Unions which represent state workers are worried lawmakers have something up their sleeve. Labor leaders showed up at a House committee hearing, as lawmakers are considering whether they should have a seat at the negotiating table. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) is carrying a resolution which he says is meant to counteract the governor’s ability to say, in effect, “Here’s a labor deal; it’s your job to figure out how to pay for it.”
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Madigan said the legislature is “constitutionally empowered to do budget-making, which is authority to spend money. That’s all it is.” “The legislature is and should be concerned about the state workforce and would want to have a workforce that was decently compensated,” said Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, the largest union of state workers in Illinois. Bayer points to a newspaper story which details how Michigan outsourced some of its functions to a company which made wages so low that the state incurred costs for food stamps and subsidized day care for those workers. In addition to the idea of having the legislature represented at the bargaining table is a companion piece: a freeze on wages until or unless the state shows a surplus for two years in a row.