State AFSCME workers want compromise, not conflict

Posted: Jan. 26, 2017 12:15 pm

To The Herald-Whig:

One year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner broke off contract negotiations with AFSCME, the largest union representing public service workers in state government. Since then he has refused all efforts by our union to renew negotiations.

State employees are on the job every day, providing countless services that Illinois residents rely on.

For the past year, instead of negotiating, Rauner pushed for the power to unilaterally impose his own terms, including a blank check to outsource public services for private profit, as well as a 100 percent increase in employee health care premiums and a four-year wage freeze. That combination would take $10,000 from the average worker's pocket.

It may be hard for a megamillionaire like him to appreciate, but that kind of loss would do serious harm to the typical working family.

By refusing to negotiate, Rauner is forcing employees to make a deeply troubling choice: Live with the governor's unfair terms or go out on strike.

State workers are doing everything possible to avoid that course. We know how difficult and disruptive a strike would be for employees, our families and, most of all, the people we serve.

That's why AFSCME recently took the unprecedented step of publicly putting forward a new settlement framework that made very clear employees' willingness to do their part to help address the state's fiscal woes.

Under our framework, state employees would receive no increases in base wages for four years, while paying moderately higher health care premiums, co-pays and deductibles. And we emphasized our readiness to negotiate further on these and all other outstanding issues.

Unfortunately, within hours of our announcement, the governor's representatives rejected this new framework, deriding it as "superficial" and making false claims about its cost.

It's clear that this standoff is about putting the governor's political agenda ahead of what's best for the people of Illinois.

That's why, in the coming weeks, thousands of state employees will vote on whether to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike. But even as they do, we will continue to emphasize that it's not too late for the governor to choose a better path.

State workers want to move Illi-nois forward through compromise. If Rauner insists on forcing conflict, then he must bear the responsibility for the results, including a strike threat.

Roberta Lynch

executive director

AFSCME Council 31