An arbitrator says he’s not weighing in on whether Illinois had enough money to pay state workers’ pay hikes. Which means the legal ping-pong between the state’s largest public employees union and Governor Pat Quinn’s administration continues.
A Cook County Circuit Court judge had called on an independent arbitrator to take on big task:
Look through last year’s state budget of about 33-billion dollars.
And determine: was there money within it for Governor Pat Quinn to pay 30 thousand AFSCME members the raises guaranteed in the union’s contract? Or was Quinn right in saying he can’t afford those salary increases because the state didn’t have the money?
That’s a question the arbitrator says he can’t answer. He says it’s a legal matter, to be left to the courts.
In his opinion, arbitrator Edwin Benn says the situation now is “chaotic” and “unstable” and needs to be “quickly decided with finality.”
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says it’s a larger issue than one year’s salary increases.
“What you have here is a courtroom assault on a bedrock tenant of collective bargaining by Pat Quinn … someone who pays lip service to respecting the rights of workers,” Lindall said. “And that is shameful.”
Quinn’s spokeswoman says the governor can only spend what legislators give him in the budget.
The legal battle continues – now again in the judge’s hands – even as AFSCME and the state are negotiating their next contract. The parties already missed a July 1 deadline.