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More on the contract termination

Monday, Nov 26, 2012

* The Tribune editorial page talked to AFSCME Council 31 President Henry Bayer after Gov. Pat Quinn terminated the union’s state contract last week

Bayer disputes that he has stonewalled during negotiations. He says he has proposed a first-year pay freeze and modest increases after that. He says every contract for nearly the last two decades has included greater employee contributions toward health care. He implies this one probably will, too.

“We don’t have an agreement on the contract yet,” he says. “But to ask employees to go four years without a pay increase and then at the same time pay more for insurance, that’s a lot to ask of people.”

Quinn’s team initially proposed pay cuts but is now seeking a freeze for the life of the contract.

AFSCME members lost promised pay increases last summer because the state didn’t have money to pay them.

Last week, Quinn tried to hike the pressure by refusing to sign an extension of AFSCME’s expired contract. So AFSCME members now are working without a contract. That doesn’t fundamentally change the terms of their wages or work rules, but it infuriated Bayer, who called it “disrespectful to the process.”

This is likely to grow even more intense. And if Quinn ultimately gives away the store, the Legislature could step in. House Speaker Michael Madigan has sponsored a resolution that would cap wage increases for collectively bargained contracts. The Madigan resolution points out that state workers received raises averaging 4.25 percent for each of the last five years, while the consumer price index averaged about 2 percent in that time.

* The Tribune wants Quinn and the legislative leaders to fix the pension mess so AFSCME can see more of the big picture. But Quinn is getting some strong support from an unexpected new ally

Former Herscher resident and one-time Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Andrzejewski applauded Quinn. He is the founder of For the Good of Illinois Foundation, a government spending watchdog group.

“Taxpayers, families and seniors are tired of the waste, fraud, abuse and bloated pensions that politicians have been feeding on,” he said. “Maybe, this is the first step in protecting the taxpayers of Illinois.

“Only time will tell if the governor is truly serious,” he added, noting another good step for righting the state’s fiscal ship would be “to freeze property taxes for three years, forcing out the waste at the local levels of government.”

* Strike chatter is increasing

[Local AFSCME Council 31 Representative Dino Leone] feels Governor Quinn’s actions are leaving union members with little choice, but to take more action.

“We don’t want to have a strike. In the 40 years we’ve done collective bargaining in the state of Illinois we’ve never had a strike before,” he said.

Leone said Governor Quinn is only creating more uncertainty for public employees who are working in offices that are already short staffed.

“When you have instability in the work place and you have stressed workers because they’re over worked, working many hours with no sleep he’s definitely added a whole new stress level,” Leone said.

* What the contract termination means

Quinn’s move is not expected to immediately affect state services, and union officials are advising workers is to go about their jobs and stay professional.

A memo sent to department heads from the governor’s office outlined that the move means none of the raises that were included in the old contract will be paid. And any workplace grievances that arise will not be acted upon.

* Related…

* Governor Quinn terminates AFSCME 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.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Rusty618 - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    If AFSCME employees have to take a pay freeze for the life of the contract, will Quinn (the 2nd highest paid Gov in the US) and legislators (the highest paid part-time legislators in the US) also be taking a pay freeze, including COLAs? They should be setting the examples.

  2. - RetiredStateEmployee - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    Just trying to read SB3932 -

    It’s clear that Quinn has put the blame for all of the state’s budget problems squarely on the backs of all state employees. No shared sacrifice here. A sad day indeed.

    In a year, I suspect there will be public outrage at the lack of state services, but for now they are happy.

  3. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:57 am:

    “We don’t have an agreement on the contract yet,” he says. “But to ask employees to go four years without a pay increase and then at the same time pay more for insurance, that’s a lot to ask of people.”

    From this Merit Comp employee the union gets zero sympathy. Welcome to our world. We have gotten the shaft for years and I’m sick of it. I think union employees, which continue to rocket up and up in salaries while their BOSSES get paid less than them is absolutely ridiculous. Suck it up and take a pay freeze. It’s not the end of the world. Some of us have dealt with pay freezes for years. Get over yourselves. I’m tired of your greed.

  4. - Wensicia - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:57 am:

    Does Quinn really believe he has a chance at re-election in this state?

