Governor terminates AFSCME contract
Gov. Pat Quinn Tuesday terminated the state’s contract covering members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Calling the move unprecedented in the 40-year history of state employee labor contracts, AFSCME issued a statement saying the termination has “little immediate practical effect, as all existing terms and conditions of employment remain in place under state law.”
However, the action signals a further hardening of bargaining positions between the state and union that have dragged on for nearly a year.
“In 40 years of collective bargaining, Pat Quinn is the first and only Illinois governor to terminate a union contract,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said in a statement. “His action will lower employee morale, provoke instability in the workplace and make settling a contract more difficult.”
The Quinn administration blamed the union for the protracted talks on a new contract.
“During 11 months of bargaining, the state has extended the contract three times and made significant efforts to compromise,” Quinn budget spokesman Abdon Pallasch said in a statement. “But the government employees union, which has not offered a single proposal to deal with retirement health care, continues to seek millions of dollars in pay hikes the taxpayers can’t afford to give them. It has refused to recognize the extraordinary financial crisis squeezing the state.”
AFSCME’s previous contract with the state, covering more than 40,000 workers, expired June 30. The state and union agreed to keep the old contract terms in effect between each round of bargaining sessions. The two sides met Tuesday, and AFSCME offered to again extend the contract terms until the next session Dec. 11, but the administration refused.
“After 11 months of bargaining, we informed AFSCME leadership Tuesday that there will be no more extensions of their contract that expired in June,” Pallasch said.
The administration had been seeking a pay cut for state workers followed by a wage freeze. It also sought to have employees pay more for health insurance.
The administration has dropped the demand for a pay cut, but is still insisting on a wage freeze.
The administration said its research shows state employees who belong to AFSCME make about $10,000 a year more than their counterparts in other states. An average AFSCME state employee in Illinois earns about $63,000 -- more than employees in Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New York and Florida. The average in Wisconsin is $67,000, according to the administration.
The administration also said that even after paying more for health insurance, AFSCME members will have the most generous plan in the nation.
Bayer called Tuesday’s move counterproductive.
“While AFSCME is committed to reaching a fair agreement, Pat Quinn seems intent on heading in the wrong direction,” Bayer said. “Our union wants constructive engagement, but the governor is choosing confrontation instead.”
Doug Finke can be reached at 788-1527.