In this photo taken Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010, Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady is seen in Berwyn, Ill. Illinois voters are out of luck if they expect the candidates for governor to spell out which state services would be slashed and which would be spared to permanently close a gaping budget hole. Brady and Democratic challenger Gov. Pat Quinn can't, or won't, provide those kinds of details but they are perfectly clear, however, on the general approach they'll use to fix the $13 billion problem. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Patronage is so much easier these days. It used to be, to protect your lowly government job, you had to go out and hang door knockers for your chinaman, then stand in front of a polling place on Election Day, handing out palm cards.
Now, all you have to do is write a check. Just two days after AFSCME, the state’s public employees union endorsed Gov. Pat Quinn, he announced a deal suspending any layoffs or facility closures until June 30, 2012, provided $50 million in cost savings can be achieved through reduced overtime, furloughs, efficiencies in group health insurance and “insourcing of privatized work.”
The agreement also bars the state from “re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement on the issue of the health care plan.”
AFSCME must have been eager to cut a deal with Quinn because they know they’ll get nothing from Bill Brady, who looks certain to be the next governor. Brady hates unions, and has made it clear that when he talks about jobs, he means private sector jobs.
“Unemployment is at double-digit levels and the state cannot pay its bills,” Brady said in a statement. “The Quinn Administration should not agree to anything that limits Illinois’ flexibility to manage this catastrophe. Instead, Governor Pat Quinn should embrace every cost-cutting measure possible, work with union leaders to freeze salaries, and avoid eleventh hour election-year agreements that lock in more pay hikes and job security guarantees in an arrangement that reminds voters of the pay-to-play politics that I seek to end.”
As AFSCME sees it, a time of double-digit unemployment is not a time to cut jobs.
“Layoffs in these grave economic times present a grave danger to the economic security of state employees and their families,” the union said in a letter to its members.
The same letter spelled out the schedule of wage increases AFSCME members can expect over the next 15 months:
Jan. 1, 2011: 1 percent
June 1, 2011: 2 percent
July 1, 2011: 4 percent
Jan. 1, 2012: 1.25 percent
Pretty sweet. Critics are complaining about the timing of the deal, which was finalized on Sept. 13, two days after the union announced its endorsement of Quinn. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says the timing is coincidental. That’s what they always say. But really, what was AFSCME going to do if it didn’t get a deal from Pat Quinn. Endorse Bill Brady? He has the most anti-union record of any Illinoisan since George Pullman.
This is a good deal for everyone except Brady. AFSCME gets job security. Quinn gets an endorsement … and if he loses, he gets to leave a little legacy for his successor.