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What would it take to strike?

Monday, Dec 10, 2012

* There has never been a statewide AFSCME strike in Illinois. The Tribune spells out what the law says about the issue

First, the governor’s office must declare that negotiations have reached an impasse. Both sides say at this point, that hasn’t happened.

Should that happen, however, the administration could then try to impose the terms of its “best and final” offer. The union has the right to appeal that move to the Illinois Labor Relations Board to dispute the declaration of an impasse. The governor has a bit of a home court advantage because he appoints the panel.

If the board were to side with the union, talks would resume. The board also could agree with the administration that negotiations are deadlocked. Such a decision would force the union to put the contract up for a vote. The options: go along with the governor’s final offer or strike. The union would have to give the state five days notice before walking off the job.

It’ll be a while.

* The paper also looked at pay and benefits

Quinn’s office distributes a chart that attempts to paint Illinois union workers as higher paid than their counterparts in other states. But the document features just nine other states, and the administration won’t explain its methodology, so it’s unclear whether it is making an apples-to-apples comparison.

Meanwhile, union spokesman Anders Lindall tried to frame the debate by suggesting that increasing wages to keep pace with the cost of living would cost less than $1 a month per person in Illinois. But that math doesn’t take into account that not everyone in the state pays taxes. […]

The administration says an individual worker pays $564 to $1,014 a year in premiums, with copays as low as $15. The cheapest plan is in line with other states, with the national average for an individual state worker policy coming to about $563, according to a study released this year by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

By comparison, private sector employees paid on average $1,127 a year in individual health care premiums in 2010, the most recent year available. As such, the governor wants state workers to pay more in health care premiums and copays.

* The paper also editorialized about a bill passed in May that allows the governor to set retiree health care insurance premiumus

…the new law authorized the state to charge retirees, but lawyers for Gov. Pat Quinn say they have to negotiate an agreement on that with the state’s largest public employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Those negotiations have been dragging on for months with no end in sight.

Can’t the state now impose a premium charge for retirees? Quinn’s legal team says retiree health care has been a mandatory subject of collective bargaining since 1997, when then-Gov. Jim Edgar put the issue on the table. The lawyers say the state cannot start charging retirees for health care costs without AFSCME’s blessing. You can guess where AFSCME stands. The state’s largest public employee union has no intention of giving up one of the cushiest benefits the state offers.

When the bill passed, Madigan said the state is not obligated to provide free health care to retired workers. He made that clear several times on the House floor.

“I think it’s pretty well agreed, by everybody who’s working on these issues, that in the case of retiree health insurance there is no contractual relationship. There is no contractual obligation on the part of the state to continue to provide that health insurance. Said differently, the state is in a position to discontinue it at any time,” he said.

* Related…

* Pension experts divided over Nekritz-Biss plan

- Posted by Rich Miller        


87 Comments
  1. - Anon - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:53 am:

    I have heard that the 5 day notice isn’t required right now because there is no contract currently in place. Anyone know if that is true?


  2. - foster brooks - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:05 am:

    A good portion of those state positions have a no lock out no strike clause


  3. - Sgtstu - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:17 am:

    Madigan “Said differently, the state is in a position to discontinue it at any time,” he said.” And this is why myself and I am going to guess many, many other retires will not give up the cola. Give it up and then they will turn around and take my insurance as well. Madigan himself stated on a radio show he would not give up his cola either. Why would Afscme give away something that is protected by the State Constitution ? Does anyone think Quinn would give that away at the table if his people were sitting on the union side ?


  4. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:25 am:

    I don’t think the AFSCME Members that want to strike realize the cost associated, (ie They DONT get a paycheck, they must pay in to keep insurance while they are on strike, and THE PUBLIC IS NOT ON THIER SIDE) it would serve no purpose to strike, in fact I would predict a large amount of members crossing the picket line.

    With the way the legislature is passing bills with items such as PAY etc. that is normally negotiated, what is left to negotiate from both sides?


  5. - Downstater - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:28 am:

    Why do public employee unions continue to feel their members are “entitled” to such generous benefits at this time? There is no money!!!
    And the rest of us are going broke trying to pay for them.


  6. - Anon - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:40 am:

    I’m in AFSCME and a few of us in my office were talking about how we are in pretty bad shape in this situation. The police and correctional officers aren’t allowed to strike. If we strike, we lose that pay and probably aren’t going to get that great of a contract at the end anyway. If we don’t strike, we’re not going to get that great of a contract also.

