Striking a deal with state workers
Illinois is buying labor peace with money it doesn't have.
After months of difficult negotiations, punctuated by occasional political attacks, leaders of a state workers union and Gov. Pat Quinn have reached agreement on a new three-year contract.
The agreement, the details of which have not been formally released, put an end to mostly empty strike talk by frustrated members of the 35,000-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. But it will prompt a new debate about what the state can afford to give and what workers had to give up to reach agreement in the context of effective bankruptcy.
Having nothing to give, it will be interesting to see what the state gave. News reports say the first year of the agreement does not include a pay raise, but the second and third years provide raises of 2 percent each.
The agreement also recognizes the state's obligation to give previously negotiated pay raises of 5.25 percent that Quinn had refused to authorize because of tight finances. Frankly, that's not much of a concession on the governor's part because the state does not have the legal authority to unilaterally violate a contract.
Union members and retirees, however, reportedly will take a hit on health insurance costs, and that will produce cries of outrage from the affected parties.
The cost to the state is unclear. But whatever it costs is too much when you're broke.