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Illinois’ new deal with AFSCME union to cost taxpayers an additional $620 million

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(The Center Square) – The state of Illinois reached a new contract agreement with members of the AFSCME union that will cost taxpayers an additional $620 million over four years.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Tuesday announced the agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The state’s previous contract with the union expired at the end of June.

The $620 million in additional costs amounts to a raise of nearly 18% during that time. About $200 million of that would be during the current fiscal year.

“Illinois is a pro-worker state, and when it comes to workers’ rights, my administration is committed to ensuring that every Illinoisan has access to good-paying opportunities,” Pritzker said in a statement. “This contract represents a partnership that won’t just expand our pool of state employees. It will strengthen our state’s workforce and provide opportunity for employees and their families.”

Bryce Hill of the Illinois Policy Institute told The Center Square a deal this large could have unfavorable consequences on the state’s taxpayers.

“The AFSCME contract is more generous than what taxpayers can afford,” Hill said. “It’s increasing faster than total personal incomes in the state. It is increasing faster than hourly wages in the state. It’s increasing faster than average weekly earnings. So on virtually every metric, the private sector wage increases are not keeping up with this contract, which means taxpayers are going to see a larger share of their paycheck going towards subsidizing these pay raises.”

In 2022, the Illinois Comptroller’s salary database shows all state employees combined were paid over $6 billion. That’s more than $200 million more than the $5.8 billion spent in 2021.

Hill said along with the new contract, workers will also receive bonuses.

“Current employees of AFSCME are going to get stipends of $1,200 upon the ratification of the agreement,” Hill said. “Not only are there going to be wage gains in excess of what the private sector is getting and what the state can afford, but we are also going to be giving out apparent bonuses to members.”

Pritzker said the negotiations with AFSCME were fair.

“I’m thankful for a productive negotiation that led to a contract which recognizes the valuable contributions of state employees and makes government more efficient,” Pritzker said.

After the announced deal, AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said the new money would help workers cover certain costs.

“AFSCME members care deeply about serving their communities. They go above and beyond to meet challenges like the COVID pandemic and staff shortages,” Lynch said. “This contract helps to address the toll that inflation has taken on state employee incomes and keeps health care affordable.”

The deal also includes a modernization of how vacancies with state agencies are filled by updating the contract language to reflect the state’s transition to an electronic hiring process, increasing hiring and retention of current employees, implementing a pilot program for recruitment bonuses for positions with high vacancy rates, and ensuring that employees on parental leave may still bid on vacancies during their leave.

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