    But given the very generous prior contract amidst one of the worst economies in decades, this wage freeze and more contributions offer is not that bad to us. Our main issue was the proposed two grade decrease and freeze. Once they got that off the table, the deal looked bad for us, but not a disaster.


  7. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:42 am:

    I don’t want to strike and hope that budget negotiations become more productive. There may be even more bitterness at negotiations, unfortunately, because of Quinn’s decision to appeal the pay raise ruling.

    I don’t agree with Downstater’s comment that Illinoisans are going broke trying to pay for state workers’ benefits. The state may have a massive financial crisis on its hands, but individuals are not going broke over this, nor are they going broke because of the state income tax increase. The mental image of individuals filing for bankruptcy or losing their homes and jobs because of state workers’ benefits is just laughable.


  8. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:46 am:

    It is extremely unlikely that the pampered members of AFSCME will strike under any circumstances. Quinn’s team may not have much of a clue about anything, but it’s the union that’s up against the wall here.

    The only tool they have is the strike, which they’ve never used and their members have no stomach for. Perhaps they will come up with a Nixonian “peace with honor” solution.


  9. - Bill - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:56 am:

    If the employees aren’t willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in then they deserve whatever happens to them.


  10. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    I think Madigan is wrong about the health insurance for retirees.

    When originally enacted, retirees got health insurance with just 8 years of service. Later on, that was changed to 20 years but it was NOT made retroactive for those already retired. The new rule still gave you the right to health insurance after 8 years but it required a sliding payment until you reached 20 years. In other words, people already retired under the 8 year rule didn’t have to start paying for their insurance.

    It did change for those still working. So that action sets a precedent that the GA believed it was protected for people already retired. That logic is consistent with court rulings on other protected benefits and is even consistent with the various Chicago groups admission that benefits earned to date can’t be changed.


  11. - Burnham the Monk - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    I’m certain AFSCME will strike. With 97% of the state workforce unionized, a strike (in this case, at least) is an incredibly potent weapon.

    Quinn — or Quinn’s young advisors — are oddly underestimating the anger of the current state workforce. The weird, strangely timed letter from Quinn last week was the final straw for many — especially when Quinn (only a day after posting the letter) vows to appeal the raise ruling from the previous contract.

    What I don’t understand is why bother negotiating a contact with a governor who breaks a contract with his own employees? It’s one thing to say no raises in the new contract — I suspect most people understand and accept that — but if you refuse a contractually agreed upon raise (while at the same time giving out tax breaks to any corporation that promises to “add jobs” — and then doesn’t) that’s pretty much a non-starter. Quinn’s bona fides with labor mean nothing now. Sad — and somewhat astonishing.

    BTW — there is no five day strike notice without a contact. Just sayin…


  12. - AC - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:03 am:

    If the goal of this administration were to get concessions, breaking prior contracts by repeated attempts to take away promissed health insurance and retiree health care benefits. When the state and AFSCME agreed to defer pay raises, the approach was collaborative and the changes were voted on by the members. I suspect that the administration would have accomplished far more by working with, rather than against the union this time around.


  13. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:09 am:

    DuPage

    Why don’t you come to astate worksite & see what its like. AFSCME members are not pampered. We have the lowest per capita employee to citizen ratio in the country. Additionally, most of the agencies are run by incompetent political appointees who have no clue about what the agency they lead actually does and how they do it. The workers were already fed up with their situation before Quinn even got involved.

    AFSCME acted in good faith and reopened our contract, which resulted in a very large cash savings for the state. Quinn reneged on the deal. We took him to arbitration. He lost. He took us to court, he lost. He will lose every appeal and he knows it. This is all about stalling & delaying payment, just as he does for everybody else the state owes money to. He is leading the contract negotiations to impasse because he wants to reduce labor costs. Whatever length the strike lasts will do that.

    You are obviously very anti union and anti state worker.

    “It is extremely unlikely that the pampered members of AFSCME will strike under any circumstances. Quinn’s team may not have much of a clue about anything, but it’s the union that’s up against the wall here.

    The only tool they have is the strike, which they’ve never used and their members have no stomach for. Perhaps they will come up with a Nixonian “peace with honor” solution.”


  14. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    Do I think the union will strike? Yes, eventually because they are being backed in to a corner where they won’t have any other choice.

    Do I think the union members are prepared for a strike, both psychologically and financially? No, I don’t. I know there is a lot of anger at the vilification state employees have been receiving but they’ve never been through a prolonged strike. AFSCME members aren’t the laborers of early 1900’s. I don’t think they understand in their gut that this strike will be a life or death decision for the union. In addition, I suspect most of them are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have a big pile of savings to see them through months of no paychecks.

