Members of the largest public employees union in Illinois voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new contract with the state. 96% of those who voted were in favor of the pact.
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 members had to agree to it.
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said 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 bad with Governors who are Democrats and Republicans for 40 years in the state of Illinois. This was a very contentious round of negotiations," Lindall said.
The union has 35,000 members. It said the contract gives employees pay raises that average out to 1.3% annually over the life of the three-year contract.
It also requires the state to 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.
In exchange for the raises, current and retired workers will have to pay more for their health insurance.
The Governor's office called it a good deal for the state. The administration said the cost of the raises will be offset by the savings in health care expenses.