By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Some 42,000 home care and child care providers in Illinois will get raises and receive long-withheld pay under an agreement reached recently between SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Governor J.B. Pritzker.
About 28,000 personal assistants in the Department of Human Services’ Home Services Program have been denied a 48-cent hourly raise for 20 months because former Governor Bruce Rauner refused to sign off on it.
In addition, 14,000 workers in the Child Care Assistance Program were denied a 4.26 percent wage increase for eight months, also because Rauner refused to pay.
“These caregivers provide valuable services to their communities, supporting independent living for people with disabilities and delivering quality child care so low-income working parents can remain in the workforce,” the union said.
The General Assembly put the 48-cent raise into the state budget that was eventually passed over Rauner’s veto. After Rauner refused to pay them, the workers filed a class-action suit, which won in circuit court and on appeal.
The new agreement establishes a time-line to grant the raises and begin releasing the back pay, starting April 1 and continuing through late fall. The pay for home care workers has been held in an escrow account, now with more than $29 million. Most of the workers make about $13 an hour.
‘ON THE SIDE OF WORKING FAMILIES’
“Today, we are putting the state of Illinois back on the side of working families and rebuilding the vital services and the workforces that deliver them to people with disabilities, working parents and kids in every corner of our state,” Pritzker said. “We look forward to continuing to stabilize these programs together, and we share a commitment to fixing other harmful Rauner policies through the bargaining process.”
Rauner had argued in court that any raises should be determined in contract negotiations. Cook County Circuit Judge David Atkins rejected that and ordered Rauner to pay up but Rauner appealed instead.
AFSCME DUE RAISES, BACK PAY, TOO
Upon his election, Pritzker also promised to unfreeze pay levels for about 20,000 state workers who belong to AFSCME Council 31. Rauner had put a freeze on their step increases, based on years on the job, in 2015.
Pritzker’s first order was to determine what level each employee should be on as of April 1, and that process is under way.
Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said that will be a good first step.
“AFSCME stopped Bruce Rauner’s illegal step freeze in the courts and voters rejected him at the ballot box,” Lynch said. “Now Illinois can begin cleaning up the mess Rauner left behind, and for more than 20,000 state workers, that means ensuring everyone is placed on their proper step and paid what they are owed. Knowing that employees will be back where they belong as of April 1 is a welcome step in the right direction.”