    Right now, I’m not optimistic on a compromise; there is zero trust on either side. I only see two possible ends, both drastic. (1) Quinn breaks the union and workplace conditions go back to the pre-Civil Service days of blatant patronage or (2) the union stays consolidated, wins concessions and union workplace excesses will continue and expand … because I don’t see the union being willing to settle for just the status quo after a punishing strike.


  15. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:39 am:

    –”There is no contractual obligation on the part of the state to continue to provide that health insurance. Said differently, the state is in a position to discontinue it at any time,” he (Madigan) said.

    That’s some ominous saber-rattling and something I’d be a lot more worried about than pay raises.


  16. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:42 am:

    It will be interesting to see how this plays out. For AFSCME to stay relevant the members have to be willing to strike. If they do strike, will the supposedly union friendly Democrat General Assembly then pass curbs on AFSCME’s ability to continue the strike. Especially after the shot across the bow sent by Madigan regarding the pay and layoff terms of any future contract.


  17. - Downstater - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:43 am:

    AFSCME Steward
    You should visit some of the private companies and see what has happened to wages, benefits and pension contributions. Wages are stagnet, employees pay 20% or more in premiums, if they have any health coverage, and guaranteed pensions are only a dream. Welcome to the real world!


  18. - foster brooks - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:47 am:

    Msall says This will certainly be litigated if it is enacted, but the hope would be that the courts would recognize the dire financial condition of the state of Illinois.”

    As long as the state of Illinois has the ability to raise revenue you can toss this argument out.


  19. - Jimbo - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:47 am:

    Downstater,

    Why do you want to race to the bottom? Instead of wishing others not have things that were taken away from you, why don’t you try to get your’s back?


  20. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:06 pm:

    “That’s some ominous saber-rattling and something I’d be a lot more worried about than pay raises.”

    Word, I totally agree with you. I also suspect that was the entire point of Madigan’s saber-rattling.


  21. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    Downstater

    I understand that times are tough. I am a former merit comp manager that got into the union because I did’t receive a raise for 4 years (and actually got a 4% pay cut because I had to start paying for my pension). These 4 years occurred during the economic boom of the early 00’s. The governor & legislators were constantly making promises to people in order to get re-elected rather than taking care of the responsibilities that already existed. The pension mess is the fault of the state, not the employees. I have been paying 4% of my income into the pension for years. The state is constitutionally obligated to ensure I receive the pension I earned. The fact that choices were made to not make the required payments and make politically motivated expenditures instead is irrelevent. The state has been pleading poverty for years, well before the economy crashed. My work site had it floor mats pulled, gas shut off and garbage collection cease because of nonpayment of bills. This was in 2005-06, when times were good. The state was stiffing me for years when private employers were giving decent raises to its employees. Since I got into the union I have gotten back some of what I should have gotten when I was merit comp. But even after being in the union for 3 years I still am not where I should have been if I had gotten the raises I deserved for all those years.

    “AFSCME Steward
    You should visit some of the private companies and see what has happened to wages, benefits and pension contributions. Wages are stagnet, employees pay 20% or more in premiums, if they have any health coverage, and guaranteed pensions are only a dream. Welcome to the real world!”


  22. - South of Springfield - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:18 pm:

    Question…what agency holds the most AFSCME employees? It’s been stated IDOC & ISP cannot strike.
    IDOT has Teamsters on the road and in the offices, so the effect on IDOT will be very limited. Which state service will suffer the most?


  23. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:22 pm:

    South

    Probably DHS Aging & IDES which provide direct services to the public. Since HFS handles all of the Medicaid other than eligibility determination there would probably disruption in benefits there as well.

    “Question…what agency holds the most AFSCME employees? It’s been stated IDOC & ISP cannot strike.
    IDOT has Teamsters on the road and in the offices, so the effect on IDOT will be very limited. Which state service will suffer the most?”


  24. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:26 pm:

    wordslinger @ 11:39 am:

    Given the fact the case is in court right now and (I believe) the state lost their pre-trial “unfounded” motion to dismiss, it isn’t anywhere near as clear cut as Madigan claims. Seems the judge thinks there is an issue to be heard.

    If the retirees win, that pretty much rules out the proposed choice bill or any other reduction of current benefits. That saber could turn out to be a rubber toy.


  25. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    AFSCME Steward @ 12:22 pm

    Aren’t IDES employees in a bit different status because a lot of them are paid directly with federal money … as opposed to indirectly with federal pass-thru like some other agencies?