  5. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    “We don’t have an agreement on the contract yet,” he says. “But to ask employees to go four years without a pay increase and then at the same time pay more for insurance, that’s a lot to ask of people.”

    From this Merit Comp employee the union gets zero sympathy. Welcome to our world. No raises and increased health care costs. We have gotten the shaft for years and I’m sick of it. I think union employees, which continue to rocket up and up in salaries while their BOSSES get paid less than them is absolutely ridiculous. Suck it up and take a pay freeze. It’s not the end of the world. Some of us have dealt with pay freezes for years. Get over yourselves. I’m tired of your greed.

  6. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    I’m baffled by the lack of news coverage about Quinn terminating the contract. Even on NPR coverage of the upcoming legislative session it didn’t merit a mention. Odd.

  7. - cassandra - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:08 am:

    I thought that state retiree health care was already dealt with, via a recent law whereby retirees have to pay a portion of the premium for their state health insurance according to some type of sliding scale. Apparently, they aren’t paying it yet. If the Quinn admin can’t even implement this law, what’s the point in legislators implementing additional laws which won’t be implemented either. I suppose that it’s possible that AFSCME has refused to provide input on the the amounts, if that’s what Pallasch means in above statement, but the law should have had provisions for that. If the union can stop the implementation of the law by simply refusing to negotiate, then I wonder if the legislators and Quinn were serious about passing it–or if it was another step in the endless kabuki dance that the Quinn admin has become. And is AFSCME part of the dance?

  8. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    ===Just trying to read SB3932===

    That’s a McCarter bill. Red meat for the base. Likely not passable.

  9. - Secret Square - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:11 am:

    “I thought that state retiree health care was already dealt with, via a recent law whereby retirees have to pay a portion of the premium for their state health insurance according to some type of sliding scale. Apparently, they aren’t paying it yet.”

    That’s because CMS still hasn’t filed rules specifying how much retirees are supposed to pay.

  10. - zatoichi - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    Our company does business with the state. Pretty hard to sympathize with a 21.25% pay increase over 5 years while we are well under 8% for the same time plus have health insurance jump 15%-20% most years. What is likely is expanding the state’s bill payment cycle to an additional 4-5 more months over the current 4-5 months since there will be fewer state employees to process the bills. That cash flow issue will effect far more than the numbers of AFSCME members. The discussion is always about state employees. They are not the only ones doing work for the state.

  11. - Cassiopeia - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:13 am:

    What does the the Governor’s Office mean by “none of the raises that were included in the old contract will be paid”?

    Does this mean that any raises already received in the past few years are rescinded?

  12. - RetiredStateEmployee - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:17 am:

    ===Just trying to read SB3932
    That’s a McCarter bill. Red meat for the base. Likely not passable. ===

    I understand. Is there anything on the Democratic side yet?

  13. - Rich Miller - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:23 am:

    ===Does this mean that any raises already received in the past few years are rescinded? ===


  14. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:31 am:

    Adam A brings Quinn the critical support of 14% of off-year GOP primary voters.

  15. - AC - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:33 am:

    I hate the talking point responses on both sides, but the ones from the Quinn administration seem especially distorted. If the administration had offered a pay freeze, and not combined it with other provisions which would have violated prior contracts, they might have been able to make a deal.

  16. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:36 am:

    - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:58 am:
    ==From this Merit Comp employee the union gets zero sympathy. Welcome to our world. No raises and increased health care costs. We have gotten the shaft for years and I’m sick of it. I think union employees, which continue to rocket up and up in salaries while their BOSSES get paid less than them is absolutely ridiculous. Suck it up and take a pay freeze. It’s not the end of the world. Some of us have dealt with pay freezes for years. Get over yourselves. I’m tired of your greed. ==

    So you agree that way that “merit” comp employees have been treated is the right way to go?

    Just because you feel you don’t deserve fair treatment doesn’t make others greedy.

  17. - Holdingontomywallet - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:38 am:

    @Cassiopeia - I believe that refers to the employees who did not receive their raises, because the $$$ was not appropriated to some of the agencies, even though there was a signed contract.

