SPRINGFIELD -- A federal appeals court Thursday sided with Gov. Pat Quinn over pay raises the Quinn administration canceled for thousands of union workers.

SPRINGFIELD -- A federal appeals court Thursday sided with Gov. Pat Quinn over pay raises the Quinn administration canceled for thousands of union workers.


The Seventh U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling that dismissed an effort by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to force the administration to pay the raises.


A total of 30,000 unionized state workers in 14 state agencies were due to receive 2 percent raises  July 1 of last year and again on Feb. 1, 2012. In canceling the raises, Quinn said the General Assembly did not appropriate enough money to honor them. 


The move saved the state an estimated $75 million.


AFSCME’s suit contended the state violated both its union contracts and the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.  The union sought a court ruling that would force the state to pay the raises.


U.S. District Judge Sue Myerscough dismissed AFSCME’s lawsuit, and the union appealed.


The appeals court said the 11th Amendment bars AFSCME from the ruling it sought under the contracts clause because the ruling would force the state to spend money.


The equal protection claim made by the union requires it to “plausibly allege that no reasonably conceivable set of facts supports the pay freeze as a rational instrument of cost savings,” the appeals cout added.


“Instituting cost-savings measures is unquestionably a legitimate governmental interest, particularly for a government in such dire straits,” the court said.


AFSCME said it will continue to fight for the pay raises.


“The governor has a moral obligation, and under the union contract and an arbitrator’s order, a legal one, to rescind his illegal pay freeze and make employees whole,” AFSCME said in a written statement.  “It is regrettable that he has provoked litigation instead of complying with the contract and the law.  We … will consider further steps as we pursue the case now pending in state court as well.”


A separate lawsuit over the pay raises is pending in Cook County Circuit Court.


Quinn budget spokeswoman Kelly Kraft praised the court ruling.


“As we have indicated in the past, the (current) budget passed by the General Assembly did not include an appropriation to pay these raises,” she said.


Staff writer Chris Wetterich contributed to this report. Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.