Quinn, union members react to AFSCME suit

July 9, 2011 8:36:08 PM PDT
A major state employee union filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Pat Quinn and the state of Illinois in response to Quinn's decision to cancel raises for thousands of workers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) filed the suit Friday in Springfield. It's the latest step to put pressure on Quinn over his decision to rescind $75 million in raises.

State Revenue Tax Specialist Al Taylor's union AFSCME took concessions, furlough days and deferred raises in order to keep jobs. It was part of an agreement with Quinn, which was struck last year before the union endorsed Quinn for re-election. But after 23 years of working in the state's revenue department, Taylor is fighting for his own paycheck.

"I got to pay bills like everyone else pays bills, so every little bit helps. We have an agreement with this governor, and he made us believe his word was bond," Taylor said. "Him telling us he has no money for us after we signed this agreement, to do what he did is bogus."

As part of that agreement with the governor, Taylor is one of 30,000 employees who were supposed to get a 2 percent raise on July 1, but Quinn put a stop to it, blaming the General Assembly for not setting aside the money.

"My view of the law is that, it says very specifically in the law that any of these raises are dependent on appropriations passed by the General Assembly and the General Assembly chose not to appropriate millions of dollars," Quinn said at an unrelated news conference on Saturday. "I have a choice. If I listen to the unions, they want me to pay the raises and get the money later on."

State Senator Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, says it was the governor, not the legislature, that made the deal with the union in the first place.

"I think we all bear responsibility. I think the legislature bears responsibility. The governor's office bears responsibility, and I think to some extent, labor bears responsibility for not sitting down and negotiating these things out," Raoul said.

On Saturday night, Republican State Senator Kirk Dillard said he agrees with Quinn's decision to cancel the raises but he said the governor has clearly boxed himself in with the union.

An AFSCME spokesperson says that on Tuesday there will be a statewide picket. There will be hundreds of workers at dozens of locations protesting the governor's decision to not hand out the raises.

"Our members put their lives on the line every day in state prisons; they protect kids from abuse and neglect; they take care of people with disabilities and elderly veterans who have no one else to look after them. They deserve to be paid in accordance to the contract," said Anders Lindall, AFSCME.

Additionally, the $75 million AFSCME wants in raises comes at a time when the cash-strapped state is also threatened by a State Supreme Court ruling expected Monday that may take away $31 billion in funding for statewide construction because its funding is coming from taxes on liquor, candy and allowing video gambling.

"I hope it comes out in a positive direction for jobs but the judges have a job to do," Quinn said.

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