Editorials

Union seeks clout to get $3 billion contract

In this June 9, 2015 photo, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees protest in Chicago. They will rally in Springfield today to push for more legislative clout and their $3 billion contract demands.
In this June 9, 2015 photo, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees protest in Chicago. They will rally in Springfield today to push for more legislative clout and their $3 billion contract demands. AP

Illinois state workers are the highest paid in the nation at a $59,088 average, adjusted for the cost of living. The national average is nearly $10,000 less and Missouri workers average $42,400.

Yet the state workers’ biggest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is pushing for $3 billion more for its 38,000 members, including overtime after a 37.5-hour work week, raises of 11.5 to 29 percent during the four-year contract, five weeks of vacation and holidays at 2.5 times regular wages. The union is pushing hard for a bill to strengthen its negotiating position and rallying members today in Springfield.

In the fall they tried to cut Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner out of their new contract negotiations with Senate Bill 1229, which came within three votes of overriding Rauner’s veto. Deja vu all over again, and we’re now facing the same scenario with House Bill 580. Rauner on Monday vetoed the bill, which is why AFSCME is rallying today to push state lawmakers for an override.

This new bill is worse for taxpayers in that it further complicates the negotiation process by giving greater power to an appointed arbitrator, who would either pick the governor’s position or the union’s. Those arbitrators are notoriously pro-labor.

The current system would bring both parties before the Illinois Labor Relations Board, where AFSCME would have to defend the $3 billion in added contract costs. Rauner is proposing a salary freeze and merit pay increases, and that the union members pay more of their nearly $20,000-per-worker health care costs.

AFSCME leaders realize their chances are slim before the board, because 17 other state workers’ unions have already made concessions realizing that Illinois is headed for a fiscal cliff. AFSCME is trying to stomp on the gas.

So today they will march to the Governor’s Mansion, shout “Rauner is Wrong!” and call on state lawmakers under the direction of House Speaker Mike Madigan to “protect the middle class.”

If you made $60,000 with a $20,000 health plan last year while only working 37.5 hours a week, maybe you have some sympathy. If not, and you are worried about being taxed $3 billion more atop our state’s projected $11 billion deficit, maybe you should tell your state lawmaker.

Overriding a veto on House Bill 580 is as fiscally reckless as going 323 days without a state budget.

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