Illinois still hasn’t finalized contract with state workers

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
December 14, 2023

Illinois still hasn’t finalized contract with state workers

The contract negotiated between the state and AFSCME Council 31 was ratified by members in July. But the final contract has yet to be released, meaning taxpayers don’t yet know how much it will cost them.

Little-known government union fact: When government workers ratify a union contract, they don’t necessarily see the exact contract.

That’s what happened earlier this year when Illinois state workers ratified a contract between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the union representing them. The language of the contract itself wasn’t final, but the state and union had agreed to the terms. The union sent a summary of contract changes to workers, who subsequently ratified the contract on July 25, 2023.

Now, nearly five months later, the state and AFSCME Council 31 have still not finalized the contract.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request for the full, finalized contract, the state responded, “Following a reasonable search, it has been determined that the contract in question is not yet finalized, therefore, [Central Management Services] does not have any records responsive to your request, at this time. When the contract is finalized, it will be posted on the CMS website at the following link: Labor Relations (”

The contract had yet to be posted Dec. 14.

That means taxpayers still don’t know, in full, what they will be on the hook to pay. But from a memo released by AFSCME Council 31, we do know the wage increases will be expensive, far outpacing the growth in private-sector pay.

According to the memo, the contract includes 19% pay raises that will cost taxpayers $625 million.

Those pay increases far outpace the growth in private-sector wages in recent years. In the past decade, average weekly earnings in the private sector have grown at an annual average of 2.9%.

The new AFSCME contract gives state employees average annual raises of 4.5%, raises that are 58% larger than what private-sector workers have gotten historically.

Even when examining a narrower window, when wages have been growing at their fastest pace in decades, the latest AFSCME contract will deliver larger pay raises during the next four years than what private-sector employees have received during the past four years, 4.5% versus 4.2%.

On top of large increases in base pay, each state employee will also receive a $1,200 bonus, simply because the contract was ratified. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s previous AFSCME contract also included these types of bonuses, paying each employee up to $2,500 for the “economic hardship” endured during the Rauner years on top of increasing salaries by 12%.

Despite this rhetoric, Illinois state workers have consistently been among the highest-paid state employees in the nation, even during the Rauner administration.

What else is in the contract? According AFSCME’s memo, it includes changes to leave and time-off policies, extended remote work opportunities and taxpayer-subsidized platinum health insurance coverage, among other provisions.

But the full extent of the 2023-2027 contract – and how it operates in the context of all the previous provisions which remain unchanged – won’t be known until the full, final contract is released.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!