January 15, 2016

AFSCME responds to Rauner administration’s attempt to terminate union contract negotiations

On January 15, 2016, Governor Rauner issued a news release in which the administration claimed that state employee contract negotiations are at an impasse. AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director issued the following statement in response:

"AFSCME and the public-service workers we represent have worked hard to reach a fair agreement with the Rauner Administration, and we’re prepared to continue to do so. We reject the claim that the bargaining process is at an impasse.

"It’s regrettable and damaging to the public interest that the governor has chosen a confrontational path. Just as Gov. Rauner is holding the state budget hostage, his 'my way or no way' demands of state employees are the obstacle to a fair agreement. Rauner’s demands would force workers and their families pay double to keep their health care—making the Illinois state health plan the nation’s worst for any state workforce—while getting zero wage increase for four years. Instead of fairly compensating all workers, he wants to base bonuses on unknown criteria open to political favoritism. And the governor wants to wipe out protections against irresponsible privatization of public services. These are just some of more than 200 extreme demands the administration has made during this process.

"Although we have serious disagreements with the governor’s positions, we reject the administration’s charge that we have not been 'seriously negotiating.' The members of AFSCME’s rank-and-file elected bargaining committee have consistently responded to the administration’s demands with fair counterproposals. We’re committed to continuing to do so, and we don’t want disruption of the public services we provide. That’s why last summer we supported the option of both sides going before an independent arbitrator if our differences couldn’t be resolved by bargaining.

"Unfortunately, the administration’s ongoing campaign of false claims about these negotiations makes compromise that much harder to achieve. Among their many misleading statements, the administration has never offered AFSCME the same terms as other unions. Some unions received vastly better terms on health insurance than those offered to AFSCME. Many others did not agree to a four-year pay freeze. We know of none who agreed to change hours of work or reduce overtime or holiday pay for employees who go above and beyond to serve. In any event, no union can be forced to accept the terms of other unions that have different circumstances and concerns.

"The administration claims to want innovation, yet it has rejected our union’s proposals to work together to improve inmate rehabilitation programs in state prisons, rejected our proposals to ensure nondiscrimination in the hiring of women and minorities, and rejected our proposals for labor-management collaboration to improve public services.

Governor Rauner is wrong to walk away and try to end negotiations. Public-service workers who keep us safe, protect kids, respond to emergencies and care for the most vulnerable want to keep serving their communities, and they want to do their part to reach a fair agreement, but we can’t do it alone."

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