  26. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:38 pm:

    RNUG

    AFSCME Steward @ 12:22 pm

    I don’t work for IDES, but if they are covered by the AFSCME contract they would be eligible to strike. Hopefully we won’t get to that point.

    “Aren’t IDES employees in a bit different status because a lot of them are paid directly with federal money … as opposed to indirectly with federal pass-thru like some other agencies?”


  27. - Anon* - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 12:54 pm:

    South,
    State Troopers cannot strike but all the other ISP employees can. Code employees process the tickets and reports, complete payoll and a myriad of other duties. If they strike the troopers will have no paychecks, no tickets and no gas.


  28. - anon - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:02 pm:

    I’m not sure who you all are talking to, but the AFSCME members I know are saying that we will not be forced backwards. (THat’s why AFSCME proposed a pay freeze the first year). It’s one thing not to move forward, but Quinn’s concessions on health insurance and other issues are a huge cut. These workers provide important public services that keep our streets safe, protect our kids. care for our veterans and more. They are looking for respect and an end to Quinn’s scapegoatting.


  29. - Anon. - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:06 pm:

    ==Question…what agency holds the most AFSCME employees? It’s been stated IDOC & ISP cannot strike.
    IDOT has Teamsters on the road and in the offices, so the effect on IDOT will be very limited. Which state service will suffer the most?==

    It may not be very big in numbers of employees, but IDOR is 99% AFSCME. Maybe daring AFSCME to strike doesn’t make the Governor a closet Scott Walker anti-union conservative, but a Grover Norquist “starve the beast” reactionary?


  30. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:23 pm:

    AFSCME Steward @ 12:38 pm:

    My memory from years back during another contract fight is the “federal” IDES employees had different rules.


  31. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:23 pm:

    Downstater,

    Corporations are making record profits, while wages are at a record low. The fact that I may have to make sacrifices as a state worker to help this great state is not an issue with me. What is an issue with me is the race to the bottom, which is done when private sector workers accept defeat and don’t somehow strive for better pay and benefits. Some of these workers resent people like me more than those who make umpteen times what I do and push for laws that increase their profits to the detriment of workers. The resentment really benefits the wealthy who use it politically, but not the workers.


  32. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:25 pm:

    ==Why do public employee unions continue to feel their members are “entitled” to such generous benefits at this time? There is no money!!!
    And the rest of us are going broke trying to pay for them.==

    Bull. Just because others may pay something higher doesn’t translate into screwing state employees. I could care less what you think. I’m not going down without a fight. I’m not in the union. I don’t get raises. And I certainly cannot afford to pay the exhorbitant increase that they are proposing. And, by the way, this continued argument that somehow we escape the same state taxes you pay is ridiculous. Bite me.


  33. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:44 pm:

    When I was involved with a federally-funded program(s) with the state, Quinn and Blago did not fill federally-funded union positions or spend money on equipment or travel within about year of elections based on their concerns with “perception of the public”. I understand that unused money and unpaid union wages were simply “de-obligated” back to the feds and the state just lost the money. I assume that any vacant positions during a strike would simply be money lost from the state. Further I have never seen “No strike clauses in federal funding agreements (there may cases?)
    I can say for certain that the Quinn administration has no qualms about losing considerable federal funding and harming programs to make its point.


  34. - uniongal - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:47 pm:

    ANON- An AFSCME rep said in a meeting at our agency last week that no notice is needed since PQ terminated the contract.

    I’m starting to wonder what the fight is really about. It’s a fair assumption we won’t be getting any cola the first year. I can’t see the admin agreeing to any 2-3-4% raises we’ve seen in past years. So what are we talking about here? Increased health premiums + MAYBE 1% cola (and steps, if you’re eligible?) for each of two years? One isn’t going to zero out the other. No matter what I can’t see what we can feasable expect strike or no strike. At this point I might be happy with no cola and no health insurance premium bump, but only for the next three years.


  35. - blondie - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:51 pm:

    I dont understand why people seem to think a long strike would be needed? I don’t see untrained people able to step in and process medical card, link applications. OR process the tax payments and returns that come in daily. Either one of these not being done will cause a major crisis in the function of the state.


  36. - Demoralized - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 1:52 pm:

    @Anon*

    That’s not true. Other personnel can be designated as “essential.” Payroll would be one of those areas. Those individuals would not be allowed to strike.


  37. - Burnham the Monk - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:04 pm:

    If there’s a strike, I’m betting Quinn will attempt some kind of executive order to force the employees back to work or lose their jobs. I’m fairly certain this is the end-game — bust the strike, cripple the union, save a week’s worth of labor costs, and then tout the “I forced ASCME to concede” as part of a re-election strategy.

