1st District Appellate Court Affirms Back Pay For State Employees

In a decision issued this morning, a panel of Illinois appellate court judges ruled that state employees are owed the wages spelled out in their union contract with state government, and that the legislature’s failure to appropriate sufficient funds cannot erase the state’s obligation to pay.

PBPA Director & Chief Counsel Sean Smoot submitted an amicus brief in the case, State of Illinois vs. AFSCME Council 31, on behalf of the PBPA and it’s Conservation Police members supporting the Union’s position.

An independent arbitrator had previously decided that the state’s failure to pay the wages was a violation of the union contract, and a circuit court judge agreed in part, ruling that the wages were owed. Here the judges rejected an appeal by the Attorney General, who sought to vacate the arbitrator’s award, and accepted AFSCME’s cross appeal that the monies must be paid in full. The appellate court now remands the case to circuit court with instructions to confirm the arbitrator’s award.

This case involves wages earned from July 2011 to July 2013 but still not paid to thousands of employees in the state departments of Corrections, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Natural Resources and Public Health.

Over a year ago, Governor Quinn had requested that Attorney General Madigan drop the appeal. She refused, resulting in further litigation and leading to today’s decision.

“We hold that the arbitrator’s award comports with the overriding public policy of permitting the State to negotiate enforceable multiyear collective bargaining agreements with unions of state employees, and the award furthers the express constitutional policy forbidding the General Assembly from passing any acts, including insufficient appropriations bills, that impair the obligation of contracts,” the appellate judges wrote.

The PBPA worked with a coalition of unions including AFSCME, and the Quinn Administration, to pass a supplemental appropriation that the governor signed in May, paying about 45% of the remaining amount owed to workers.