Editorials

Halt! In the name of the state employee union police!

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lost their bid to impose $3 billion in new costs on Illinois. Now, that union’s state workers might be forced to work 40 hours a week but will still average double the salary of a private sector employee.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lost their bid to impose $3 billion in new costs on Illinois. Now, that union’s state workers might be forced to work 40 hours a week but will still average double the salary of a private sector employee. AP

So you visited your favorite Illinois state park, saw the upended trash can and garbage strewn across the campground. Being the solid citizen that you are, you cleaned up the litter and righted the can.

A state employee approaches. Will she hand you a certificate of appreciation?

Nope. She reports you to her union for violating her collective bargaining agreement by volunteering. You just took work, and thus food, from the mouth of a state employee with your reckless, unskilled volunteerism. And you did it on the Labor Day holiday, which cost that poor state employee double-time pay.

Sound crazy? Yes, but it’s essentially the way things worked in Illinois. At least it was until last week, when the Illinois Labor Relations Board handed Gov. Bruce Rauner and taxpayers a $3 billion win.

The only state workers union that wasn’t happy with its overly-generous state contract, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, twice tried to do an end-run through state lawmakers rather than bargaining with Rauner. Now that the labor board declared an impasse, Rauner can impose his last, best offer.

His onerous demands include:

▪  Overtime starts at 40 hours, not at the current 37.5 hours, and will be time and a half instead of double time on holidays. That will save Illinois $63 million.

▪  Wages, currently the highest of any state in the nation at an average of $63,660 compared to $32,000 for the rest of us, will be frozen for four years. That same deal was accepted by 19 other state unions. Instead, $1,000 bonuses will be paid for performance and for showing up to work regularly. Savings: $1 billion.

▪  New health care options will be offered, costing workers from $188 to $427 a month depending on salary. Current health benefits cost taxpayers $14,880 for each AFSCME worker.

▪  Then there’s the volunteering. Rauner not only wants you to be able to volunteer at state historic sites and to clean up at parks or to spend time with veterans in state homes, he declared the state’s first state day of service April 22.

Maybe your volunteer job can be handing out tissues to those poor AFSCME workers as they protest “Don’t dictate. Negotiate.” They weren’t happy being the highest paid state workers in the nation and bet that they could get another $3 billion in contract demands.

They lost that bet, their 37.5-hour work week and the sympathies of taxpayers who earn half of what those state workers make.

Correction: Earlier versions of this editorial incorrectly stated that AFSCME sought the labor board review. Gov. Rauner sought the review.

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