An arbitrator sided Tuesday with Illinois' largest employee union in an ongoing battle over Governor Pat Quinn's announcement earlier this month that he would cancel previously scheduled pay raises for some 30,000 state employees due to the state's budget crisis.
The announcement prompted a federal lawsuit, filed July 8, from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as well a hearing with Arbitrator Edwin Benn.
In his ruling, made public by AFSCME, Benn stated that "[u]nder the mandatory, clear and simple terms of the negotiated language, the State must pay the 2% wage increase effective July 1, 2011. As a matter of contract, the State has no choice." The arbitrator further ruled that the state pay the effected employees their lost wages within 30 days.
AFSCME welcomed the decision, which they described as "significant," in a statement made Tuesday.
"Frontline state employees are out there every day doing the real work of state government and the Quinn Administration, as their employer, should keep its commitments to them," AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said.
"We have always said what’s at stake here is much more than a pay increase," Bayer continued. "This is a question of whether the fundamental right of working people to bargain collectively will be upheld in Illinois."
According to an AP report, Quinn's office plans to appeal the arbitrator's ruling. They have argued that the state's General Assembly approved a budget that did not appropriate the approximately $75 million in state funding necessary to offer the employee raises in the 14 agencies he previously identified. This oversight, he has contended, allowed for him to cancel the raises under the employees' contract's clause that all raises are subject to appropriations.