rather than double-time-and-one-half, pay for working on these “super holidays.”

These lavish holiday perks – as well as many other benefits – remain in Rauner’s most recent offer to AFSCME. Yet the union demands more. Despite the state’s financial crisis, AFSCME persists in demanding wage increases of 11.5 to 29 percent by 2019, platinum-level health insurance at little to no cost to workers, and a workweek with overtime for workers after just 37.5 hours.

Those unreasonable and unaffordable demands are at the crux of a stalemate between the parties, and have caused Rauner to seek a determination of impasse by the Illinois Labor Relations Board. The labor board is set to determine July 7 whether to speed up the proceedings in order to reach a decision sooner as to whether the parties are at impasse. If the board ultimately agrees with the state that the parties are at impasse in their negotiations, Rauner can institute his final offer to AFSCME. AFSCME, in turn, could strike – and has recently made rumblings that it is preparing to do so.

The state’s precarious finances would make it dangerous to give in to AFSCME’s demands. Yet AFSCME continues to ignore the state’s financial plight and stays mum about the many generous benefits its workers would still receive under Rauner’s proposal.

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