Who are AFSCME workers?
The union representing state workers is currently holding a strike authorization vote. Understanding whom AFSCME represents better equips taxpayers in evaluating AFSCME’s demands and whether a strike is reasonable.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 represents approximately 35,000 state government workers throughout Illinois. With a strike authorization vote pending, many Illinoisans wonder exactly who these AFSCME workers are that may be walking off the job.
AFSCME misrepresents the impasse in contract negotiations as an attack on the middle class. But the high-level, professional jobs many AFSCME workers hold – and their salaries – may surprise Illinoisans. Understanding who these workers are can better equip taxpayers in evaluating AFSCME’s demands and whether a strike is reasonable.
Unions that represent government workers are very different than unions that represent workers in private companies. Likewise, AFSCME members are not the typical “working class” employees that come to mind when we think about “unions.” Instead, AFSCME represents anyone from high-paid interns to doctors and lawyers.
Taxpayers should wonder why AFSCME leadership may call for state workers making over $100,000 or $200,000 a year to walk out on its demand that taxpayers pay them even more.
Under the previous contract, state workers were divided into eight different units, or categories. Here are some quick facts about employees in those units at the time the last contract expired:
Statewide professional unit
- This unit includes physician specialists, clinical pharmacists, information systems analysts and civil engineers.
- Salaries ranged from $45,504 for interns to over $235,000 for physician specialists in 2015.
- The vast majority of workers in this unit earned more than $70,000 in 2015, with many making over $100,000.
Technical advisors and hearing referees
- Perhaps oddly named, workers in this unit are professional employees who listen to and make decisions related to the claims of the state’s residents.
- It includes attorneys, referred to as “referees” or “technical advisors.”
- The majority of workers in this unit made over $70,000 in 2015, with almost half making over $100,000.
Statewide technical unit
- This unit includes a range of positions, such as weatherization specialists, revenue tax specialists, revenue auditors, gaming licensing analysts, accountants and paralegal assistants.
- Salaries ranged from $37,488 for entry-level revenue tax specialist trainees to $152,940 for revenue audit supervisors in 2015.
- Hundreds of state employees in this unit made over $85,000.
Public and client services
- This unit is described as a “unit composed of positions involving direct services to clients and the public.”
- Many employees in this unit are administrative assistants, the majority of whom made over $70,000 in 2015.
- Other covered employees include dental hygienists (earning between $51,852 and $66,960) and lottery commodities distributors (earning more than $55,000).
Clerical workers and paraprofessionals
- This unit includes clerical positions as well as any “paraprofessional positions involving administrative, data treating, technical, or applied science work” in a range of state departments.
- It includes numerous secretaries who earned more than $70,000 a year in 2015.
- The highest-paid positions include conservation police sergeant ($123,576), graphic arts designer ($88,704) and communications equipment technicians and telecommunications supervisors ($88,704).
Institutional employees within departments of Human Services and Veterans
- This unit includes mental health technician trainees, whose salaries started at $30,924, as well as security therapy aides and mental health technicians, who made between $69,264 and $75,792 in 2015.
- This unit is comprised of only around 200 workers.
- Salaries in 2015 ranged from $38,800 for entry-level building/grounds laborers to $67,212 for building/grounds supervisors.
Department of Corrections workers
- The largest portion of this unit is composed of the state’s correctional officers, whose incomes ranged from $48,432 to $70,404 in 2015.*
- The highest-paid employees – correctional sergeants, corrections clerks, corrections supply supervisors and many juvenile justice specialists – made over $80,000.
*Under Illinois law, security officers are not allowed to strike. As such, they do not vote on the strike authorization, and they will not go on strike should AFSCME leadership call a strike.
In all, Illinois state workers are the highest-paid state workers in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. When the most recent AFSCME contract expired in 2015, the median AFSCME salary was $63,660 – compared with just under $32,000 for an Illinois worker in the private sector. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for an individual AFSCME worker is higher than the median income for an entire Illinois household in the private sector (just over $60,400 in 2015).
And they may be striking for even higher salaries if AFSCME leadership demands it.