* Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune editorial board thundered its outrage over not being able to obtain an official copy of the new AFSCME contract with the state…
We’ve been asking for a copy since Feb. 28, the day the two sides announced the agreement. Quinn’s office said we had to wait until union members ratified the contract. That happened on March 19.
Since then, we’ve been told the lawyers needed time to tidy up the paperwork.
A full month of tidying? Sorry, but we’re out of patience. Taxpayers are picking up the tab for this contract. They deserve to know how much Quinn and the employee union ordered up in pay and benefits. In fact, taxpayers should have the opportunity to weigh in before the contract gets finalized with Quinn’s signature.
* So, I contacted a few folks to see if I could find out what was going on. Why couldn’t we get an official copy? We’ve already seen the copy that went out to union members, but what about the final copy? Anders Lindall with AFSCME e-mailed me back late yesterday afternoon…
As you know, once finalized, our state contract is publicly available; the previous contract is posted in its entirety on the CMS website. With respect to the new agreement, you and others have reported on all key provisions, even publishing our internal summary that covers economic issues as well changes in workplace practices, policies and procedures. But at this point, with the contract not yet signed and the parties still finalizing finely-tuned language changes, there is simply nothing more to release.
Wait. The contract isn’t signed? It was ratified weeks ago.
Why isn’t the contract signed?
Like I say, parties still finalizing language.
*** UPDATE 1 *** This may help clear things up, thanks to a commenter. From a message to union members from Henry Bayer…
The Administration has moved forward to fulfill these commitments:
1. The FY 14 budget that the governor submitted to the General Assembly includes funding to bring all employees to their proper wage level pursuant to the previous and the current contract.
2. The Administration is now moving forward on the dispersal of the escrowed funds. These are monies that the union had demonstrated to the court were appropriated in the FY12 budget and could therefore be used toward payment of the back wages owed for FY12. There is approximately $42 million in this fund. Many of the dollars are restricted in how they can be allocated (e.g., federal grants for specific purposes or appropriations for specific agencies), so the distribution to employees will not be uniform and the restrictions may prevent all of the $42 million from being distributed. Allocation of these funds is in the process of final review and affected employees will be notified in the coming weeks.
3. The remainder of the back pay owed (approximately $154 million) requires a supplemental appropriation by the General Assembly. The Administration has drafted the supplemental and expects it to be introduced next week.
4. The Governor’s Office notified Attorney General Lisa Madigan that the appeal of the circuit court ruling should be withdrawn. To date, the Attorney General has failed to do so, indicating that she is conducting a thorough review of the case before reaching a decision as to how to proceed.
Council 31 staff have been working intensively for weeks now to finalize the new contract, which requires ensuring the accuracy of the specific wording of the contract language and verifying all elements of the health plan and other economic components.
However, the new contract has not been signed, pending the state’s action on the lawsuit. [Emphasis added.]
So, it’s not all about the “language.” Attorney General Madigan is holding up the union’s signature. I’ll ask her why right now. Check back.
But, yes, the health plan language is still a sticking point. There’s some debate over what type of health plan should now be used. More on that another time.
*** UPDATE 2 *** The attorney general’s office responds…
It’s our understanding that the full payment of backpay is dependent on a special appropriation. We know the Legislature, the Governor and AFSCME are working on that. In the meantime, until a special appropriation bill moves forward, it’s most appropriate to put the lawsuits on hold, as the Governor, the legislature and AFSCME continue their work.