* A spokesman for Gov. Pat Quinn says the state plans to appeal. This is AFSCME’s statement, with one from Quinn supposedly coming soon…
Frontline state employees represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 won a partial but important victory in Cook County Circuit Court yesterday when Judge Richard Billik ordered that the administration of Governor Pat Quinn is obligated to pay wages the governor has unilaterally withheld from some 30,000 state workers since July 2011.
Governor Quinn refused to pay negotiated wage increases provided in the union contract, arguing that the state legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funds. An independent arbitrator subsequently found the Governor in violation of the contract and ordered him to pay the wages, but the administration appealed.
While Billik found that the state cannot immediately pay more than the appropriated amount, he ruled that this argument does not dissolve the state’s contractual obligation. The state must pay what it can now and make employees whole eventually.
“This ruling is a strong affirmation of the union’s clear and simple position: Employees must be paid the wages they are owed, and a contract cannot be unilaterally discarded,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said.
Judge Billik had previously ordered the state to preserve and sequester funds available at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, preventing them from lapsing until the case is decided. He has now ordered the Quinn Administration to work with the Comptroller to place those funds in a trust that cannot be accessed except to pay employees what they are owed. Billik will issue a further ruling clarifying how these funds may be disbursed.
Affected employees are those who work for the Illinois Departments of Corrections, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Natural Resources and Public Health as well as the Human Rights Commission.
“Governor Quinn has wasted hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars with the goal of preventing middle-class public employees from being paid according to their contract and the law,” AFSCME director Bayer said. “We urge the governor to end his wasteful court battle and move forward to pay employees who have waited far too long.”
*** UPDATE *** From the Governor’s office…
The Illinois General Assembly did not appropriate money for raises in its Fiscal Year 12 budget. As the Governor has said repeatedly, the state cannot pay money it does not have the appropriation authority to spend. We will immediately appeal this ruling.