TO: All AFSCME Council 31
I am writing to let you know that I have decided to retire after thirty-nine years with our union. Yesterday the Council 31 Executive Board accepted my resignation as Executive Director effective at the close of business on July 31, 2014.
Roberta has been a mainstay of this union for thirty years, the last twenty-one in her current capacity as Deputy Director where she has had a hand in every strategic decision, whether related to contract negotiations, organizing, or the legislative arena. She is a battle-tested union leader, without peer when it comes to inspiring and motivating our members to tackle the many challenges before us. The Council 31 Executive Board could not have made a better choice.
In the decades that I have been part of AFSCME, I have seen many changes in our union and in the well-being of our members.
When I first joined the union, public employees in Illinois did not enjoy full bargaining rights. Some had no such rights at all. In the thirty years since we first won full bargaining rights, our union grew from an organization of less than 20,000 to one of more than 90,000 active and retired members today.
As we grew in size, we grew in strength, enhancing our ability to negotiate contracts which ensure a middle-class standard of living for public-service workers in Illinois and protect their rights at work.
As one of the thousands of AFSCME members and staff who had a hand in those victories which took place at the bargaining table, in organizing campaigns, on picket lines, and in the legislative arena, I am proud of all that we have achieved together.
Unfortunately the past decade has been marked by a barrage of assaults on public employees generally, and on AFSCME in particular.
We have been beset with attacks by politicians of all stripes at all levels of government, but we have never ducked a fight, earning Council 31 a well-deserved reputation as a fighting union.
I realize now is not an opportune moment to retire but, unfortunately, given the challenges before us, I doubt there will be any such moment in the foreseeable future.
There is, however, one last mission for which I have enlisted. After taking a long-planned vacation in August, I will be devoting full time to the union’s effort to ensure that Bruce Rauner does not become the next governor of Illinois.
Rauner, the billionaire hedge fund operator, has made no secret of his hatred of public employee unions. He has repeatedly charged that the mere act of public-service workers sitting at the bargaining table or participating in the democratic process is corrupt. With virtually no regard for the truthfulness of his claims, he has sought to stir up public antagonism against public workers—urging reductions in our salaries and cuts to our pensions that go even deeper than those we are fighting.
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with many of you–to secure union recognition, to win good contracts, to assure fairness on the job, and to improve the services you provide in every part of the state.
It is not an exaggeration to say that every victory we have savored, every gain we have made—not only for our members but for all working people and every Illinois resident who depends on public services—could be wiped out by a Rauner governorship. Rauner does not simply reject our priorities of fairness, economic justice and workers’ rights, he wants to destroy them.
If I may make one last request, I ask that you join me in making sure that Bruce Rauner does not do to Illinois what Scott Walker has done to working people in Wisconsin. Don’t let it happen on our watch.
Thank you for everything you have done to build this great union. It has been a privilege to have served with you.