June 22, 2019

State employees ratify new union contract

Members of AFSCME—the largest union of public service workers in state government—have voted to ratify a new contract negotiated with the administration of Governor JB Pritzker.

Voting was conducted between June 12 and 21 at more than 400 worksite meetings statewide, where union members had the opportunity to review the agreement’s terms and ask questions before casting a ballot.

The new contract comes after months of negotiations between AFSCME and the Pritzker administration—and nearly four years of conflict with former governor Bruce Rauner, who walked out on contract talks in January 2016 and refused to even meet with the union bargaining committee for the rest of his term in office. Instead Rauner had tried to unilaterally impose his extreme demands—including doubling employee health care costs and wiping out safeguards against privatization schemes—but was stopped by the courts.

“The Rauner era was one of hostility to working people and chaos in state government. AFSCME members got through it by standing together and refusing to be bullied,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “Now state employees have a fair contract and, in Governor Pritzker, an employer who respects their voice and values their work.”

The new agreement takes effect immediately and runs through June 30, 2023. The previous contract had been slated to expire at the end of June 2015.

In recognition of their continued diligence during Rauner’s tenure—when he froze their pay and illegally prevented employees from progressing through the pay plan for four years—state workers will initially receive a stipend of $625 for each of the past four years worked. General pay increases will follow in January 2020 (1.5%), July 2020 (2.1%), July 2021 and July 2022 (both 3.95%). State employees have received no general increase since July 2014.

Employee premiums and out-of-pocket costs in the state group health insurance plan will increase. Although specific employee contributions vary by type of health plan and salary levels, premiums will go up each January by a composite $13 per month for individuals and $18 per month for families. This maintains Illinois’s standing in the middle ranks of state employee health plans nationally.

Among other provisions, the new contract strengthens employee protections against excessive forced overtime, expands maternity and paternity leave, creates a new labor-management body to reduce the threat of violence in the workplace and improve worker safety, preserves accountability standards for privatization proposals and creates new protections to safeguard employees’ private information.

The agreement was ratified by an overwhelming majority of union members voting. “The big margin reflects how ready state workers are for the return of sanity and responsible governance in the wake of Bruce Rauner’s relentless attacks,” Lynch said. “Public service workers in state government clearly believe this contract is fair for all.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 represents nearly 40,000 state employees who protect kids from abuse and neglect, care for veterans and people with disabilities, keep prisons safe, maintain state parks, help struggling families and provide countless other vital public services in communities across the state.

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