Quinn rejects original plan to raise salaries

State workers’ frustration over Gov. Pat Quinn’s refusal to grant raises boiled over Tuesday, as they gathered in Champaign and across 74 other work sites in Illinois to picket and protest the decision.

A handful of local state workers assembled on a sweltering sidewalk outside the Employment Security office in Champaign. State workers accuse Quinn of reneging on contractual obligations that would have allocated $75 million in raises to about 30,000 workers in 14 state agencies.

“We’re picketing because we’re shocked and angry at Gov. Quinn’s refusal to honor our collective bargaining agreement,” said Tara McCauley, staff representative for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, who was passing out signs that read, “Gov. Quinn: Keep Your Word.”

According to Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31, state employees have already made sacrifices to stave off layoffs, including two previous instances of state workers agreeing to defer portions of previous pay increases.

“Our union sat down with the governor and reached cost saving agreements that included deferring parts of three different scheduled pay increases, taking unpaid furlough days, making changes to (employees’) health plans and contributing dozens of cost savings ideas about how to do their work more efficiently and more effectively,” Lindall said.

“All together, those cost savings agreements have saved the state and ultimately saved taxpayers $450 million.” Lindall explained that under the initial conditions of the union’s contract, state employees would receive a 4 percent raise July 1, but agreed to suspend half the increase until next year, and instead take a 2 percent raise.

“They didn’t agree to give up the increase entirely, but that’s what Governor Quinn is trying unilaterally to impose,” Lindall said.

AFSCME has filed a lawsuit and a grievance over the denial of the raises.

Quinn defended his actions during a news conference Tuesday, saying the responsibility for the pay freeze lies with the General Assembly, which did not appropriate money for the raises.

“If they want a raise they should contact a local legislator and ask them to vote for that,” Quinn said.

“Because if they don’t vote for funding for those raises, the governor does not have the power under our constitution to award raises to 33,000 state workers.”

In the opinion of Lindall, pinning the blame on the General Assembly does not hold water.

“The fact of the matter is that according to the governor’s office’s own figures, the pay increase would cost about $70 million, the state budget is about $33 billion, so the cost of the scheduled increase is about two one-thousandths of the state budget,” he said.

“There are any number of ways in which he can manage the budget and keep his legal and contractual obligations to the men and women who do the real work of state government; he hasn’t tried any. Instead he is trying to look for excuses for his own hypocritical behavior.”