Illinois Governor Wins Dismissal of Public Workers’ Lawsuit

Thursday, 08 Sep 2011 03:27 PM


Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn won dismissal of a lawsuit by a public-employees union seeking to reverse an order freezing the pay of 30,000 government workers.

The pay freeze violated its collective-bargaining agreement, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees council representing Illinois workers said in a federal suit filed in the state capital, Springfield, July 8.

“Requiring the state to issue pay raises would take money already allotted for other purposes from an underfunded budget and cause the state to run out of money even faster,” U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough wrote in a 26-page ruling, declining to block the wage freeze.

Quinn’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment on the ruling. The governor, a Democrat, was elected to his first full term last year. He was elevated from lieutenant governor in January 2009 following the impeachment of predecessor Rod Blagojevich.

The union said it will appeal the decision, saying in a statement that that the facts “clearly counter the judge’s contention that the pay freeze is necessary to insure the state’s solvency.”

The union had said in its complaint that the employees have a contractual right to receive a 2 percent pay raise, which along with longevity-based increases, would cost about $75 million, according to state estimates.

“The governor could simply seek a supplemental appropriation if he believed one was necessary,” the union said in the statement. “Such a step is common; nine supplemental appropriations have been approved in just the past six years.”

The group also said the freeze is unfair because some workers in the 14 departments and agencies subject to it do the same kind of jobs as employees in other departments that aren’t affected.

Myerscough ruled that the wage freeze promoted “cost- containment,” which she called a legitimate government interest that trumped the workers’ claims of disparate treatment.

The case is Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO v. Quinn, 11-03203, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois (Springfield).

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