Johnson County State workers to join in strike if called for
UPDATE: Tentative agreement reached
The union and the Quinn Administration issued this joint news release Thursday, Feb. 28:
Negotiators send proposed three-year agreement to AFSCME members for ratification
The Quinn Administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 have reached a tentative agreement on a new union contract covering some 35,000 state employees. Negotiations have been ongoing for more than 15 months.
“At a time when the state is facing unprecedented financial challenges, this agreement is fair to both hard-working state employees and all taxpayers of Illinois,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “I want to thank the women and men who have stayed at the table for more than a year for their commitment to reaching an agreement.”
“AFSCME is very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that protects our members’ standard of living, and is fair to them and all Illinois citizens, even in these very challenging economic times,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said.
AFSCME members must ratify any contract negotiated by their elected bargaining representatives.
The ratification process will get underway at worksites statewide during the week of March 4. Details of the tentative agreement will be released after the union’s membership has had the opportunity to review it.
Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn’s office and the state’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, re-entered talks Monday afternoon to continue negotiations on contracts that AFSCME said have stalled and could lead to a strike of nearly 30,000 Illinois state employees.
Council 31 of AFSCME out of Marion said state employees in Johnson County are ready to join the strike with the exception of security workers, such as prison guards and officers, which Illinois law prohibits from striking.
“Quinn has pushed public service employees to the brink and if he continues to act and react as he has, there’s a real chance of a strike,” said Ty Petersen, staff representative for AFSCME Council 31.
Petersen said that a strike could occur within the coming weeks if a deal that respects Illinois State workers is not made. Union workers in Johnson County conducted an informational picket at the four-way in Vienna just a few weeks back to help raise awareness of the stalled-contract negotiations and vowing to join a strike if necessary.
“Our members are tired,” said Petersen. “We’ve had a modest proposal on the table and our members took no increases in pay or health [coverage] for the past year.”
Petersen said that AFSCME is well aware of the fiscal difficulties faced by the state with its $96 billion deficit in public-worker pension systems and a growing $9 billion pile of unpaid bills to service providers.
“It’s important that I push for the taxpayers of Illinois,” the Associated Press reported Quinn saying to reporters last week in Springfield. “Everyone knows we have a tough financial time in the state of Illinois, so we have to make some adjustments from what may have happened in the past, but I think the union understands that.”
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Executive Director Henry Bayer said if there is no progress made in the talks this week, the AFSCME Bargaining Committee would determine whether or not to ask members to authorize a strike.
“AFSCME members view a strike as a last resort,” said Bayer in a press release issued last week. “They are deeply concerned about the citizens who depend on the vital services that they provide. But union members also know that they will not be able to continue to provide quality services to the public if they cannot support their own families. They are not willing to accept a contract that pushes them out of the middle class.”
A bulletin from AFSCME obtained by The Herald and Review and posted online, indicated that the Quinn administration is “holding firm to its calls for a hard wage freeze –no change to the salary schedule and no step increases—for the duration of the contract, along with significant increases to health insurance premiums and deductibles.”
According to The Herald and Review, “AFSCME has offered a one-year wage freeze but wants Quinn to honor pay increases the union agreed to delay in 2011 to save the state money,” which AFSCME said Quinn has refused to pay despite a Cook County judge ordering the state to do so.
“A strike would include thousands of child-abuse investigators, attendants who care for elderly and infirm military veterans and those who care for the developmentally disabled,” said Council 31 representative Petersen. “A strike would disrupt state services as we know it and that’s not what we want.”
Petersen said it is time for Gov. Quinn to stop trying to balance the budget on the backs of state workers.