The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) will hold a vote on whether to strike against the state of Illinois government because Governor Bruce Rauner is refusing to give in to their demands.
A new contract has been under negotiation since 2015 and the union, whose pension plan threatens to bankrupt the state, is refusing to give in on a variety of issues while pressuring the governor to accede to their demands for wage and benefit increases.
The vote, which takes place between Jan. 30 and Feb. 19, is the latest attempt by union officials to pressure the governor to give into additional demands.AFSCME leaders have outlined a series of demands that would cost the state an additional $3 billion in wage and benefit increases, according to IllinoisPolicy.org.Demands include a raise for workers, a platinum-level health care plan with little cost to the workers, and overtime pay starting at 37.5 hours instead of the standard 40 hours.Rauner wants to freeze the salaries of state workers, who are the highest paid in the country when adjusted for the cost of living, according to the NW Herald. He is proposing that workers receive a healthcare plan that matches up with what they are paying (Bronze plan instead of platinum).The labor dispute between Rauner and the state’s largest public employees union has been going ever since the Republican businessman swept into office in 2014. The union’s previous contract expired July 1, 2015, and a potential strike by state employees has loomed like a dark cloud over Springfield ever since.The battle heated up in May, when Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent any unresolved labor negotiations between AFSCME and the administration to arbitration. Rauner said at the time the bill was “promoted by AFSCME to remove him from bargaining and replace him with an ‘unelected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers.’”Rauner described the union’s demands as unsustainable, arguing taxpayers cannot afford AFSCME’s “unreasonable demands.” The governor said his offer is fair to both the taxpayers and AFSCME employees. His offer includes performance bonuses of up to 8 percent of a member’s salary, as well as additional health care options.
The union has fought the governor tooth and nail on vitally needed changes to the state's pension plan that is both underfunded and ruinously expensive. Rauner has proposed leaving the pension plan as is for current state employees while altering it for future workers. The union went to court to block that measure.
A strike would be a huge inconvenience for Illinois residents and bring to a standstill the work of the bureacracy. Rauner has shown a toughness not seen before out of an Illinois governor when it comes to budget issues, but he may be over a barrel with the union and their demands.