    I’m certain Quinn is planning to use the strike as a way to gain political points among those folks who think state employees aren’t racing to the bottom fast enough. If this is the case, it’s appalling — but based on the fact that Quinn refuses to honor and breaks the previous contract, I’m certain this is the end game. Quinn wins because he forced state workers to lose — or lose their jobs.


  38. - Crime Fighter - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:26 pm:

    =”among those folks who think state employees aren’t racing to the bottom fast enough”=

    An excellent characterization of those who call for the 2 wrongs make a right crowd against workers.

    Remember,even as all workers suffer, times aren’t that bad. Corporate profits are at record highs, the market has been doing great since the crash, companies are sitting on cash, and taxes and borrowing are at historic lows for the most prosperous (bailed out or otherwise).

    Calls to lower the standard among state workers instead of raising the standard of others is sounding increasingly bogus.


  39. - Fuzzy - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:27 pm:

    Overheard recently in the vicinity of about 50 disruptive green-shirted, sign-carrying members of AFSCME:
    “What do a two-year old toddler and a member of AFSCME have in common?”
    “What?”
    “They both think they’re the center of the universe.”


  40. - Sgtstu - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:28 pm:

    Here is a little twist I have not seen anyone mention yet. All of the merit comp people that went union will not be able to cross the Afscme picket lines. True they might not belong to Afscme, but if their union is part of the Afl-Cio they can’t cross the line. Then what ?


  41. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:40 pm:

    For those saying the State won’t be able to last more than a week without the workers, in a lot of cases that is not true.

    Yes, prision guards, police and other life / safety hands-on staff are needed … and you can bet they are already designated “essential personnel”.

    But stop and think for a minute; a lot of the State’s spending on things like welfare is computerized and mostly on auto-pilot. You may not be able to add new people to the systems very quickly or at all, and you may not be checking to see if people’s eligibility has expired, but the computers can keep cranking out the benefits since almost everything is done with electronic funds transfers.

    As long as those checks and funds transfers get processed, a strike won’t be that crippling. And I’d bet dinner, or maybe even Rich’s bar tab, that there is a contigency plan to keep the checks and benefit authorizations running. I KNOW such a plan used to exist …


  42. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:53 pm:

    Sgtstu

    ????? What are you talking about ? All of the former merit comp people that I know are all AFSCME, including me. Nearly all at my work location are on board for a strike (I only know of 1 that I am not sure of).

    “Here is a little twist I have not seen anyone mention yet. All of the merit comp people that went union will not be able to cross the Afscme picket lines. True they might not belong to Afscme, but if their union is part of the Afl-Cio they can’t cross the line. Then what ?”


  43. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 2:58 pm:

    RNUG

    I wouldn’t bet on it. There are regular problems with the computers. Without techs to service the databases that regularly crash the benefits won’t go out. Also, there have been monthly problems getting the Medicaid cards out. This month they didn’t go out until around the 5th or 6th of the month.

    “But stop and think for a minute; a lot of the State’s spending on things like welfare is computerized and mostly on auto-pilot. You may not be able to add new people to the systems very quickly or at all, and you may not be checking to see if people’s eligibility has expired, but the computers can keep cranking out the benefits since almost everything is done with electronic funds transfers.”


  44. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:10 pm:

    AFSCME Steward- Thanks for the laugh!

    Your comment “You are obviously very anti union and anti state worker” shows me that you are the ideal AFSCME leader.

    First of all, I am a state worker, although I am not a union member. I currently supervise about 20 AFSCME members. I say “pampered” based on my observations of them and others in our agency.

    I say that AFSCME members have no stomach for a strike when they tell me how fearful they are that a strike would last more than 3 or 4 days. Someone has been telling them that a strike wouldn’t last more than a day or two.

    I’ve never been anti-union, but I am anti the baloney that AFSCME churns out on a regular basis. I’ve belonged to 4 different unions in my life, including AFSCME.

    And for the record- I’m off work today. Are you?


  45. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:12 pm:

    AFSCME Steward @ 2:58 pm

    I’ll bet a know more about all the State systems and their disaster recovery / contigency planning than you do. And one of the plans assumed the computer systems weren’t around to process and there was still a way to get things out …


  46. - Endangered Moderate Species - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:12 pm:

    Several times in this thread I have seen the quote, “Corporate Profits are at a record hight.” Can someone elaborate or point to some facts that backup that statement?


  47. - Ready To Get Out - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:21 pm:

    Endangered

    Watch and read the news.


