AFSCME’s list of demands

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
January 24, 2017

AFSCME’s list of demands

The union representing state workers is threatening to strike – demanding extravagant pay and benefits and refusing 40-hour work weeks before overtime kicks in. Illinoisans should be outraged.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees – which represents approximately 35,000 state employees in Illinois – is holding a strike authorization vote between Jan. 30 and Feb. 19.

But what do AFSCME leaders want? The union has outlined a list of demands that would cost the state $3 billion in wage and benefit increases, which would be foisted upon state taxpayers.

These demands include:

Between 2005 and 2014, AFSCME salaries already grew five times faster than Illinois workers’ earnings – and twice the rate of inflation. But that wasn’t enough for AFSCME. Throughout negotiations for a new contract, the union demanded pay increases up to 29 percent over the course of the contract.

  • Platinum-level health care at little cost to state workers.

Under the previous contract, state workers receive platinum-level health insurance – a level of coverage not even available to Illinoisans on the state’s insurance exchange, let alone at the rock-bottom prices state employees pay. Taxpayers subsidize a whopping 77 percent of the average AFSCME worker’s health care, which costs taxpayers $14,880 a year per worker.

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

  • Overtime pay starting at just 37.5 hours.

Currently, many state workers earn overtime after working just 37.5 hours in a workweek. The governor proposed overtime provisions that more closely reflect the private sector, requiring 40-hour workweeks for state workers before overtime kicks in. The difference between a 37.5-hour workweek and a 40-hour workweek would save the state $63 million dollars over the term of the contract. And adjustments to the way in which holiday overtime pay is computed would save the state an additional $48 million.

AFSCME has employed stall tactics for months and refuses to accept the governor’s proposals, despite the Illinois Labor Relations Board ruling that the state and the union are at an impasse.

AFSCME believes its demands can be paid for by raising taxes – a slap in the face to taxpayers in a state with the worst income recovery in the Midwest since the Great Recession.

In January 2017, AFSCME leadership claimed it would be willing to compromise on a few provisions. But the union still demanded salary increases, while only agreeing to miniscule increases to employee health insurance contributions. And it ignored overtime altogether.

Now the union is using the state’s rejection of that fake “compromise” as a basis for state workers to walk out of taxpayer-funded state jobs.

Missing from this list of demands is consideration for the people who would have to pay for increased AFSCME perks.

Twenty other government-worker unions have agreed to cost-saving provisions in contracts with the state. It’s time AFSCME accepts the fact that taxpayers are tapped out.

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