The Pantagraph

Quinn's deal with union ties hands, horrible for state

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gov. Pat Quinn’s deal with the largest union representing state government employees is bad on so many levels it is difficult to know where to start.

To highlight a few of the low lights:

• The deal ties the hands of the next governor — whoever that might be — and the Legislature in attempting to devise a solution to the state’s horrendous fiscal problems.

• It protects union employees for layoffs and facility closings, but is unclear about what the final “savings” will be other than voluntary furlough days, perhaps delaying scheduled pay raises and possibly reducing costs in other ways.

• And it comes shortly after the union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, endorsed Quinn in his election battle with Republican Bill Brady of Bloomington.

Under the agreement, no state facilities can be closed and no unionized state workers can be laid off until June 30, 2012. In exchange, the union is supposed to identify at least $50 million in spending cut, such as unpaid furlough days, reduced overtime or possible deferral of salary hikes union members are scheduled to receive as of Jan. 1.

• What if management doesn’t agree to the cuts proposed by the union?

• What if the ideas don’t yield the savings they are projected to provide? Will the political will be there to move ahead with layoffs, or will there be another deal or lawsuit?

• What if the next governor isn’t Quinn and that person has other ideas? What about the Legislature’s role?

This agreement is an outgrowth of a deal made earlier between Quinn and AFSCME after the union was able to block proposed layoffs through a lawsuit.

The Pantagraph Editorial Board was critical of that deal.
At that time, Quinn originally said the state would appeal the court ruling because “we feel this ruling is wrong,” then he switched gears and his administration negotiated a pact with unpaid furlough days, extra days off with pay as enticement for the unpaid furloughs, delayed pay hikes and a few other measures.

Quinn’s budget spokesperson, Kelly Kraft, said the latest agreement isn’t only about saving money; it’s about saving jobs: “It will also keep people employed during one of the worst economic downturns in history ….”

Well, that’s partly right. It will keep state employees employed, but what about those in the private sector — or even at the local government and school level — who are losing their jobs because the state isn’t paying its bills on time or in full, in many cases?

This deal does little to nothing to address the real problems facing Illinois and it severely limits the state’s options.