AFSCME renews push for back pay appropriation
When the Illinois General Assembly comes back into session later this month, AFSCME’s lobbying team will be working to build support for Senate Bill 2269, legislation that would fund the remaining back pay still owed to thousands of state employees since a pay raise was withheld in 2011.
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that the wages are owed to employees, but that they cannot be paid without a legislative appropriation.
The new bill’s chief sponsor, Senator Andy Manar (D-Macoupin), points out that these back wages are “the oldest debt in state government.” He believes it has a good chance of passing because “the facts are on our side.”
Sen. Manar stresses that back pay is a bipartisan issue that should be supported by Republicans and Democrats alike. In fact, his chief co-sponsor is Sen. Sam McCann, a Republican from an adjoining central Illinois district.
But this will be another year of budget battles without sufficient revenues to meet the state’s needs, so it won’t be an easy fight to win passage of the back pay appropriation. We’ve got to make sure that legislators know that state employees deserve to be paid the money owed.
Call the AFSCME hotline today at 888-912-5959 or click-to-call and urge your state senator to vote YES on SB 2269!
The story of back wages owed to state employees goes back to 2011, when the Quinn Administration failed to pay a negotiated wage increase, citing lack of appropriated funds. AFSCME took the matter to arbitration and an independent arbitrator ruled that the union contract was binding and the increase must be paid. But the state appealed the arbitrator’s decision to state court.
After a very lengthy legal battle, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the wages were indeed owed, but could not be paid without a special appropriation. AFSCME won inclusion of some $50 million in the FY 2015 budget to pay a portion of what was owed state employees in back wages.
Newly-introduced Senate Bill 2269 will provide for an appropriation of $63.3 million to pay the remainder of wages owed.
“Given the state’s ongoing budgetary shortfall, it will be an uphill fight,” said Council 31 Legislative Director Joanna Webb-Gauvin. “But every legislator should recognize that failing to pay monies owed is a form of wage theft.”