Illinois' largest state employee union is poised to keep its workers among the highest-paid state employees in the nation – with wages surpassing the average private-sector employee in the state – under the terms of a pending four-year contract deal.
The AFSCME Council 31 union never came to terms on a new contract with former Gov. Bruce Rauner, as it fought with the Rauner administration over issues in the courts after a request for an impasse declaration. The union endorsed Gov. J.B. Pritzker in the 2018 election. That endorsement could soon pay off, according to details from the four-year contract.
Leaked contract details obtained by The Center Square Illinois show state employees in the AFSCME bargaining unit would get 11.5 percent more in pay raises over four years. Union members would have to contribute more to the cost of their health care plans. This would be the union's first contract in four years. Union officials didn't immediately return messages seeking comment Friday.
Illinois Policy Institute staff attorney Mailee Smith said the total cost of the contract was not yet known. However, she said any savings from the proposed increase in state employee contributions to their healthcare costs would be offset by a proposed $2,500 stipend for each employee, depending on tenure.
“The estimated savings of $29 million that those slightly increased contributions will save, that’s completely wiped out by the $2,500 stipend, which will cost taxpayers $95 million,” Smith said.
A summary of the contract showed the health insurance increases for employees are between $13 to $18 per month, and increase each year by the same amount for the life of the contract.
Union employees would get a 1.5 percent pay raise in the first year and a 2.1 percent increase in the second year. Employees would get 3.95 percent raises in the final two years of the contract, leading into the 2022 election for governor.
Smith said the contract the union is set to ratify with a governor it endorsed showed more of the same in Illinois.
“The playing field in Illinois is rigged against the taxpayers in favor of the unions when it comes to contract negotiations,” Smith said.
The Institute said Bureau of Economic Analysis data showed Illinois state workers earn on average more than $90,000. When benefits, including pensions, are included, total compensation for state workers was more than $30,000 higher than the average private sector worker’s total compensation.
Illinois state workers make 18 percent more in total annual compensation than the average state worker nationwide. Illinois ranked second highest in terms of average wages and salaries per state employee, the Institute said.
The contract would bring back full funding for the Upward Mobility Program, which pays for some higher education costs for eligible employees.
There's also a prohibition of the employer providing any information pertaining to bargaining unit employees to any third-party entity unless required to do so by law.
Dental premiums would increase by $1 a month in the last three years of the contract. Retirees with at least 20 years of service wouldn't pay premiums for health care coverage.
The contract outline said there was no weakening of limits on privatization, no reduction in overtime pay, no reductions in holiday pay, no diminishment of existing layoff protections, and no weakening of seniority as a factor in promotions.
Maternity and paternity leave would increase to 10 weeks with pay.
"If both parents are employees of the state, they will now each be entitled to the full leave, which can be taken either consecutive or concurrently, instead of having to split one paid leave, making Illinois a leader in family-friendly policies," according to the outline.
"I urge you to vote to ratify this agreement as your Bargaining Committee has unanimously recommended," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch wrote in the outline.
AFSCME unit members with voting authority could ratify the deal within the next few weeks.