SPRINGFIELD — Last week, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees refused to seriously negotiate for the 24th consecutive bargaining session on any of the core contract proposals presented by the Rauner administration.
At the bargaining table, AFSCME made clear it is unwilling to negotiate any contract similar to the ones agreed to by 17 other labor unions, which in many instances, were ratified by more than 80 percent of union members.
In the press, AFSCME described small changes to their proposal as “a big new offer.” The “big new offer” would end up costing the state billions over the next four years.
In response to AFSCME’s refusal to seriously negotiate, and in accordance with the tolling agreement, the Rauner administration is asking the labor board to determine whether or not the parties are at an impasse.
“While we have reached innovative and fair contracts with most unions and seen those contracts approved overwhelmingly by union members, AFSCME leadership unfortunately refuses to budge or offer reasonable proposals,” Gov. Bruce Rauner said. “We want to reach an agreement with AFSCME members, but their leaders have proven unwilling. Instead of acting reasonably like the state’s other union leaders, AFSCME bosses have said no to merit bonuses, they’ve said no to programs to help minority employees, and they’ve said a 40-hour work week is too long. At a time of unprecedented fiscal crisis, AFSCME is pushing insurance and wage demands that would cost taxpayers more than $3 billion. As a result, we are asking the Labor Board to determine the next steps in the negotiating process.”
AFSCME vehemently rejected the administration’s proposal to implement merit pay programs similar to ones welcomed by the 5 Teamsters and 12 other trade union bargaining units.
AFSCME vehemently rejected the administration’s proposal that would maintain a 37.5-hour work week, but have overtime rate wages kick in only after completing a 40-hour work week. AFSCME rejected this offer despite the fact it is more generous than the 40-hour work week the Teamsters and trade unions ratified. Instead, AFSCME wants to only work 37.5 hours per week and immediately get paid overtime wages for any minute worked over 37.5 hours. They are also demanding double pay for regular holidays and even 2.5-times pay for some “super holidays.”
AFSCME vehemently rejected the administration’s proposal to make it easier to promote minority employees. Other unions welcomed efforts to promote minority employees.
AFSCME vehemently rejected a health insurance proposal that closely mirrors insurance proposals agreed to by the trade unions. Instead, AFSCME is demanding insurance that is considered platinum-plus under the Affordable Care Act. They are also demanding taxpayers subsidize over 80 percent of the cost of these platinum level plans, which is asking to pay silver-level premiums for a platinum-plus plan. Additionally, while the Teamsters agreed to maintain their current wages for the next four years, AFSCME is demanding wage increases that would cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion over the next four years. These demands come after many union members have already seen their salaries double since 2004. Illinois employees are now the third-highest paid in the nation — behind California and New Jersey — and the highest after adjusting for the higher cost of living in those states. Altogether, AFSCME’s wage and insurance demands would cost taxpayers more than $3 billion.
Under the signed tolling agreement, the labor board must now determine whether the administration and AFSCME are at impasse. During this time, the parties must adhere to all statutory obligations regarding good faith negotiations while the labor board is deciding the case. Quoting from the tolling agreement, this specifically means there can be no “strike, work stoppage, work slowdown, or lockout” until the labor board has determined that the parties are at an impasse. The governor will comply with these and all other obligations regarding good faith negotiations.
Jan. 8 statement by AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch
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 employees’ 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.