CHICAGO Feb 28 In preparation for a possible
strike by Illinois' largest union of state workers, Governor
Bruce Rauner's administration launched a website on Tuesday
encouraging residents to apply for permanent or temporary state
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 announced last week that 81
percent of its 38,000 members authorized the union's bargaining
committee to call a strike if a new contract cannot be reached
with the state.
Union members, who include prison guards, healthcare
providers for veterans and the disabled, child welfare
investigators, state highway workers and others, have been
without a contract since July 2015. Negotiations with the
Republican governor's administration broke off more than a year
ago over issues that include overtime pay, salary increases and
healthcare premiums paid by employees.
"We genuinely hope AFSCME leadership will choose not to
strike against taxpayers and work with us on implementing
common-sense proposals like overtime after 40 hours, not 37.5,”
Rauner General Counsel Dennis Murashko said in a statement.
“However, we must be prepared to continue government
operations and provide services that citizens deserve and
expect,” he added.
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the governor's contract
proposal includes "unreasonable" demands like a 100 percent hike
in employee healthcare premiums.
"Instead of trying to intimidate workers with illegal
threats, the governor should simply do his job: negotiate with
state workers toward a compromise that's fair to all," Lindall
The website, Working for a Better Illinois, asks residents
to supply contact information if they are interested in
employment in accounting, clerical work, data processing, public
safety, construction, engineering, maintenance and other areas.
"Although individuals would be hired on a temporary basis in
response to the strike, the state would then begin taking the
steps necessary to fill positions permanently," the governor's
The strike threat comes as Illinois is limping through a
record-setting second consecutive fiscal year without a complete
budget due to an ongoing feud between Rauner and Democrats who
control the legislature. A six-month budget for fiscal 2017
expired on Dec. 31.
(Reporting by Karen Pierog; Editing by Matthew Lewis)