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Is Illinois Headed for a Strike by State AFSCME Union Workers?

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Talks between state workers and the Governor have gone nowhere in 11 months, and the Illinois could be headed for a strike for the first time in more than 40 years.

Both parties left Fridays negotiations any new meetings scheduled. Each blames the other for the stalemate. AFSCME Council 31 Regional Director Kent Beauchamp said the decision by the Governor to stop negotiations caught his side by surprise.

“There have been no indication in the days prior to that negotiations were at a standstill,” Beauchamp said.

Beuchamp said despite opinions from the other side, the union is ready to continue negotiations.

“Our position is that there is no impasse,” he said. “This union is committed to continue to negotiate a fair contract for our members.”

The governor’s office said they aren’t calling for an impasse yet which has legal implications. But they did say negotiations have stalled and the workers have not made a “good faith” effort to compromise.

AFSCME says management proposals of doubling health costs and freezing wages for four years are extreme. They also oppose a merit pay system recently imposed by Rauner on other state workers.

“That type of system is political cronyism, political crony pay. Our members want nothing to do with that system,” Beauchamp said.

The Governor’s Office said it would work with AFSCME as it has with other unions to ensure merit bonuses are given out fairly regardless of political affiliation.

But longtime reporter and UIS Public Affairs Reporting Program director Charlie Wheeler said the Governor has shown the most hostility toward unions than any other in modern history.

“We’ve never had one so actively opposed to the notion of collective bargaining in the public sector,” Wheeler said.

As the budget and negotiations go nowhere, he asks if Rauner’s tactics are working.

“He should consider, ‘Maybe I should back off and continue to try making my case to convince more people why this is a good idea instead of just trying to use brute force.’”

If an impasse is determined, Rauner could force the last best offer on the table. If workers still disagreed, they could strike as a final option. It’s something AFSCME has never done in its 40 year history in Illinois.
 
 

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