Illinois state workers receive $1,300 pay raises July 1

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
June 29, 2020

Illinois state workers receive $1,300 pay raises July 1

State workers represented by AFSCME Council 31 will see pay increases averaging $1,343 starting July 1. Total cost of the raises is $261 million as COVID-19 continues depleting state revenues.

Nearly 1 in 4 Illinoisans remain out of work in the wake of the COVID-19 economic crisis and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s stay-at-home orders.

Yet despite the devastating financial situation for many families throughout the state, $261 million in scheduled raises for thousands of state employees go into effect July 1 – with the average employee seeing a $1,343 increase in wages.

These pay increases were part of a contract negotiated between Pritzker and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 on behalf of approximately 38,000 state workers.

The contract included two raises on July 1: a general increase in pay of 2.1%, which will cost the state $47 million, as well as additional “step” increases for an additional year of service that will cost the state at least $214 million.

Earlier this spring, Pritzker refused to defer the raises in light of the current economic outlook.

In an April 23 press conference extending his stay-at-home order through May 30, the governor was asked whether that $261 million could be adjusted as part of budget changes.

“That’s not something that we’re currently having discussions about,” he answered. He pointed out that the raises are part of state contracts negotiated with workers.

Yet his gubernatorial counterparts in other Democratic states have taken steps to rein in expenses, including some covered by union contracts, in light of the financial fallout following COVID-19 closures.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is canceling a 3% pay hike for some state employees and forcing one-day-a-week furloughs on 40,000 others to handle a nearly $9 billion shortfall.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo delayed raises for 80,000 state workers for 90 days, and is considering employee buyouts.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pushed back state worker raises, and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf stopped paying 9,000 state workers on April 11.

Admittedly, delaying raises outlined in a collective bargaining agreement would be tricky. The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act includes provisions providing the act and collective bargaining agreements trump most other state laws.

But the portion of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act describing the governor’s emergency powers does include the power to “utilize all available resources of the State government as reasonably necessary to cope with the disaster and of each political subdivision of the State.”

And nothing prevented AFSCME Council 31 from voluntarily working with the state to defer the raises until Illinois is in a better financial position.

In fact, delaying step increases should have been seen by AFSCME Council 31 and the workers it represents as a means to help forestall other more drastic measures, such as the furloughs other governors have instituted.

As it currently stands, there is a $6 billion hole in the state’s latest budget.

That money will have to come from somewhere.

The state has the authority to lay off state workers under the AFSCME contract and can “relieve employees from duty because of lack of work or other legitimate reasons.”

Given a choice, Illinois’ state workers may have rather kept their current pay – which already places them as some of the highest-paid state workers in the country – than lose their jobs later on.

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