  48. - Endangered Moderate Species - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:36 pm:

    RTGO- My comment was snark. The point I was trying to make is that the line “Corporate Profits are at a Record High”, is a bit overused. AFSCME is negotiating with the State of Illinois and its revenue is not at a record high. Many corporations are not seeing anything near record profits. Don’t judge all of corporate America on the success of Apple, Nike, etc.

    AFSCME will win this battle in the court room and not in court of public opinion.


  49. - No one had ever brought this up on this blog!!!! - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:37 pm:

    This how crazy the rules are on retiree health care. If I am in prison for rape… Murder…. ANYTHING!!! If my spouse is a state employee… Say, I am paroled for (sake of argument) then I can get on my spouses state health insurance for little over $100. But…if I am a retired state policeman (married to a current state employee) and they raise my health care premiums to $600 - $800. Dollars i can’t get on my spouses health insurance. This rule was changed in 2011.


  50. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:44 pm:

    An interesting discussion thread about how long a strike would last. As with a lot of discussions that we see on the blog, folks extrapolate the macro based upon their experience with the micro. I don’t know enough about every state agency to make any extimate as to the length of a strike. Here are my thoughts based upon my observations:

    - The agencies have already prepared strike plans this year. I won’t comment on the effectiveness of those plans having seen poorly written plans in the past.(I’m curious if AFSCME has any plans on the subject.)

    - There are a lot fewer MC folks to implement those plans now than in the past. I have to believe that it will be hard on those few to manage essential services.

    - There has also been a significant brain drain among state employees. Many of the MC’s left do not have the institutional knowledge to operate programs. The strike plans should have dealt with this by indicating those programs that will be put on hold or slowed down immensely.

    - I don’t have as much respect for the ability of the State’s IT infrastructure to run smoothly as perhaps RNUG does. Public assistance payments will continue to be made, not simply because its so automated, but because this is one of those essential services that some court will order be maintained.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the legislation kicking a lot of former MCs out of the union is passed in the lame duck session to bolster the number of folks who will be available during a strike.

    Like I’ve said before, this will interesting to watch.


  51. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:46 pm:

    No one @ 3:37pm,

    It’s been kind of discussed on Rich’s blog before, a couple of months back.

    You’re referring to SB-1313 / PA97-0695 which was passed in 2011 plugging that loophole. The State envisioned that happening when they start to charge the retirees for health insurance.

    Didn’t see plugging that loophole as a huge deal because, on the premium schedule I’ve heard tossed around, it’s cheaper to pay the proposed retiree amount (33% - 55%) than the proposed dependent amount (95%).

    But whether that happens depends on the current court case.


  52. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:51 pm:

    RNUG,

    Dependent benefits will be a big deal if they pass the choice legislation.


  53. - tired of politics - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:53 pm:

    http://money.cnn.com/2012/12/03/news/economy/record-corporate-profits/index.html


  54. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 3:59 pm:

    Endangered @ 3:36 pm:

    Actually, the State’s “corporate profits” (tax revenue) are at an all time high:

    FY - Billions

    2011 - $29.7
    2010 - $24.8
    2009 - $26.9
    2008 - $29.1
    2007 - $27.9
    2006 - $26.2
    2005 - $24.4
    2004 - $21.7
    2003 - $21.8
    2002 - $22.5
    2001 - $23.3

    Source: IDOR


  55. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:04 pm:

    Norseman @ 3:51 pm

    The point I was making was the $100 dependent payment is a thing of the past. Even if the retirees win on the health insurance in court, that dependent premium is going to go up. I’m resigned to that because the dependent rate was always set by the union contract; it was never part of a work requirement or encoded in state statute.


  56. - Union - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:16 pm:

    There is no way the union will agree to raising the dependent amount to 600 - 800 per month. I think most retirees would agree to pay the same amount for their health insurance as current part time individual house and senate members pay.


  57. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:25 pm:

    Norseman @ 3:44 pm:

    I don’t think the systems are that robust there won’t be meltdowns. I know how much of a pathwork they are ans how much handholding some of the systems take. I’m just saying that, in the past, I’ve seen all the contigency plans and have the expertise to evaluate them.

    When I worked for the State, I used to worry about “doomsday” scenarios like New Madrid breaking loosing like in the 1800’s, or the fault whose name I forget that runs along the northern IL border, or a meltdown at one of the IL nuke sites, or even deliberate terrorist action. Somebody is always worrying about that kind of stuff. As a bit of non-relevant trivia, that is why/how the Internet distributed network routing structure was invented.

    There used to be a plan on the shelf to get the payments out even if the systems went down and stayed down. Like I said arlier, I’d bet Rich’s bar bill that plan is still around.


