SPRINGFIELD - The 38,000 Illinois state workers members of AFSCME 31 authorized their union bargaining committee to strike if negotiations with Governor Bruce Rauner meet a dead end, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch told reporters Thursday.
"Today we are here to announce the outcome—81% of members voted YES to give their bargaining committee the authority to call a strike if no other path forward can be found," Lynch said.
Lynch went on to say that the situation has developed because Rauner’s unreasonable demands would take $10,000 from the pocket of the average state worker.
"He would do that by making employees pay 100% more than they’re paying now for health insurance in conjunction with a four-year pay freeze," she said.
The governor's office responded to what they called AFSCME leadership's "misinformation campaign."
“The vote to authorize a strike is an attack on our state's hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on critical services provided everyday. It is a direct result of AFSCME leadership’s ongoing misinformation campaign about our proposal," Governor Rauner's General Counsel Dennis Murashko said.
They listed their take on what the governor is pursuing in AFSCME negotiations:
- AFSCME leaders would rather strike than work 40 hours a week before earning overtime. They want to earn overtime after working just 37.5 hours per week.
- AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow volunteers like Boy Scout troops to lend a helping hand inside government. They want to ban the use of volunteers.
- AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow state employees to be paid based on merit. They want to stick to paying people based on seniority, regardless of whether they’re doing a good job.
- And while hard working families across the state face skyrocketing health insurance premiums, AFSCME leaders want to strike to force higher taxes to subsidize their health care plans that are far more generous than taxpayers have.
All those disagreements listed by the governor's office are devastating to AFSCME 31 members, Lynch said, and the governor is unwilling to negotiate.
"The governor also insists on doing away with the common-sense standards in the union contract that prevent irresponsible outsourcing of public services and jobs. Bruce Rauner wants a blank check to privatize public services for private profit," she said.
"Because of Governor Rauner’s unwillingness to compromise, his refusal to even attempt to find common ground, for the first time in our union’s history, state employees have been forced to consider going out on strike," Lynch said.
"We’ve said time and again that our members do not want to strike. They are keenly aware of how disruptive a strike would be, both to those who rely on the services they provide and to their own families."
The governor's office responded, "If AFSCME chooses to strike, we will use every resource to ensure services continue to be available to the people of Illinois. We continue to encourage AFSCME to work with us in implementing a contract that is similar to those ratified by 20 other unions.”
More to come ...