April 30, 2019

State employees go to proper step after illegal freeze

AFSCME members never gave up battling for justice since ousted governor Bruce Rauner illegally froze employee step increases on July 1, 2015. Finally—beginning the week of April 22—thousands of state of Illinois employees are receiving paychecks representing their proper step placement after waiting nearly four years.

It’s been a long fight. AFSCME first filed unfair labor practice charges with the Labor Board in 2015, then took the case to appellate court where a three-judge panel ruled unanimously that the step increases were owed. Then the case went back to the Labor Board, which was charged with shaping the remedy.

Rauner kept fighting against fairness, using every legal maneuver in the book to deny employees the wages they were owed.

But AFSCME members kept fighting back—using every legal tool at the union’s disposal, picketing at worksites, and rallying at the state Capitol.

Then, fighting on another front, AFSCME joined the entire Illinois labor movement in working to defeat Bruce Rauner at the polls last fall: Rauner lost to JB Pritzker by the largest margin seen in any gubernatorial election in decades.

From the outset Gov. Pritzker has recognized the need to comply with court and labor board rulings. As one of his first acts in office, he directed that all employees be placed on their proper step effective April 1. This means that employees who were due step increases, including longevity steps, from July 1, 2015 through April 1, 2019 would be placed on the step they would have been on had Rauner not frozen step progression.

The Pritzker Administration kept that pledge and across Illinois state employees are seeing their proper step placement reflected in their paychecks—which will help thousands of union members begin to get their family finances back on track.

AFSCME members are not done yet. Gov. Pritzker has also committed to paying the back wages owed due to the illegal step freeze.

The governor’s FY 2020 budget proposal includes a statement that a supplemental appropriation is needed to pay this debt. AFSCME is continuing to press for action. Normally such “supplementals” are passed late in session in conjunction with the final budget. But there are a lot of competing priorities for how to spend the state’s limited resources.

State employees should remind their legislators that these back wages are still owed to state employees—and should be paid now.

By about May 3, every state employee should be on their correct step, including those receiving longevity pay. If you are a state employee or retiree and have any questions about your step placement, contact your payroll office.

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