  58. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:27 pm:

    “patchwork” not pathwork


  59. - PublicServant - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:35 pm:

    If they do come up with ridiculously high dependent premiums would that be cause for an “outside the open enrollment period” enrollment in a spouse’s plan?


  60. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:44 pm:

    Public Servant,

    It is my understanding that once the “retiree” premiums were set and have been through the entire review / approval process (and, at that time, the HMO bids back and the union contract signed), there would be an open enrollment period so the rtirees could chose their plan. Or at least that’s what I heard a CMS bureau chief say at a public RSEA meeting a few months ago …


  61. - PublicServant - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:50 pm:

    RNUG, I’m talking about non-state spouse plans whose open enrollment period isn’t occurring when this mess gets straightened out. All plans allow enrollment outside their open-enrollment period for life-changing events. I’ve heard that we will be allowed to enroll, but I wanted to confirm.


  62. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:55 pm:

    DuPage Dan,
    You keep referring to AFSCME members as pampered. I’m not sure what you mean. Some workers have been abused by supervisors seemingly without consequence. I’ve seen workers who have suffered because of this, dreading to come to work and suffering needlessly in other ways. Other workers have done extra work for supervisors and colleagues without asking for anything extra. These workers are AFSCME members.


  63. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 4:56 pm:

    PublicServant,

    I would think that would depend on the different companies. I’m pretty sure birth, death, marriage, divorce and job loss fall into “life changing”. I don’t know if “my employer raised my rates ridiculously” qualifies. My guess is it would depend on whether the insurer was looking to expand their customer base.


  64. - Sir Reel - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:11 pm:

    A strike would be interesting. With few knowledgeable MC employees left, who would run things? As a retired non-union employee, I can’t see who would do the work. I’d like to see what happens with a strike.


  65. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:13 pm:

    Sir Reel,

    Think “cash in” time! Some of us knowledgable retired MC’s could ask ridiculous amounts per day.


  66. - PublicServant - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:23 pm:

    RNUG, I’ve started an S-Corp. Open to changing the name to Institutional Knowledge, Inc. I’m also a Service Disabled Veteran of the Marine Corps.


  67. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:49 pm:

    PS, let us know if you need any temps lol.


  68. - Ruby - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 5:51 pm:

    The United States spends more on health care than any other country but our medical outcomes are not better than many other countries. Medical spending in the United States rises faster than inflation. This is the problem that needs to be addressed.


  69. - Emily Booth - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 6:40 pm:

    Food stamp benefits require someone to make an eligibility determination for applications and reapplications and then to get the first and sometimes second and third month’s benefits on. This is done manually. It is not automated. I would hate to see people, which includes the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly and children, go without food. Applications for public assistance programs in general require an eligibility determination and manual transmission.


  70. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 7:28 pm:

    PublicServant,

    If you’re female or if you put 51% in your spouse or girlfriend’s name, you’ve got about all the bases covered. LOL!

    But you know what … it probably won’t matter, because who will be left to process the bids and paperwork? If it gets that bad, someone will just have to let a bunch of emergency contracts on whatever basis they can dream up …


  71. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 7:39 pm:

    Emily Booth @ 6:40 pm

    If they get as far as implementing the one “doomsday” plan I alluded to, the State won’t be worrying about a minor thing like eligibility recertification. If you read between the lines of what I’ve written today, you can figure it out.

    This is nothing new; these kinds of contigency plans have been around for at least 30+ years I know of.


  72. - park - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:05 pm:

    Too many repeat (repeat repeat) posters here. RNUG…who the heck are you?

    It will be fascinating to watch this play out. Bill’s right…if you don’t have the guts to fight for your rights, you don’t deserve them.

    With the number of state ee’s that are unionized, 80% of state government would shut down within 18 hours. maybe 90%. The union people here need to recognize how much leverage they really have…now use it.


  73. - Anonymouse - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:14 pm:

    RNUG — You know far less than you think. I’m not sure why all you retired folks think you know things that current workers don’t. Seriously — you’re an old guy. You’re out of it. Give it up. No one gives a $&%& about what you knew 20 years ago.


  74. - wordslinger - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:22 pm:

    –The United States spends more on health care than any other country but our medical outcomes are not better than many other countries. Medical spending in the United States rises faster than inflation.–

    Ruby, that’s the ballgame and we’re just starting to wrap our heads around it. I hope we can get beyond the Fascist/Communistic/Green Bay Packer assault on all that is good of Romneycare. Oops, Obamacare.

