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EDITORIAL: Why is Rauner giving poorly paid caregivers a 48-cent runaround?

Virginia Grant is among the caregivers who will benefit from a judge's ruling that they were due a raise. | Provided photo

Give Virginia Grant her 48 cents.

The Illinois Legislature last summer granted this modest hourly pay raise to Grant and other professional caregivers, who now earn a measly $13 an hour, yet Gov. Bruce Rauner is still grasping for a credible legal excuse to withhold it. We’re not sure there was ever a moral excuse.

EDITORIAL

For the life of us, we don’t understand why this one’s so hard, unless the governor honestly believes that a 61-year-old woman who spends her days helping people with disabilities bathe, go to the grocery store and balance their checkbooks is not worthy of that extra 48 cents.

The pay raise was approved by the Legislature as part of a bipartisan state budget compromise, and it was supposed to go into effect on Aug. 5. The governor’s argument for refusing to pay the 48 cents — that any such raise should be decided during an ongoing contract negotiation with the workers’ union — has been rejected by Cook County Judge David Atkins, who in effect ordered Rauner to pay up earlier this month. Instead of calling it quits, Rauner decided to appeal.

“The circuit court’s ruling could allow unions to pick and choose when to collectively bargain over wages, which is not consistent with current law and could cost taxpayers millions of dollars,” Rauner spokeswoman Rachel Bold said. “We will be appealing this decision. In the meantime, we have worked with the union to hold this increase in escrow pending the outcome of the case.”

Judge Atkins has since granted Rauner a temporary stay on the payment until an April 16 hearing, where the governor will request to stay the payment throughout the entire appeals process.

About 28,000 caregivers are eligible for the pay hike, and most of them have not seen a raise since December, 2014, according to their union, the Service Employees International Union. Full disclosure: SEIU is among the investors in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Pay the 48 cents, governor. And cough up the backpay to Aug. 5, about $10 million. The Legislature set a new minimum wage for professional caregivers, and the administration’s current contract negotiations with SEIU can involve only possible pay increases above that minimum.

Stiffing the lowest paid working people in Illinois is not about to solve our state’s larger financial problems.

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