Stay Strong

AFSCME members’ commitment to the rule of law was strongly affirmed when on March 3 the Fourth District Appellate Court granted our union’s motion to stay implementation of the Illinois Labor Relations Board’s ruling that state contract negotiations are at impasse. The finding of impasse had opened the door for Governor Rauner to move forward with his scheme to impose his extreme terms of employment on state employees.

Now the stay will block Rauner from imposing his terms while AFSCME’s appeal of the ILRB ruling is being considered by the court—which could take several months. And the stay keeps in place the “Tolling Agreement” between the Rauner Administration and AFSCME, which essentially extends the provisions of the current union contract.

Standing Together

The outcome of the recent Strike Authorization Vote demonstrated the determination of the overwhelming majority of AFSCME members to stand up to Bruce Rauner’s attacks on our jobs and standard of living. Union members voted—81% strong—to give the AFSCME Bargaining Committee the authority to call a strike as necessary, while continuing to pursue every possible alternative.

The Bargaining Committee met in Champaign last Thursday and outlined next steps to prepare for a possible strike, including strengthening community outreach, developing a financial support plan, identifying picket line locations, and holding solidarity actions. Now that the Appellate Court has issued a stay, a strike is no longer imminent, but we still need to continue to lay the groundwork for an effective strike so that we’re ready if that day comes.

Equally important, we have to continue to shine a public spotlight on the damage that Bruce Rauner’s refusal to compromise—whether on a contract or a state budget—is doing to the morale and well-being of thousands of state employees, as well as the individuals and communities we serve.

Coming Together

Bruce Rauner has kept his appearance schedule a carefully-guarded secret since becoming governor. But now he’s finally beginning to come out in the open—and AFSCME is joining forces with other organizations who want to make sure that he is gets regular reminders to “Do Your Job” and examples of the harm he is causing.

First up, union members in the Chicago metro area, join in a protest at Rauner’s upcoming fundraiser at the Hilton Chicago at 5 PM on March 30. Click here to download a flyer for the event—and mark your calendars now!

Keeping Paychecks Coming

Last month a circuit court judge in St. Clair County agreed with AFSCME and other unions that the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) under which state employees are being paid should not be dissolved.

However, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who sought to dissolve the TRO, is appealing that ruling. This week Madigan filed a motion requesting that the appeal be heard directly by the Illinois Supreme Court, bypassing the state appellate court. If that motion is granted, the TRO could be lifted within the next month or two.

AFSCME is supporting legislation introduced by Rep. Sue Scherer that would ensure that employees continue to be paid if the TRO is eventually dissolved. Gov. Rauner has vowed to veto that bill, so union lobbyists are working to build enough support to override a veto if needed.

Meanwhile, there’s a feud going on between Governor Rauner and Comptroller Mendoza over paychecks for some 600 DCMS employees. Rauner is trying to change the fund out of which these employees are paid—and the Comptroller objected to the change. Rauner then filed suit seeking to compel her to pay on his terms—and the court rejected his request. He’s now appealing that decision.

As soon as this conflict erupted, Rauner once again abused the state email system to force feed employees a video message in which he attacked the Comptroller for her position—as well as attacking the judge who made the decision. Strange, because that is the same judge who granted AFSCME’s motion for a TRO to keep state employees’ paychecks coming, a decision Rauner has praised.

After the Storm

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost loved ones, those who were injured, and those whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the tornadoes that touched down in LaSalle County last week.

AFSCME members, both state and local government employees, were on the ground there, helping to save lives and prevent injuries. IEMA employees provided critical assistance throughout. Members of AFSCME Local 978, caregivers at the LaSalle County Nursing Home, were able to safely evacuate and relocate all of the home’s residents in time to avoid the severe damage that was done to the facility. And members of AFSCME Locals 2819 and 2823, public works employees for the cities of Ottawa and LaSalle, have been helping to begin the repair and rebuilding in their communities.

As with virtually every emergency that confronts any community, public service employees are there to make a difference in people’s lives.

Bargain Not So Grand

Just as Bruce Rauner went through the motions of negotiating a new contract with state employees without ever having any intention of reaching an agreement, so too is he putting state legislators through rounds of negotiations to resolve the state budget crisis—without having any intention of compromising to come to a resolution.