    I agree with “anonymous” about the merit comp employees. The management employees (outside of the gov’s office) have watched union employees pass them up in pay and benefits, while their pay has been frozen. They shouldn’t be supervising union emplotees who have passes them by in salary, in most cases.

    Politically, this hard stance with the union is probably a good move on Quin’s part. The reality is - people have indifferent or negative perceptions about state employees’ salaries, benefits, and pensions. Our politicians have been very successful by categorizing everyone into “groups”; private employees vs. public employees, rich vs. poor and middle class, men vs.
    women, etc.

  18. - Ready To Get Out - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:39 am:

    Anonymous - 10:57 am:
    Demoralized - 10:58 am:

    You could at least have made the two posts “somewhat” different instead of almost verbatim.

    Kind of takes the legitimacy out of your posts, doesn’t it?

  19. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:44 am:

    “…union officials are advising workers is to go about their jobs and stay professional.” That’s pretty funny if you have to work with many union members.

  20. - Kana - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:46 am:

    == The Madigan resolution points out that state workers received raises averaging 4.25 percent for each of the last five years, while the consumer price index averaged about 2 percent in that time.==

    Is this accurate? Have state workers received an average of 21% total over the last five years?

  21. - cassandra - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:48 am:

    Although, to be fair on the compensation issue, a review of personal services contracts are in order. How many contracts, for how much, who are the recipients, why can’t the work be done in-house, are the contractors actually performing the work, is the work critical enough to justify the money, and so one. Personal services contracts are a good way to reward cronies and political supporters outside the regular state employment system.

  22. - Responsa - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:49 am:

    It’s interesting to see Bayer get some press and pushback with respect to this impasse. Along with the union members’ palpable anger at Quinn which is easy to pick up, there seems to be little sense on the street that it is felt Bayer is doing (or has done) a bang up job for the membership or that they are all that thrilled with him, either. For the rank and file AFSCME members who regularly comment here, am I reading this situation correctly?

  23. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:50 am:

    DuPage Dave - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:44 am:

    “…union officials are advising workers is to go about their jobs and stay professional.” That’s pretty funny if you have to work with many union members. == ”
    We’ve already given up on the professionalism and ethics of senior management and the deputy director types.

  24. - Plutocrat03 - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:52 am:

    Doncha wish you had a Scott Walker to deal with.

    No one was fired, public sector jobs were added…….

  25. - foster brooks - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:08 pm:

    Plutocrat, Scott walker isn’t done yet. Where did you get your numbers from? Scott walker?

  26. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:11 pm:

    Plutocrat and other Walker defenders- the difference is that Walker sought to permanently eliminate the right of state workers to bargain collectively. Quinn is doing no such thing. He is only saying that we are too broke to continue the pattern of generosity to union workers.

    That’s a big difference if you are paying attention.

  27. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:13 pm:

    Crime Fighter- OK, but that article is about DCEO (fomerly DCCA) which is the gold standard for phony hiring going back as long as human memory.

  28. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:29 pm:

    cassandra @ 11:08 am
    Secret Square @ 11:11 am:

    First, yes, CMS has proposed some rates. Based on what has leaked out, they pretty much range from 55% (for current retirees) to 95% (for all dependents); exact dollar amounts depend on your age and which insurance plan. The contribution rates were being talked about in the contract talks. That was one of several major sticking points.

    Second, there were a total of, I believe, 5 lawsuits filed against SB-1313/PA97-0695 (retiree insurance payments). They have all been consolidated into one class action case in Sangamon Country. You can search the Sangamon County docket using the lead plaintiff name of ‘Gordon Maag’. Next hearing is mid January. The arguments (to simplify a bit) are that it violates previous contracts, a state statue encoding those contracts, and also that the premium free health insurance for retirees is deferred compensation based on the the 20 year requirement. I’m not sure it is in any of the briefs, but there is also an argument that it is protected by the pension clause and the GA recognized that when they previously changed the work requirement from 8 years to 20 years but did not make it retroactive.

    If the retirees prevail, from a contractual perspective that pretty much kills the COLA / health insurance access ‘choice’ bill because the retiree COLAS have previously been ruled protected by the pension clause and if the insurance gets the same status, the State would be requiring a choice between two already protected items … so there would be no consideration.

