Fox Valley Labor News
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