Senate Democrats gave Rauner the benefit of the doubt for months, assuming that if they could work out an agreement with Senate Republicans, he would come on board. But in fact, after Democrats compromised way too much, Rauner pulled Republican votes off the so-called “grand bargain” because he hadn’t gotten every single thing he wants. In response Senate President John Cullerton halted voting on the 12 bills that make up the deal.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate say they’re not giving up on trying to resolve the budget stalemate. Let’s just hope ‘not giving up’ doesn’t mean capitulation to Rauner’s harmful demands.

State Employees Added to Pension-Cutting Bill

In fact, the Senate leaders have already capitulated to one big Rauner demand: cutting the pension benefits of state employees.

The “grand bargain” originally included SB 11, which cut the pensions of public school teachers and state university employees. Senate leaders said they would not include state employees in the bill unless Rauner reached a contract settlement with our union. But when Rauner insisted state employees’ pensions had to be cut anyway, the Senate leaders introduced SB 16, which added state employees to the pension cutting bill. Click here for information on SB 16.

Last week as a result of an intensive grassroots lobbying effort, SB 16 was narrowly defeated in the Senate (26-27-2). However, it was put on postponed consideration which means it can be called again at any time. Call your state senator (888-912-5959) and tell him or her to vote NO on SB 16!

Taking Legislative Aim at State Workers

Meanwhile the Rauner Administration and the Illinois Policy Institute have teamed up to push a number of bills that would negatively impact state employees. Just a few examples:

  • SB 1367, sponsored by Republican senator Kay McConnaughay, would eliminate reliance on federal standards to set the mileage reimbursement rate for state employees required to use their cars as part of their jobs, instead allowing the Governor’s Office to set the reimbursement rate at whatever level it chooses.
  • SB 1621, sponsored by Republican senator Chuck Weaver, would require the State Comptroller to publish a list of the name of each state employee along with his/her salary, the dollar amount the state pays toward his/her health insurance, the dollar amount the state pays toward his/her pension, and the cost of any other benefits he/she receives.
  • There are numerous bills that remove various titles from the union. Information will be sent out to the affected employees so they can help educate legislators why these bills should not be passed

AFSCME lobbyists are working to defeat these and numerous other harmful measures.

More Rauner Disinformation

The Rauner Administration continues to repeat the false claim that twenty other unions have settled on contract terms that are the same as those the governor is seeking to impose on AFSCME members—while also claiming that AFSCME is the only union that hasn’t reached an agreement.

In fact, there are five other unions that haven’t settled new contracts—and where settlements have been reached, there are big differences between those terms and the terms the governor is trying to impose on AFSCME members. Click here to see a chart that makes clear just how big.

What’s He Trying to Hide?

Is Bruce Rauner too embarrassed to own up to the extreme terms he wants to impose on state employees? In one press release after another, Rauner complains that state employees won’t agree to let him impose his terms. But Rauner never mentions what his core terms are—forcing employees to pay 100% more for their health insurance, while going without any pay increases or step increases for four years, as well as total surrender of any safeguards against irresponsible privatization.

Instead he presents a smokescreen of misleading claims intended to obscure his real agenda:

Rauner says union members won’t agree to a 40-hour work week. But what he’s really talking about is being able to force employees to work overtime without getting overtime pay. For instance, he wants to exclude sick days from the calculation of overtime each week so that if an employee is out sick one day, he or she can be targeted for overtime mandation the next day—without getting any overtime pay.
Rauner says union members won’t agree to let Boy Scouts volunteer in state agencies. In fact, volunteers have always been permitted in state government under the previous union contracts and the union did not propose to change that.
Rauner says union members won’t agree to ‘reasonable suspicion’ drug testing. In fact, the union has proposed a plan for reasonable suspicion drug and alcohol testing based on well-established federal guidelines. If Rauner were genuinely concerned about drugs and alcohol in the workplace, he could have had a program in place for over a year now –simply by working with the union to finalize a contract settlement.
Rauner says he wants to pay employees based on “merit”. In fact, he fails to mention that his administration has never been able to provide a single example of how “merit” would be determined for any of the various jobs in state government—why some employees would deserve a raise and others wouldn’t. Nor, of course, does he ever mention that Illinois has a long and unsavory history with so-called “merit” pay, which is in fact nothing more than political cronyism and favoritism.
Then there’s the most basic fact of all—that the AFSCME Bargaining Committee has repeatedly made clear its willingness to work to find common ground on any and all issues—while the Rauner Administration refuses to negotiate on any issue.

Via AFSCME Council 31