Union threatens strike at attorney general's office


SPRINGFIELD -- A union representing 250 employees in Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office has authorized a strike after a year of negotiations.

Eighty-eight percent of the Illinois Federation of Public Employees, a group of paralegals, clerical staff and paraprofessionals, authorized the strike, according to a news release. The group is seeking a one-time stipend instead of a pay increase, but a Madigan spokeswoman called the request “outrageous and unrealistic.”

Seventy-eight of the employees work in Springfield, 12 are in locations throughout the state and the rest are in Chicago.

Another negotiation meeting is set for Friday, but the union said Madigan’s office “is not taking us seriously.”

“They are unprepared at every bargaining session,” said Veronica Aguirre, Local 4408 council leader and a claims analyst for the attorney general’s office. “This strike authorization vote shows that our membership is unified and prepared to act.”

While the union can strike, negotiations would have to give way to a mediation phase first.

Madigan spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said attorneys and non-union employees in the office have not received a raise in five years.

“When every state agency must tighten its belt wherever possible, the union’s threat to strike if they don’t receive more money is outrageous and unrealistic,” Bauer said.

She also contested the idea that there is room to award a pay increase within Madigan’s budget. The attorney general’s office received the same amount of money from the state’s general revenue fund in fiscal year 2013 as it did in 2012 -- $32.59 million. Its funding from other sources went from $45.53 million to $46.68 million, a 1.5 percent increase.

Bauer said costs of insurance and retirement have gone up, accounting for the slight  increase.

She declined to describe what would happen if the union goes on strike.

“I don’t want to speculate at this point as to the what-ifs,” she said.

Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.