    As a side note, Quinn is probably going to have to ask for a supplemental appropriation to pay the rest of the year’s employee / retiree health insurance because, I think, they only budgeted for about 1/2 of the total cost.

  29. - Johnnie F. - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:31 pm:

    And Quinn seeks to eliminate collective bargaining through ignoring a contract HE signed and refusing good faith bargaining. Same end different means.

  30. - Norseman - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:35 pm:

    RNUG - Was the leak detailed enough to identify the structure of increases for age and plans?

  31. - Anon. - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:41 pm:

    ==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.”==

    Here’s a proposal — limit pay raises for AFSCME-represented employees to the same levels as the raises GOMB employees have already awarded themselves this fiscal year.

  32. - anon for a reason - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:43 pm:

    At Revenue … Quinn has been hiring lawyers and investigators with no public duties. At the same time older administrative lawyers are been asked to leave. Meanwhile, about 25 percent of the rank and file have left since January.
    Everyone else is on pins and needles.
    Administrators talk about things getting better with new hires but act like the would love to fire everyone.
    Every week someone unexpectedly leaves.
    The atmosphere is fear.

  33. - Madison - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:51 pm:

    Now joining Pat Quinn in the newly established irrelevance Ball, Adam A arrives. We are also expecting Grover Norquist, Ty Fahner, Bill Brady and Jason Plummer with special guest Karl Rove. Please join us for the golf outing tomorrow morning sponsored by Tom cross.

  34. - Rusty618 - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:53 pm:

    @Anon, that’s a pretty good one! Quinn gave himself a $2500 raise in March.

  35. - Irish - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:54 pm:

    I think union members are satisfied with Henry Bayer. I am not an AFSCME member but I am aware of what goes on in the negotiations, if you can call them that. There are a couple of things that keep coming back from the negotiations. The first one is that most of the negotiators are frustrated that there is no response, or very little, from the Quinn Administration. They say they have never seen negotiations before where the Management side brings nothing new to the table, or refuses to discuss anything.

    It is ironic that Quinn is stating that the uniuon has been the non-responsive one. The unions have made several offers, hinting that they might be willing to pay more for pensions, be willing to take a wage freeze for a couple years,( See the We Are One proposal.) and they have already had the increase in health care dumped on them. But Quinn doesn’t want any of that. He does not want an agreement. He wants to break the unions. In many of the negotiating sessions the first item the Administration brings up is taking union rights away from the PSAs. The union refuses to go along with that and then the administration stops talking.

    I believe that the reason there has been no word out of CMS on the insurance rates is two-fold. First we all know that CMS takes twice as long as they should to decide anything. And the Governor does not want to release specifics on the insurance increases. Why? Because if he announces a specific increase and then does not get what he wants from the union on all the other monetary cuts he wants, then he can’t raise the increase until next year. If he announces specific numbers the union will be able to use those to show that union members are making sacrifices and should get credit for those sacrifices. Instead he has this ace in his pocket that he can use to take whatever monetary amount he decides to take from the union workers later even if they have made other concessions. Governor that is not good faith bargaining.

    I am not surprised that after soliciting help from the IPI on his war against the unions that he would also count Adam Andrzejewski as a supporter. I am a little surprised that other Democrats in the GA have not taken a position on this and are allowing PQ to speak for them. But after all PQ did wait until after the election to make this move so union people backed Democrats in the recent election.

  36. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 12:58 pm:


    Partially. They somewhat backed off the sliding scale by eliminating the service year part of it since they were having arguments on how to treat the various purchased service time, so it was just based on pension payments brackets and your Medicare status or non-status.

    I don’t remember all the pension payment ranges I heard; just zeroed in on the ones that would affect me. As I remember, for non-Medicare SERS retirees it would be 55% and dependents 95% of the premium the State shows on your Comptroller statement (presumably you would no longer pay the current dependent fee). Medicare eligible SERS retirees would be at 33%; think the Medicare eligible dependents would still be at 95% but the premiums are quite a bit lower for Medicare eligible since the State insurance then serves mostly as a Medigap policy.

