After six months of negotiations over a new union contract for state of Illinois employees and with less than a month until the current agreement is set to expire on June 30, the Rauner Administration continues to make extreme demands, leaving the two sides very far from a settlement, says a press release from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union.
Anders Lindall spokesman for AFSCME says, “It’s against this backdrop that thousands of public service workers employed by state government agencies are participating in more than 100 planned public events throughout Illinois this week. The events—including rallies, marches, leafleting, food drives and more—are raising awareness of the vital public services provided by state employees in every Illinois community, and urging support for settling a fair contract without disrupting those services.”
Hundreds of state workers protested at dozens of locations Wednesday, including a mental health facility in Anna, where hundreds of state employees work. They will repeat the efforts at other locations, including at 4:30 Thursday, June 11, at 4510 Broadway St. in Mt. Vernon.
In addition to the informational pickets, more than 20,000 yard signs saying, “We Support State Workers” have been distributed across Illinois in recent weeks, and hundreds of local businesses have posted window signs reading, “State Employees Serve Our Community.”
Lindall says, public service workers in state government protect public safety, prevent child abuse, care for veterans and people with disabilities, fight crime, respond to emergencies, help struggling families, protect public health, ensure clean air and clean water, maintain state parks and much more.
Union leaders say Rauner has threatened to shut down state agencies, should negotiations fail, something his office denies
Union heads warn it could lead to a strike.
Rauner’s office says that as long as unions bargain in good faith, they remain confident they can reach a deal by the deadline.
Some union members fear if that doesn’t happen, Rauner will unilaterally cut their wages and benefits.
“State employees have never been locked out or forced to strike in some 40 years of collective bargaining in Illinois,” commented Lindall. “But as a candidate, Gov. Rauner repeatedly vowed to “shut down state government” in order to weaken the rights and drive down the wages of public service workers. Since taking office, he has pushed for budget cuts that are harmful to children, seniors and middle-class families, and has spent months giving speeches that attack working people instead of compromising to solve real problems.”