Six facts Pritzker can’t ignore when negotiating AFSCME contract

By Ted Dabrowski and John Klingner, Wirepoints | Nov 27, 2018

Illinois Gov.-elect J.B. Pritzker says one of his first legislative priorities is to focus on things that will “lift up the standard of living” for Illinoisans by “putting dollars back in their pockets.”

He’ll soon be tested on that. Pritzker is due to negotiate a new AFSCME labor contract that has gone unsigned since 2015, when the last contract expired. Whether Pritzker protects the little guy – or just continues to take care of the unions – will be evident by the deal he strikes with AFSCME.

There are six facts Pritzker can’t ignore during negotiations if he wants to give dollars back to ordinary Illinoisans. They’ve been taking a hit for years so that public sector workers could continue to benefit considerably. State workers get the nation’s second-highest pay, automatic salary increases, free retiree health insurance, Cadillac healthcare benefits at subsidized prices, and Social Security on top of overly-generous pensions.

We provide the facts below.

What’s currently at stake is a contract that could cost taxpayers at least $3 billion over its life: That’s the difference between what AFSCME’s been demanding and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s last best offer.

Rauner and AFSCME have been fighting over the terms of the contract for the last three years. The union originally demanded salary raises ranging from 11.5 to 29 percent, a 37.5-hour workweek, five weeks of vacation and enhanced health care coverage. Rauner wanted major reforms to both overtime and healthcare costs.

Now that their adversary is on his way out, the union may end up demanding – and getting – even more than it originally wanted. It all depends on Pritzker.

The data we present below comes straight from FOIA requests, state reports, and the federal government. The story is clear regardless of where the data comes from: Illinois state-worker benefits are way out of line with what ordinary Illinoisans can afford.

Fact 1. Illinois’ restrictive collective bargaining rules favor public unions over ordinary Illinoisans

AFSCME salaries have grown four times faster in the last decade than the earnings of ordinary Illinoisans.

Between 2005 and 2015 (when the last AFSCME contract expired), ordinary Illinoisans earnings grew only 11 percent, half the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, state AFSCME salaries grew more than 40 percent over the same period.

AFSCME workers get raises in good times and bad thanks to the long-term contracts they negotiate with the state. In contrast, Illinoisans have to make do with less even as they are stuck paying AFSCME workers more.

Fact 2. Illinois state workers are the 2nd-highest paid in the nation

Illinois state workers are the 2nd-highest paid in the nation after adjusting for cost-of-living. Only New Jersey pays its state workers more than Illinois does.

On average, Illinois state workers get paid 28 percent more than Wisconsin state workers and 40 percent more than state workers in Indiana.

Fact 3. Cadillac health care benefits

Illinoisans subsidize nearly $15,000, or 77 percent, of state worker annual health care costs. In Obamacare terms, state workers are paying bronze prices for platinum-level health care benefits. Taxpayers pick up the difference.

At the same time, ordinary Illinoisans have been forced to pay the rapidly rising costs of the Affordable Healthcare Act. It’s been a double whammy for ordinary Illinoisans.

Fact 4. Free retiree health insurance after 20 years of work

State workers with 20-plus years of service get free health insurance during retirement (state workers get a 5 percent discount for their retiree health insurance for every year of work).

That fringe benefit for career workers is worth $200,000 to $500,000 per retiree. Nobody in the private sector gets free retiree health insurance.

Fact 5. Great pensions, on top of Social Security

Recent retirees who spent their careers working for the state can expect to collect $1.8 million in total pension benefits during their retirement. On top of that, 96 percent of state workers are enrolled in Social Security, so they’ll get benefits from that, too.

Fact 6. AFSCME total compensation, on average

Add up all the compensation AFSCME employees get in a year – salary, overtime, healthcare benefits, future pension and health insurance benefits – and the average state worker costs ordinary Illinoisans nearly $110,000 a year.


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