    Now when you start talking about who pays what premiums the discussion has to narrow down to each individual retiree group. If I remember correctly, the 20 year rule does not apply to TRS and some SURS … so they are already paying close to full price for their retiree health insurance. SERS and some SURS do have the 20 year rule, so the propsoed rates, if the law is upheld, would apply to them. I’ve never looked in to where JRS and GARS fall, but I suspect they have premium free retiree health insurance on retirement.

  37. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 1:16 pm:

    Johnnie F- No, Quinn’s actions are not even close to being the same thing as Walker’s. Think it over for 10 seconds.

  38. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 1:37 pm:

    @Ready to Get Out:

    It was an erroneous double post. Use your brain.

    @Crime Fighter:

    Yes, it does make them greedy. The pay raises have been out of whack. Taking a pay freeze is more than reasonable. To suggest more pay raises is laughable right now. So, I continue to say, suck it up and get over it.

  39. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 1:39 pm:

    @Crime Fighter:

    If you believe union workers are being treated unfairly you are living in a fantasy land. Management cannot do ANYTHING wihout getting the union’s permission. That is just complete lunacy. Why the state let the union get so much power over actually MANAGING how things work is beyond me. It’s time to take some of that power back.

  40. - rusty618 - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 2:16 pm:

    So is also greedy that Quinn, his staff, and our legislators are taking raises and COLAs to the point that they are just about the highest paid in the country? Most of the AFSCME people are making much less (avg $63,000/year, which seems like a stretch) and trying to provide for their families.
    I don’t know where you getting the information about unions controlling management. That does not happen in my agency.

  41. - Ready To Get Out - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 2:19 pm:

    Demoralized - I did, seems you didn’t.

  42. - Sgtstu - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 2:52 pm:

    Irish - Monday, I think you hit the nail on the head. I also wonder if part of the stall by Quinn was to see if Obama got back in. Now that he is in, maybe Quinn is going to try to push the State employees and retires into Obama care.

  43. - Calvin C - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 3:20 pm:

    AFSCME is no friend to the worker, the citizens of Illinois, or the process of governing. A strike would hurt employees more than concessions. The true Fat Cats are the Union bosses worried more about their own salary at the expense of the working class.

  44. - Endangered Moderate Species - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 4:10 pm:

    Quinn’s play on this issue seems politically dangerous at first look. But I saw this debate played out among family members during Thanksgiving. The Retired State Employee family members, whom are Republican, were very upset with the Governor. The retired private sector family members, whom are Democrat, were supportive of the Governor. The rub issue is the 100% paid healthcare for retired State employees, especially for early retirees. The State retiree’s believe that the 100% paid healthcare is their right and bound by contract. Ironically, these same family members opposed President Obama because, they believe, his healthcare plan will establish a dangerous socialist precedent.

  45. - tired of politics - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 4:18 pm:

    I always new Hobbes was the smart one.

  46. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 4:24 pm:

    - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 1:39 pm:

    So you DO believe merit comp workers have been treated fairly and others should be treated the same.
    Sounds “reasonable”… The difference is that you cut your own deal as merit comp, the pay for performance system that you are touting for all - You built it and the sky’s the limit.
    Not all trust senior management to be fair and reasonable like you do, that’s why they are in the union.

  47. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 5:08 pm:

    @Crime Fighter:

    No, I do not believe MC workers have been treated fairly. And WE did not build anything. It is what it is. You act as if I have some choice to be in the union. I don’t. I accept that. My position is such that it should not be in the union. However, to suggest that no raises is unreasonable for union people for the next contract is laughable.

    You have no idea what you are talking about and it’s apparent.

  48. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 5:10 pm:

    And, no, I don’t expect the union to curl up and die. The state was stupid enough to negotiate such contracts and has made their own bed. You miht as well try and raise the dead as try and negotiate somehing OUT of a contract. I’m offering my opinion as to what I think should happen.

  49. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 5:28 pm:

    One of Quinn’s pie in the sky hopes is that the Feds will bail out the State on their pension and health insurance issues. Ain’t going to happen, Obama has bigger fish to fry and there is nothing Illinois can do for him.

