Protecting kids from abuse and neglect. Ensuring safe prisons. Caring for veterans and people with disabilities. These are just a few of the essential public services that state workers provide in every Illinois community, every day.
Like all working people, state employees should be paid enough to support a family, have health insurance they can afford and the promise of dignity in retirement.
But instead of basic fairness, what public service workers get from Governor Rauner, the Illinois Policy Institute and other corporate-funded front groups are false attacks like those in your Nov. 11 editorial (“Big state worker union courting disaster for Illinois taxpayers”).
Our union, AFSCME, and the 38,000 state employees we represent have done everything possible to settle a fair contract, but Rauner broke off negotiations and walked away from the bargaining table in January 2015, nearly two years ago.
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Seeking compromise, AFSCME put forward a framework under which state workers would pay more towards their health insurance while freezing general wage increases for the four-year term of the contract, yet Rauner still refused to negotiate. He wants his way or nothing at all. That’s the same destructive approach that kept state government without a budget for two entire years.
Now the matter is before the courts, which have ruled time and again — most recently earlier this month — that Rauner must follow the law. Like any employer that’s party to a collective bargaining agreement, the governor cannot unilaterally change terms of employment.
With the case still pending, our union will keep standing up for the rights and freedoms of all working people, because no one — not a billionaire, not even a governor — is above the law. And AFSCME members will never quit working to help their neighbors, serve their communities and make Illinois a better place to live.
Roberta Lynch is the executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the union that represents 38,000 Illinois state workers.