January 10, 2018

Sen. Andy Manar champions back pay bill

Andy Manar, the Democratic State Senator from Macoupin County in central Illinois, is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 2269—legislation to appropriate funds for back wages owed to state employees since 2011.

AFSCME interviewed the bill’s champion for its November-December 2017 issue of On the Move.

What drives you to champion the
state employee back pay bill?

“This is the oldest debt in state government and it needs to be paid. This will be my fourth attempt, going back to the Quinn administration, to get state employees the money that is owed to them. I represent Springfield along with Sen. Sam McCann, who is a chief Republican co-sponsor of the bill. We represent thousands of hard-working public servants. It’s time that our state does the right thing and pays what is contractually obligated to be paid.”

AFSCME: Do you think we have a good chance of passing this bill?

“I believe we do because the facts are on our side. The state government owes compensation to employees based on a contractual agreement. Sooner or later the state will have to abide by the contract that was signed and pay this money. In my opinion this should be first on the list come 2018.

“We have work to do to get the votes necessary to pass the bill and then the additional work to override a presumed veto by Gov. Rauner.

“But we’ve shown time and again, especially during this past veto session, that we can work with our Republican colleagues to find reasonable ways to override Gov. Rauner’s veto.”

Why doesn’t Gov. Rauner respect state employees?

“Rauner and his allies believe that state employees should not be able to join a union or collectively bargain over wages, benefits and working conditions.

“Yet the governor’s office has awarded tens of millions of dollars to non-union state employees through bonuses. My appropriations committee heard several days’ worth of testimony from agency directors about that process and the total cost of it.

“So I can understand union members’ frustration. I would be frustrated too. That’s why we’re building a coalition to get this bill passed in the spring session as soon as possible.”

Why do you think unions are important for our state, our country?

“I live in Macoupin County where Mother Jones is laid to rest. I just go down my street and the streets around my home and I can see in very clear terms the protections that labor unions give to middle class families and beyond. I see what that does for our community.

“I view unions as a line of defense to the ongoing attack on middle-class families. The issue of unpaid back wages is just another in the barrage of attacks coming from the right wing around the country and they are being delivered by Bruce Rauner every single day in Illinois.”

What can working families do to stop Rauner’s harmful attacks?

“We cannot survive another four years of Bruce Rauner. I’m meeting people for the first time who want to become involved in a grassroots effort to unseat him and elect someone who actually cares about the communities they live in.

“We have to harness that energy. We have to be organized and we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal. But if we stay focused we’ll be successful in 2018.”

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