January 08, 2016

Rauner Administration walks away from AFSCME contract negotiations

At the wrap-up of today’s negotiating session between AFSCME Council 31 and the Rauner Administration, the Governor’s representatives said they would refuse to participate in any further bargaining sessions and claimed that negotiations are at an impasse. AFSCME executive director Roberta Lynch rejected that claim and said the union is prepared to continue to negotiate.

Lynch issued the following statement:

“We are shocked that the Rauner Administration would walk away and refuse to continue negotiations. The Governor's rash action invites confrontation and chaos -- it is not the path to a fair agreement. The people of Illinois deserve leadership that is focused on working together and getting things done, not someone who demands his own way or nothing at all. With no state budget to fund the public services that Illinois residents rely on and no union contract for the men and women who provide those services, the last thing the people of Illinois need is another manufactured crisis from a governor unwilling to do the hard work of compromise.

“In reality, there is no impasse between our union and the Rauner Administration. Until the final minutes of today’s meeting, both parties continued to exchange proposals on many issues. There has been no hint that the administration would simply refuse to continue to negotiate. If they will not return to the table, our union will take legal action. It is a violation of state labor law for a party to declare impasse where none exists.

“The parties do have areas of serious disagreement. For example, the administration wants to double employee's costs for health care, making the state's health plan the worst in the nation for any state workforce. It would also would freeze wages for four years, which coupled with its huge hikes in health costs would take money from the pockets of working families. Our union believes that public-service workers, like all working people, deserve wages that can sustain a family and health care they can afford. We also disagree with the administration's insistence on eliminating safeguards that prevent unfettered privatization of public services.

“Despite our differences, AFSCME remains committed to finding common ground. We've been successful in reaching fair agreements with every Illinois governor of both parties for the past 40 years. But that can't happen if the Rauner administration refuses to remain at the table and negotiate.

“As a candidate, Bruce Rauner repeatedly threatened to impose his extreme demands on state employees, and to force a strike in order to do so. That’s why unions representing state employees backed legislation to provide for arbitration as an alternative means of reaching a fair agreement. When the governor vetoed that bill, he pledged to work in good faith to reach a settlement—a pledge he has broken today.

“Public-service workers in state government keep us safe, respond to emergencies, protect kids, care for the most vulnerable and fulfill countless other essential functions in every Illinois community every day. They deserve a governor who respects the work they do and who will work in good faith to reach an agreement that's fair to all.”

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