State’s oldest debt is outstanding wages for prison workers, caregivers and others

SPRINGFIELD – An effort to compensate about 24,000 state workers for promised wages going back to 2011 took a step forward Thursday.

A measure to set aside $63.25 million for the back pay was approved by a Senate appropriations committee. The legislation – Senate Bill 2269 sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) – was approved 14-2 with bipartisan support.

“This is Illinois’ oldest unpaid bill, and it’s time get this debt off the books once and for all,” said Manar, who represents a large number of public employees in the Senate. “It’s absurd to ignore a debt that the courts and lawmakers of both parties agree should be paid. Taking care of our frontline employees is the right thing to do.”

The legislation would appropriate money to various state agencies to pay employees the wages they’re owed. The employees include correctional officers, caregivers for veterans and people with developmental disabilities, mental health professionals and others.

Back Wages Owed to State WorkersThe Illinois Department of Central Management Services and AFSCME, the labor union representing the largest number of state employees, worked with Manar to determine how many workers are still owed back wages.

The largest amount, nearly $41 million, is owed to workers with the state department of corrections, followed by the department of human services, which owes more than $17 million to its employees.

“Thanks to Senator Manar’s leadership, thousands of state employees are one step closer to being paid the wages they were promised and earned,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

“State government’s oldest unpaid bill is for these wages that since 2011 have been wrongly denied to workers who care for the disabled, keep our prisons safe, protect public health and more. AFSCME won’t rest until every employee is paid what they are owed.”

This is the latest of numerous attempts in the General Assembly to appropriate the back pay to state workers. The measure will advance to the full Senate for approval.

 

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