State workers took their fight to the capital city earlier Wednesday as 2,000 assembled for a union rally in downtown Springfield.
The “rally for fairness” was part of several gatherings across the state from Chicago to Marion. People who showed up were angry at the lack of progress made by the General Assembly, but AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Robert Lynch made it clear their number one target was Governor Bruce Rauner (R-Illinois).
“They spent $65 million to buy themselves a governorship of the state of Illinois.”
The group called for fairness in the budget and in union negotiations. Lynch said the Governor has not been a realistic negotiator.
“He vetoed that bill because he’s trying to force a strike,” she said.
Dena McGill took the stage as a worker for the Illinois Department of Human Services. She said both she and her son have serious chronic illnesses. She worries about the Governor’s proposed cuts to her healthcare benefits.
“If those copays go way up, paying for our prescriptions would be a heavy burden.,” McGill said. “Going without medication is not an option.”
Gwen Harrison, a state library technician and member of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, said the Governor is holding the most vulnerable hostage in the budget debate.
“It is time for him to make a move, it’s time for our legislators to make a move and do the right thing,” Harrison said.
Springfield lawmakers from the left and the right joined in support. State Senator Sam McCann (R-Springfield) faces a primary fight this spring. He told the crowd he will be willing to act against his own party in their name.
“You don’t send me here to stand with the herd, you send me here to speak for you,” McCann said.
State Senator Andy Manar (D-Staunton) said he was proud to be the son of the union worker. He said the Governor is out of touch.
“The finger of blame in that conversation wouldn’t be coming from the guy working two jobs making $30,000 a year, it would be from the guy making $30,000 an hour.”
The Governor’s Office released a statement today about the Springfield rally and others around the state.
“Families in Central Illinois and across the state are hurting under the 12 years of one-party rule, which has led to a $5 billion structural deficit and the worst credit rating of any state in the country. The status quo cannot continue, and Governor Rauner has proposed a number of reforms to help the next generation, which will free up resources to help balance the budget and protect our most vulnerable.”
The statement continued to say the Governor will continue to bargain “in good faith” with AFSCME and other public-sector unions.