  50. - LM - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 5:34 pm:

    When you read the comments from non-union people, you realize what is wrong with our society today.
    You see, non-union workers have unfairly seen their pay go down over the last 30 yrs. But rather than support better pay for themselves, they support bringing the unions down to their level. Which is not as high as they think.

  51. - Jahn Mitchell - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 5:47 pm:

    “Workplace grievances will not be acted on” What exactly does that mean. There seems to be some confusion.

  52. - State worker - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 6:00 pm:

    merit comp workers…this is not a race to the bottom

  53. - Maxine on Politics - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 6:03 pm:

    What about the people that did not get their raises from 2 years ago, after we took furloughs, and froze our pay? Can they file a backwage claim with the state? Seems a bit unfair that “some” get it and “some” don’t. A labor contract is what it is. Saying this, maybe other labor contracts (PS contracts) may also not be paid? As to Jahn Mitchell - that means all the crazy incompetent managers can do what they have been doing since Blago slipped them in. Sad day for Illinois. This is going to hurt the ECONOMY. Can’t spend with all this going on.

  54. - stats guy - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 6:03 pm:

    If today the private sector Illinois person ranks in the top 7% of the nation for pay and the public sector person ranks in the top 9% of the nation where would that have put the public sector pay 5 years ago? Even with these raises the public sector is still behind the private sector. - posted via phone sorry for errors.

  55. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 6:17 pm:

    ==”No, I do not believe MC workers have been treated fairly. And WE did not build anything. It is what it is.”==

    Not all of can be as in control and insightful as Demoralized. Someone who values public service. That’s leadership!

  56. - steve schnorf - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 6:56 pm:

    Whenever the topic of the treatment of state employees, particularly those who are organized by AFSCME, comes up on this blog there is an outpouring of anger and vitriol. I am generally a fan of AFSCME’s leadership, though as I have pointed out before they can be difficult to negotiate with.

    I believe a major part of the reason for that difficulty is a member’s mind-set that I think the leadership fosters, or at least fails to adequately disabuse. My experience was and is that the more active an AFSCME member is in the union the more they fail to appreciate just how well we state workers and retirees have it.

    Somehow the union’s members have come to see themselves as abused, taken advantage of, conspired against by a management that wants to return to child labor and 12 hour 6 day work weeks. They envision themselves as coal miners in Appalachia, holed up in tin sheds while scabs fire rifle shots thru the walls. As victims at Haymarket Square, as suffering injustices that would make the Joad’s migrant camps look like utopia.

    They aren’t, and neither are the rest of us, employees and retirees. Working conditions are generally good, though there are some jobs that are difficult and unpleasant. Pay is good, benefits are excellent, and retiree pensions and benefits are very good.

    I wish they would put Mother Jones back in her magazine, enjoy but don’t internalize and believe as current the Guthrie songs, and bargain for the common good. Brotherhood must have a different meaning for some people. Time and again Gov Ryan offered to cancel all layoffs and closings if Henry would agree to a one year wage freeze. Time and again the offer was refused. More than a thousand brothers and sisters were laid off.

    In AFSCME’s defense the first time I met with Henry about the proposal, he said to me, “Steve, if the state was having a very good revenue year, you wouldn’t be here asking me to agree to a bigger raise for our members”, and he was absolutely right.

  57. - Solidarity Sister - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:08 pm:

    Ok, after reading these comments first let me say that AFSCME members by and large are absolutely satisfied with Henry Bayer. As a matter of fact they are very thankful for his leadership. He has shown extraordinary leadership during some very trying times these past few years. For those such as “Demoralized” you should know that Henry has often spoken of just how unfair the treatment you’ve received over past 10 years or so has been. Sadly he does not have the right to bargain for your pay raises, or the Governors office making you take furlough days etc; but when he and the union fight for our pensions they are fighting for us all, make no mistake about that. If AFSCME loses this fight we all lose, and with Henry Bayer at the helm I do not believe we will lose.

  58. - Sgtstu - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:13 pm:

    Steve, Remember Eva ? She told me one time seniority ain’t no good til ya got some. She told me that at contract negoiations I was at with you. I was a delegate for my local at the time.

