February 14, 2017

Legislators criticize Rauner’s refusal to compromise on AFSCME contract

African-American and Latino state senators and representatives today said that Governor Bruce Rauner’s refusal to negotiate with the largest union of state employees threatens disproportionate harm to communities of color and to black, Latino and female state workers.

More than a year ago, the Rauner administration broke off contract negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.

Bridgette Mittons, an employee of the Department of Healthcare and Family Services and a member of the union’s rank-and-file bargaining committee said, “In Cook County, two-thirds of the state workers represented by AFSCME are African-American or Latino, two-thirds are women, and more than half, like me, are women of color. Governor Rauner is trying to weaken our ladder to the middle class.”

The union has repeatedly shown its willingness to compromise and called for renewed negotiations, but the Rauner administration has refused to even meet with the union bargaining committee.

Instead, the governor is pushing to unilaterally impose harsh terms on AFSCME membersunlike those accepted by any other union in state government, including a 100% increase in employee costs for health care, no pay increases for four years and an end to standards that prevent irresponsible outsourcing.

"The governor's demand for a 100% increase in what employees pay for health care would cost the average worker $10,000 and hurt communities of color most of all," state Sen. Omar Aquino said.

"Governor Rauner, how do you ask these working people to pay $10,000 more while asking nothing of your rich friends?" state Rep. Mary Flowers asked. "Just like the state budget, Rauner's refusal to negotiate is causing big problems for the people of Illinois."

Since Rauner refuses to negotiate, AFSCME members are now voting on whether to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary.

"Unless Bruce Rauner is willing to compromise, our only other option is to go out on strike. The governor doesn’t seem to care about the harm a strike would cause," said Roberto Botello, a mental health worker and member of AFSCME. "As public service workers, we are very concerned. We know that in the Chicago area a strike would hit African-American and Latino communities hardest."

"Bruce Rauner should return to the bargaining table today and keep Illinois working," state Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch said.

Senator Cristina Castro and representatives Jaime Andrade, La Shawn Ford, Sonya Harper and Christian Mitchell were also in attendance.

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