August 16, 2018

Battle for step increases goes on

After an appellate court agreed with AFSCME that the Rauner administration had illegally withheld state employee step increases since July 2015, the case was remanded back to the Illinois Labor Relations Board to order a remedy. The board issued an order making clear that employees should be restored to their rightful steps and directed the governor to submit a plan to implement.

On July 31, the Rauner Administration submitted a response that fails to come close to adhering to the guidance provided by the appellate court or the labor board.

Specifically, the Rauner administration is claiming that:

  1. It is only obligated to pay steps from July 1, 2015 until January 8, 2016, when the administration walked away from contract negotiations, claiming that the parties were at an impasse;
  2. Step increases are subject to appropriations (citing the Illinois Supreme Court’s ruling in the 2011 back pay case) and no funds have been appropriated for that purpose;
  3. No step increases should be restored until the impasse dispute—currently before the Fourth District Appellate Court—is decided.

There are no grounds for the administration’s claim that the appellate court ruling only applies through January 2016. The Tolling Agreement which continues the current terms and conditions of employment has been in effect since July 2015 and remains in effect today, as the Rauner administration has previously acknowledged.

What’s more, the need for appropriation authority (as in the back pay case) does not apply to the step case because the back pay case arose from a violation of the contract but Rauner’s failure to pay steps is a violation of state law.

AFSCME strongly disagrees with the Rauner Administration’s submission and the union has filed a Petition for Compliance arguing that all employees should be immediately restored to their proper step and paid the back wages owed.

A Labor Board Compliance Officer will consider the Rauner Administration’s submission and AFSCME’s response and will have 75 days to recommend a remedy to the full Labor Board. That could mean it will be another two to three months before the Board acts. But Rauner doesn’t have to wait. He could act right now to restore the steps. He knows he violated the law when he froze the steps. It’s long past time to end the lawbreaking and pay employees what they’re owed.

Related News