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Good News on Pay for Illinois Public Service Workers

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By Anders Lindall Explore the Issues Labor Movement Public Service Workers' Rights

An Illinois court has given state employees a big reason to a heave a collective sigh of relief – at least for now.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Robert LeChien has denied a request by the Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to dissolve an order won by AFSCME and other unions that represent state employees. That paves the way for state workers to continue to get paid on time and in full even in the absence of an enacted state budget.

Legal counsel for the unions argued that by agreeing to abide by court orders the General Assembly has in effect appropriated funds for state employee payrolls. The judge said he did not want to see state government shut down and that the evidence favored continuing to pay state employees.

Madigan plans to appeal.

“Through all state government’s chaos of the past two years, the people of Illinois have been able to rely on state workers to be there, providing important public services,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “This decision ensures that that commitment can continue.”

State workers are holding their first-ever strike authorization vote a year after Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner walked out on contract negotiations.

The governor wants to impose his own terms, including a 100 percent hike in employee costs for health care, a four-year wage and step freeze and the end of rules that prevent reckless privatization. Rauner’s proposals for huge health care cost increases and a four-year wage freeze would cut the state employees’ average pay by $10,000.

Council 31 members are deciding whether to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike. That vote, which began Jan. 30 in each local across Illinois, ends Sunday.