* The AP follows up on a story that first appeared here yesterday…
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn wants Attorney General Lisa Madigan to drop a lawsuit over back pay for unionized state workers so he can implement a new state contract he says will save hundreds of millions of dollars.
But Madigan’s office said Thursday the attorney general won’t dissolve the legal action until her lawyers know whether lawmakers will put up $140 million to pay the back wages that are at the center of the wrangling. If there’s a hang-up in the General Assembly, the attorney general needs to keep legal options open, spokeswoman Natalie Bauer said.
Quinn and the employees’ union settled the dispute at the bargaining table, and his assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch, said prolonging the lawsuit holds up $900 million in health care savings. The union won’t sign the contract its membership ratified until the lawsuit is pulled off the docket.
Madigan, a Chicago Democrat like Quinn, is considering opposing him in the gubernatorial primary next spring, but officials were careful Thursday to stress the lawsuit is not a question of political ill will. […]
Quinn wants to put the rancor behind him now, particularly with election season approaching, but also because there are savings to be had. While he gave up the fight over the raises, Quinn is eager to realize the health care savings from current and retired state workers in the newly ratified pact, Pallasch said.
“Failing to resolve the $64 million lawsuit now risks the $900 million in health care savings for taxpayers under the contract,” he said.
This is a real standoff. Right now, it doesn’t look like the GA is in any mood to fund the back pay. So the lawsuit won’t be dropped. But that means the contract won’t be signed. The whole thing could come tumbling down, and might even spark another contract vote.
*** UPDATE *** AFSCME just sent this e-mail to its members…
AFSCME has informed the Quinn Administration that the union is not prepared to sign the new contract without further authorization from the union membership. Your AFSCME Bargaining Committee is convening on Monday to recommend a course of action—and further information will be coming to you soon.
I know that the situation can be confusing and frustrating—especially for those employees who have not received their negotiated raises. However, it’s critical to keep in mind how far we have come by standing together and standing firm.
When the pay raise was initially withheld, AFSCME immediately took the issue to arbitration—and won. When the State appealed that decision to court, the Union battled through all the legal delays and maneuvers and secured a ruling that the contract must be honored. When the state said it had no money to pay any raises, AFSCME’s research turned up tens of millions of dollars which resulted in thousands of employees receiving the wages owed over the past two years and many more in line to receive monies from the funds held in escrow.
We’ve succeeded time and again when others said it couldn’t be done. We’re not going to give up now. We’ll keep on fighting to ensure that justice is done for all members. And if all members stand together, we can succeed once more.
*** UPDATE 2 *** If you click here, you’ll see an amendment to a Speaker Madigan bill filed today by Rep. John Bradley which appears to fund the back pay.