Strike authorization vote begins

AFSCME possible strike

AFSCME Council 31 members will decide whether or not to authorize its Bargaining Committee to call a strike. The Strike Authorization Vote will take place in each local union through Feb. 19. If a majority of union members vote ‘yes,’ that does not necessarily mean there will be a strike — as the Bargaining Committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair settlement. But it does mean that if all such efforts fail, state employees will be prepared to go out on strike if the Committee issues the call. Photo courtesy of AFSCME Council 31

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017

SPRINGFIELD – One year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner walked out on negotiations for a new contract with state employees. Then and now, employees have made clear their willingness to return to the bargaining table and work constructively to find common ground. But the governor has rejected compromise at every turn.

Just as he has refused to work toward a solution to the state’s fiscal woes — harming citizens all across Illinois — he’s taking the same counterproductive ‘my way or the highway’ approach with his own employees.

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These dedicated public servants who protect children from abuse, monitor air and water quality, respond to natural disasters, care for aged veterans, and so much more, stood ready to negotiate, but instead, Rauner asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which he appoints, to declare negotiations to be at “impasse.”

When the Labor Board granted his request, it opened the door for Rauner to move forward to impose his own extreme terms on state employees, including elimination of all safeguards against irresponsible subcontracting, a four-year wage and step freeze and a 100 percent increase in employee health care premiums.

The wage freeze combined with such a steep health care hike would mean a $10,000 pay cut for the average state employee. That might not be much to Rauner, but it’s too much for the rest of us.

AFSCME has appealed the Labor Board’s decision and successfully secured a temporary stay that prevents the governor from imposing his terms for the time being. However, the stay could be lifted at any time.

Recently, in an effort to break the year-long stalemate, AFSCME took the unprecedented step of putting forward a new settlement framework that significantly modifies the union’s previous positions on core economic issues. Under this framework, employees would receive no base wage increase for four years—and pay a modest increase in their health insurance costs.

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Unfortunately, rather than welcoming these more-than-reasonable terms, and working to chart a new course to a fair settlement, the governor is still refusing to make any compromise whatsoever. Within hours of receiving the union’s letter regarding the new framework, he dismissed its terms as “superficial” and wildly exaggerated their potential cost to the state.

That’s why AFSCME members will now decide whether or not to authorize their Bargaining Committee to call a strike.

The Strike Authorization Vote will take place in each local union through Feb. 19. If a majority of union members vote ‘yes,’ that does not necessarily mean there will be a strike — as the Bargaining Committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair settlement. But it does mean that if all such efforts fail, state employees will be prepared to go out on strike if the Committee issues the call.

The AFSCME Bargaining Committee recommends voting YES. For more information, state employees can visit the State Contract Info Center.
—AFSCME Council 31

Rauner takes unfair potshot at public employees

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015

SPRINGFIELD — New Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s Jan. 12 inaugural address identified big challenges facing state government. With the expiration of previous temporary personal and corporate income tax rates threatening to drain more than $3 billion from the state budget this year alone — and with that budget already significantly short-funded in key agencies that need supplemental appropriations — there’s no question those challenges are real. And no one has more at stake in helping solve them than AFSCME members who work on the front lines of state government.

Unfortunately, though, Gov. Rauner used the occasion of the speech to dis public employees, alleging that, “We have a state government that too few have faith in” because Illinoisans “see government union bosses negotiating sweetheart deals across the table from governors they’ve spent tens of millions to help elect.”

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said the governor’s claim has absolutely no basis in reality and that the truth is her union has always negotiated in good faith with governors of both parties, those AFSCME Council 31 endorsed and those it didn’t.

“In every case, negotiations were tough but fair and based on mutual respect. While the suggestion of so-called ‘sweetheart deals’ implies unfairness or overpayment of some kind, the fact is that state employee pay increases have been in line with others in comparable jobs, as have the significant amounts employees contribute toward their health insurance and retirement benefits.

“AFSCME members in state government keep prisons safe, care for veterans and people with disabilities, protect kids from abuse and do much more,” Lynch said.

She went on to add that these hard-working men and women don’t have millions of dollars to pour into political campaigns, but they do have a deep commitment to serving the people of Illinois and every right to participate in the democratic process through their union.

In a newspaper story, Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said organized labor “will work with [Rauner] whenever we can, and if we need to, we’ll also work against his legislation.”

The article went on to quote two state senators: “Illinois’ middle class was built by unions. They ensure working men and women receive honest pay for an honest day’s work,” said state Sen. Gary Forby, a Benton Democrat and chairman of the Illinois Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. “I don’t understand why some politicians push so hard to take that away.”

State Sen. Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat added that the midwest was once the hub of the labor movement, but many neighboring states have spent the past few decades enacting policies that lead to slashed employee benefits, decreased wages and outsourced jobs.

“These shortsighted policies cripple working class families, which ultimately places a greater burden on our middle class,” Manar explained.

Gov. Rauner’s speech was vague about possible solutions to the state’s budget problems. As he seeks to tackle those problems, it is critical he include the input of frontline employees who know what’s working, what’s not and how state government can deliver vital public services more effectively.

—AFSCME Council 31