    It could go a couple of ways: we could continue to maintain a ludicrous, splintered system in which it costs every one a lot for great health care or bad, at enormous profits for insurers and providers.

    Or, we could follow the rest of humanity and recognize that health care is a universal need and demand, the same as clean water, shelter, electricity, clothing and food, and those that provide it are going to take a haircut, but still make a fortune while charging us all, less.

    Let’s see, we live in the United States, and everyone works and can see the amazing advances, every day, in medical science. I think most of us would like to live longer, better, stronger.

    Which way do you think it’s going to go?

    Figuring it out, that’s a good problem to have, but that’s all why we went to school.


  75. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:27 pm:

    Anonymouse, besides showing folks how rude you can be, can you impart your wisdom on what is incorrect. I’ve only been out a few months and I suspect that RNUG still knows more than you.


  76. - Anonymouse - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:33 pm:

    ==
    Anonymouse, besides showing folks how rude you can be, can you impart your wisdom on what is incorrect. I’ve only been out a few months and I suspect that RNUG still knows more than you==

    Um, no. If you’re out, you’re out. No one’s gonna hire you back as scabs — so fugetaboutit.

    You guys show you true colors when you think the state is gonna pay you big bucks for ancient wisdom.

    Believe it or not, the current batch of not old guys and gals are actually pretty smart. Thanks anyway, though.


  77. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:40 pm:

    Hey Word, you’ve gone too far speaking ill of my Packers! Go Pack Go!


  78. - Norseman - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:52 pm:

    Anonymouse, I took that as snark. Even if offered, I wouldn’t go back to help them through a strike. While I don’t agree with every AFSCME position, I see its efforts to hold down health insurance costs and maintaining pension benefits as being in the best interest of MC workers and retirees.


  79. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 8:58 pm:

    park,

    Someone who thinks politics is a great spectator sport, even when it is personally affecting me.

    Seriously, I’m a retired former Merit Comp with many years of government experience (hence Retired Non-Union Guy), done some private sector consulting, and written some books. I won’t bore you with the details. I also know part of the union side of things because some of my ancestors founded a trade union local.


  80. - Anonymouse - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:08 pm:

    Quinn — and apparently RNUG et al. — underestimate the willingness of AFSCME to strike. We’re sick of it. Sick of Blagojegich (and glad he’s in prison), sick of Quinn’s dopey letter (when Obama is in Michigan as we speak talking about unions and how important they are) and sick of Madigan (and his veiled but clearly unconstitutional threats) — if ever there’s been a time for a strike, it’s right now.

    Quinn won’t get a win. AFSCME will strike. And, yes, Illinois government will snap shut in a matter of days.

    You think it’ll go on for weeks? The strike will last for days, and Quinn will lose. Quinn won’t win reelection, but AFSCME will not be set back. There’s too much at stake, and the only loser will be Quinn and his advisors.

    And Squeezy.


  81. - wishbone - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:15 pm:

    “I don’t see untrained people able to step in and process medical card, link applications.”

    Let’s see. Reagan replaced the air traffic controllers and made it stick. Do you think processing a medical card is harder than guiding a passenger jet to a landing?


  82. - Anonymouse - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:21 pm:

    ++
    Let’s see. Reagan replaced the air traffic controllers and made it stick. Do you think processing a medical card is harder than guiding a passenger jet to a landing?++

    Well, if you’re an Illinois democrat, it’s not something that wins elections.


  83. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 9:25 pm:

    Anonymouse @ 8:14 pm:

    I have no intention of going back to work at the State again, even though I’ve had several contracts since I retired, one recently.


  84. - western illinois - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:05 pm:

    Why is Quinn so focused on the retiree health care unless he knows he is going to lose in court.
    Was that the moment he canceled the contract?


  85. - Rusty618 - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:26 pm:

    If the AFSCME employee’s were on the same level as the Governor and the state legislator, they would be the highest paid in the country, but that is not the case. They just want a fair deal.
    Just to clear up a few issues about the State Police and a strike. Yes, the sworn troopers cannot strike, but code personnel like the telecommunicators and crime lab analysts can strike.


  86. - RNUG - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 10:51 pm:

    western illinois @ 10:05 pm

    State’s FY2013 Budget Skimps on Group Health Insurance

    http://www.civicfed.org/iifs/blog/state%E2%80%99s-fy2013-budget-skimps-group-health-insurance

    To summarize, the GA only funded about 1/2 the requested amount.


  87. - western illinois - Monday, Dec 10, 12 @ 11:28 pm:

    I guess they could try the OK we owe it but cant fund it argument…which you could use on bondholders too….

    Where is that Casino money supposed to go?


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