By a margin of 96 to four ... members of the state's largest public employees' union voted to ratify a new contract with the state. AFSCME and Governor Pat Quinn's administration reached a deal in late February, but in order for it to take effect, a majority of the union's more than 35 thousand members had to agree to it. AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall says this may have been the toughest negotiations the union's ever experienced:
"Our members said all along that these are tough times. We've negotiated contracts in good times and in bed with Governors who are Democrats and Republicans for 40 years in the state of Illinois. This was a very contentious round of negotiations."
The contract gives employees pay raises the union says average out to 1-point-3 percent annually over the life of the three-year contract. It also requires the state pay back wages to employees who were supposed to get them under the last contract, but who never did because lawmakers didn't appropriate the money. Current ... and retired ... workers will have to pay more for their health insurance.
Although AFSCME supported Quinn, a Democrat, in his last campaign, they have been at odds. The Governor's office calls it a good deal for the state. The administration says the cost of the raises will be offset by the savings in health care expenses.
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