Executive Director Reports

State employees in a fight for all Illinois workers

Rauner aiming for total control over our working lives 

 Roberta Lynch

Roberta Lynch

Melanie Hindrich, wife of a correctional officer at Menard Correctional Center, posted a photo of her husband and four young children on Facebook and asked this simple question:

“Goveronor Rauner, please tell me how you can look into these children’s eyes and tell them that their father, who puts on a uniform and goes into a maximum security prison five days a week, putting his life on the line, does not deserve what he is paid.”

Of course, the sad truth is that we have a governor who could easily look into those children’s eyes and tell them just about anything, no matter how harmful or horrid—a man without scruples who cannot be shamed.

In his first year as governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner’s income increased from $58 million to $188 million—a 300 percent jump! He made more in one hour—while bopping around the state to cut ribbons, chow down at local diners, and march in parades in his phony ‘regular guy’ costume—than Melanie’s husband or most other state employees will make in an entire year. 

But that isn’t stopping this governor from trying to slash the income of state workers who are on the front lines every day, rescuing abused children, providing aid to needy families, keeping criminals off the streets, responding to natural disasters, caring for the elderly and disabled and much more.

Nor has it stopped him from trying to portray those employees as greedy and grasping—making the false claim that they’re demanding a contract that would cost the state an additional $3 billion. In fact, their proposals don’t come close to that cost.

Even more tellingly, Rauner continues to complain loudly about the union’s demands while refusing to meet with the AFSCME Bargaining Committee which has made very clear it’s prepared to modify its proposals.

Think about it: Bruce Rauner is attacking AFSCME members for demanding too much but won’t meet with those employees to allow them to propose less! That’s a Catch-22 if ever there was one.

The governor’s real agenda all along has not been reaching a fair contract settlement but vilifying public employees as underworked and overpaid.

Of course, it would take someone like Gov. Rauner—who’s never bothered to spend a day in a state prison, veterans home, psychiatric hospital or human-services office—to imagine that state employees are anything but hard-working.

And it would take someone who has nine homes and makes $90,000 an hour to think that an average annual wage of $60,000 is too much for average folks like state employees—many of whom have college and  even graduate degrees,  yet still struggle to pay the bills and save for their kids’ education.

Rauner is determined to make that struggle harder by freezing pay and drastically increasing health care costs for every state employee. If he succeeds, the result will be that even as the cost-of-living goes up, state employees will see their income go down by thousands of dollars every year.

Rauner is part of a new oligarchy that’s determined to undo the decades of progress our nation has made in creating a middle class that can fully participate in our society, not just devote every waking moment to the struggle to survive. This elite fears all forms of democratic participation—hence their intense hatred of unions which are the essence of workplace democracy.

We have to face the harsh reality that our state has a governor who is determined to drive down the wages and strip the rights of all working people—and he’s prepared to spend millions of dollars of his own vast wealth in service of that “cause.”

He’s held up a state budget for more than a year now, forcing human-service agencies to close their doors, cutting off help for the homeless, autistic kids, victims of domestic violence, needy students and so many more. They’re only collateral damage in his obsessive effort to decimate unions. 

And he has boasted of his willingness to “take a strike”—as though he were the one who would be withstanding a blow. In fact, if state employees make the difficult decision to go on strike, it will only be because he has left them no choice.

That’s why the battle that state employees are fighting right now is so vital to every working person in Illinois. More than seeking to drive down state workers’ incomes and silence their voices, Bruce Rauner wants to exercise total control over their working lives.

If he achieves that goal, he wants to bring the same authoritarian ethos to every workplace in the state. It’s critical that every AFSCME member, no matter where you work, support state employees as they make a stand for justice and dignity for us all.