  59. - Truthteller - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:20 pm:

    State employee critics have conveniently forgotten that those employees represented by AFSCME voted to defer pay increases to which they were legally entitled, take furlough days,and alter their health care plan which along with cost savings they identified saved taxpayers $400 million according to Quinn’s own figures.

    The Governor rewarded them by cancelling the raises they were due and attempting to layoff the employees he had promised to retain.

    Why anyone should believe a word this Administration says is beyond me. Quinn has no credibility with the state workforce , nor with the citizenry at-large.

  60. - wert - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:26 pm:

    During the teacher’s strike, Rahm kept saying that the teachers received raises well beyond the cost of living. But he was conflating step increases and promotions with the COLA. Curious whether that is going on here. And for the private employee who has sour grapes, do you really think any government employee got a huge bonus, pay increase and perks when the economy was at its peak? The government ALWAYS cries poor mouth during negotiations. If the windfall isn’t shared, why should the sacrifice be put on the government workers when times are bad?

  61. - wheatgrp - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:28 pm:

    i would happily take a wage freeze for 4 years if health costs were frozen too the average union pensioner in illinois receives $28000 per year. bloated, INDEED.

  62. - Soccertease - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:31 pm:

    What makes me sick about all of this is that if everyone-union, management, the legislatures, governors-would have been half-way fiscally-prudent over the past 30 years we wouldn’t be in these dire straits.

  63. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:46 pm:

    I think the unions like AFSCME are a two edged sword. I have no problems with them trying for more money, specific work hours including shift differentials, and benefits like health insurance and retirement for their members …that is their job, to get what they can for their members. I also have no problems with their lobbying for actual safety related work rules.

    I do have some real problems with some of the work rules that, in my opinion, protect clearly incapable people in their jobs and with a lot of the promotional / seniority rules. I also have problems with the fact the State kept the step increase rules in place on top of whatever the unions gained every year; the step system should have been scrapped because it was set up back when there was no representation for the employees. As a MC manager, I saw people who clearly were unqualified for technical jobs bid and get them strictly because of union seniority. Then when those people couldn’t cut the job and you tried to get rid of them or demote them back to their previous job, grievances were filed and you had to waste more time trying to train them. Having to take a trained person off their job to babysit the incompetent person flat ruined productivity levels. Probably the most extreme example I saw was a person who still couldn’t cut the job after two years of babysitting. If I was sitting in those talks, I would be trying to claw back those kind of work rule abuses.

    For what it is worth, these problems are not exclusive to government unions but they do seem to be exaggerated some. And for those who think I’m anti-union, I grew up in a union family and understand both the good and bad that a union can do better than a lot of people.

  64. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:51 pm:


    While I agree you are mostly on target with your analysis, I think you are being a bit too kind and ignoring some of the abuses unions can lead to.

  65. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 8:54 pm:


    You left out the ILSC judges who ruled on IFT (1976) and allowed the Gov & GA to skip the payments.

  66. - Soxfan - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 9:22 pm:

    What exactly is the goal of AFSCME going on strike — besides, that is, turning off the general public on state workers more than they already are?

    As a former merit comp slave and now a union member, I agree with Schnorf that AFSCME has done its members well over the years. But being nearly $100 billion in debt makes this a whole new ballgame for negotiations.

    If AFSCME shows they are willing to compromise a little (for example, an increase in our pension contributions should at least be on the table), then maybe I’ll have hope for my retirement future.

    If the game plan is to wait for the courts to strike down any legislative changes to the pensions, then it’ll be a phyrric victory. If we reach that point, there will be no need for state employees since nearly all the tax dollars will go toward paying down the debt.

  67. - RetiredStateEmployee - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 9:29 pm:

    What about the abuses of management when employees aren’t unionized? Remember, this is a 2 way street. We may never get back to the really awful ways of the past (we sent that stuff overseas) but we are facing the erosion of the middle class. Pitting private employees vs. public employees only benefits the plutocracy.

  68. - Norseman - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:47 pm:

    “(T)hey fail to appreciate just how well we state workers and retirees have it.” Compared to whom, Steve. Compared to a food delivery driver, we have it tremendously well. Compared to the corporate money bags who have focused on attacking both private and public worker pensions for their own profit, nowhere near well.

