As members of the largest state employee union began a strike authorization vote, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration on Monday sent state workers a “fact sheet” and an email calling a potential strike “reckless.”
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 on Monday began taking votes at the union’s 74 locals, with balloting to continue until Feb. 19. A vote to strike would authorize the union’s bargaining committee to call a strike in the future.
A strike would mean child protection workers, caregivers for veterans and people with mental illnesses and development disabilities, Illinois State Police dispatchers, State Crime Lab forensic scientists and State Park rangers, among other union members, could walk the picket line.
It would mark the first ever strike for the union representing 38,000 state employees. But 8,000 of the union members aren’t allowed to strike or vote for a strike because of jobs in the state’s Department of Corrections and the Department of Juvenile Justice.
“Although others may disagree, we believe a strike against the taxpayers is reckless,” John Terranova, deputy director of labor relations for the state’s Department of Central Management Services wrote in the email to state workers.
Terranova writes that while “the decision to strike is yours and yours alone,” a lengthy strike would result in significant disruptions to workers’ pay, health insurance, and pension benefits, and would disrupt services to some taxpayers. An attached fact sheet reports the average monthly cost to a strike employee would be $8,000.
The union, in turn, called Terranova’s email “false claims” that are “regrettable.”
“In reality, Rauner refuses to negotiate, wants a blank check to privatize public services, and would force AFSCME members to pay 100 percent more for health care while freezing wages for four years—taking $10,000 from the average state employee’s pocket. Those are terms no other union has agreed to,” spokesman Anders Lindall said in an email. ” Rauner should negotiate, not dictate. As long as the governor stubbornly refuses to compromise, AFSCME members feel they have no choice but to consider a strike.”
The union and Rauner’s administration attended 67 negotiation sessions before an impasse was declared. Administration officials say AFSCME rejected proposals on overtime after 40 hours and on allowing volunteers to handle some worker duties. But the union says they’d have to pay 100 percent more in health care in the first year of the contract, and a 10 percent per year increase. There are also no pay increases over the four-year term of the contract.
The administration contends state workers were being covered by very expensive plans — with the vast majority of employees not opting to use the top coverage.
After the Illinois Labor Relations Board declared in impasse, the governor’s administration said it would begin imposing some of its contract offer, including merit pay and overtime beginning at 40 hours a week, instead of 37.5.