Appellate court says Rauner must give raises owed to state workers

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By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Mount Vernon, IL – An Illinois appellate court has ruled that Governor Bruce Rauner violated state labor law by not paying thousands of state workers raises they were owed over the past two years.

AFSCME Council 31 reports that Rauner’s Department of Central Management Services blocked scheduled step raises under the workers’ contracts beginning July 1, 2015, when the contracts were scheduled to expire.

The union took the issue to the Rauner-appointed Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB), which dismissed the union’s claim that the administration had committed an unfair labor practice.

On Nov. 5, however, the 5th Appellate District Court overturned the Labor Relations Board ruling in an opinion written by Appellate Judge Melissa Chapman and concurred with by judges Judy Cates and Richard Goldenhersh.

TIME TO PAY UP

Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said Rauner needs to act now to see that the workers are properly paid.

“We’re pleased that the court has halted Governor Rauner’s illegal action preventing thousands of public service workers from receiving their lawful step increases,” she said. “This is money that working people were promised when they were hired, money they have earned and are counting on to help support their families and pay their bills.

“Illegally denying steps to the newest-hired and lowest-paid state employees fits Bruce Rauner’s pattern of anti-worker behavior,” Lynch added. “Rauner should refrain from appealing this decision and move swiftly to place employees at the appropriate step on the pay scale.”

AFSCME’s legal case said state law prevents either party to a collective bargaining agreement from making unilateral changes to the terms and conditions of employment while a new agreement is being negotiated, and that it requires employers to maintain the status quo.

The court agreed. “There is no dispute that the step increases are a term or condition of employment, and there is no real question that (the administration)  made a unilateral decision to withhold the step increases during negotiations,” the decision said. “The ILRB’s finding that CMS did not commit an unfair labor practice was clearly erroneous.”

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