    This is all about perceptions based upon our own experiences. Any rationale person knows that he/she are better off than many and worse off than others. As an MC, from my perspective I haven’t felt well off since Blago took office. Dealing with salary freezes, furloughs, staff shortages and incompetent political appointees have created tremendous stress. The one thing that I and all workers look forward to is a decent retirement with satisfactory benefits. Benefits that are constitutionally guaranteed in the case of public workers. I will not quietly stand by and accept a reduction in my benefits because of someone else’s perception of how well I should be.

  69. - Norseman - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:00 pm:

    I don’t understand the eagerness of some of the MC posters to root against AFSCME. You have to look at the big picture. AFSCME is trying to protect benefits. Their failure is not going to benefit you.

  70. - GalleryWalker - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:40 pm:

    Demoralized : let me enlighten you as to what the “raises” they speak of are exactly. When I took my job with the state, risking my life to serve and protect, I was given my pay scale outline. This scale showed me that I started as a probationary officer and with time and effort with the dept I would earn a little more every so many years. I never asked for these small pay increases, they were offered to me for each step when i took the job. And that’s what they are called, steps not pay raises. I’m sorry you feel that your job is so important and you feel you should get more as MC however, our dept DOES NOT make more than our supervisors. I would LOVE to make even close to HALF of what mine make! With that, my supervisors are appointed by government officials not by their credentials or knowledge of the job. So maybe you should consider all departments before generalizing us state workers. The general stupidity and uneducated comments from people such as yourself are just that… You really do look uneducated. I took a thankless job that pays well, or is supposed to as I’ve not seen anything close to what I should be making…but tell me, would you like to go to work each day risking your life and praying you come home each night to your family? Someone has to do it and I stepped up to the plate. Is it so much to ask the Governor to honor the contract that he signed and agreed to honor?!? I am sure if I just decided not to honor my contracts (ie:mortgage payment, car payment, college loans, etc…), I would be held accountable. That’s all we want as union and state workers… Be accountable for your actions, because we sure have to be.

  71. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 11:47 pm:

    Should have included that the workplace abuses I referred to are only apply to a small minority … but they are the rotten eggs that ruin it for the rest. Over my long career, I worked with a lot of good people and a few rotten ones, including at least one agency director I’m pretty sure is still mad at me for calling him out on an unethical practice.

  72. - Norseman - Tuesday, Nov 27, 12 @ 12:04 am:

    RNUG, you’re lucky to have made it to retirement.

  73. - PublicServant - Tuesday, Nov 27, 12 @ 8:30 am:

    If Adam A is backing Quinn, that epitomizes why Quinn will not get re-elected. A DINO praised by an ultraconservative whacko will not get the democratic vote.

  74. - Anyone Remember - Tuesday, Nov 27, 12 @ 9:37 am:

    Soxfan -
    AFSCME has shown willingness to compromise. Negotiations run aground when AFSCME insists upon a mandatory enforcement mechanism so that State retirement contributions cannot be skipped (just like private sector and IMRF employer pension payments have an enforcement mechanism). And, after the Governor insisting lack of appropriations “cancels” pay raises, AFSCME is probably insisting upon an enforcement mechanism there, also. IF insisting on enforcement mechanisms is seen as being unwilling to compromise, it’s going to be a long bumpy road.

  75. - Soxfan - Tuesday, Nov 27, 12 @ 10:51 am:

    Anyone Remember - I sure hope AFSCME has offered more sacrifice than that! The mandatory pension payments are a non-starter, both sides should agree to that one. As for “cancelling” the pay raises, how do you pay the raises if money is not appropriated to pay for them?

  76. - Bummed out :( - Tuesday, Nov 27, 12 @ 5:32 pm:

    Well stated - “Norseman - Monday, Nov 26, 12 @ 10:47 pm: ” You summed it up well. The problem I have with the union and reps that they are not “trained” well and do not communicate well with their members. Why doesn’t AFSCME spend “our” money on legal defenses and getting the FACTs out to the public? All IL unions should bond together for the Legis session, not just AFSCME.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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