March 3, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Springfield, IL – After more than a year of Gov. Bruce Rauner refusing to bargain for a new contract, the union representing 28,000 Illinois state workers voted to authorize a strike.
AFSCME Council 31 director Roberta Lynch announced Feb. 23 that 81% had voted in favor. Their last contract expired June 30, 2015, and Rauner, who ran for office on a pledge to break the power of public-sector unions, declared an impasse in January 2016 after Council 31 rejected a “last, best, and final offer” that would have frozen wages for four years, doubled health-insurance costs, and allowed more outsourcing. Lynch said the union was “more than willing to work to find common ground. But we won’t just roll over.” Rauner told the Chicago Tribune that “the right answer” was for the union not to strike, but to be “cooperative”—accept the contract terms he’d dictated. “He is trying to break the Democratic majority and reduce their power in the state, turn a blue state red,” said Diane Stokes, president of Local 2858, which represents social workers in Chicago. Council 31 has never held a statewide strike since it was formed in the 1970s. Read more