Quinn rips rug from under organized labor

July 1, 2011

Kristen McQueary

One of the state’s largest labor unions on Friday compared Gov. Pat Quinn to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker after Quinn’s office announced it could not honor anticipated pay raises.

“Republican governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Chris Christie of New Jersey and others have recently sought changes in law to eliminate the right of collective bargaining for public employees,” American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said in a statement. “By choosing to simply ignore a legally binding agreement, Pat Quinn has sunk even lower.”

Quinn often has criticized Walker’s controversial attempts to weaken collective bargaining rights, saying in March Walker “should be ashamed of himself” and touting Illinois as a state that “respects public workers.”

But on the first day of the Illinois 2012 Fiscal Year, Quinn’s office surprised union officials by entering an emergency order to block the first of three negotiated pay raises, which would have totaled 5.25 percent by Feb. 1. About 30,000 unionized workers were expecting 2 percent raises to begin Friday, followed by a 1.25 percent hike in January and 2 percent more in February.

State worker raises have been delayed twice already due to state budget constraints.

Quinn’s office said it included enough money for the raises in the budget he introduced earlier this year. Legislators, however, pared down those numbers in the blueprint they sent to Quinn, according to Kelly Kraft, spokeswoman for Quinn’s Office of Management and Budget.

The state, despite a 67 percent income tax increase in January, still faces a $4 billion backlog of unpaid bills and an unfunded pension liability of nearly $80 billion, one of the worst balance sheets in the nation.

Bayer said AFSCME would take the state to court to force it to honor the raises.