Labor federations call on Quinn to end attack on bargaining rights

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CARRIGAN

Springfield, IL – Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan and Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez are calling on Governor Pat Quinn to reverse his decision to terminate the union contract that covers some 35,000 state workers.

“State employees are on the frontlines every day preserving public safety, safeguarding children and assisting families, caring for aging veterans, responding to disasters, and protecting our environment,” Carrigan said.  “Governor Quinn’s effort to undermine their collective bargaining rights is unwarranted and virtually unprecedented in Illinois government.”

Quinn’s administration recently terminated state government’s contract with its largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31. AFSCME has been in negotiations with the Administration for more than 10 months over a new collective bargaining agreement.

“Governor Quinn’s action in terminating the AFSCME contract is inconsistent with the principles of collective bargaining,” Ramirez said.  “We cannot understand why our governor, who has stood with organized labor in the past, would be so eager to undermine our brothers and sisters.”

Carrigan said that Governor Quinn’s attempt to portray state employees as overpaid is an affront to all Illinois workers who have sacrificed and strived to make it into the middle class.  “The governor’s effort to drive down the wage levels of Illinois workers will hurt the economy of our state in the long run,” he added.  “I know that AFSCME members are aware of the state’s fiscal woes. They have already taken unpaid furlough days, deferred wage increases and more to save the state over $400 million.”

“Instead of seeking confrontation, Governor Quinn should work with state employees,” Ramirez said.  “We urge him to reverse course, return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith to reach a settlement that is fair to all.”

Just two years after strong labor support propelled Democrat Quinn to a narrow win and kept the legislature in Democratic control, the governor said he will not extend the expired contract with AFSCME, which represents 40,000 state workers. The old pact ended June 30, but was extended three times.

Meanwhile, the Democratic-run state House, which unexpectedly voted 62-52 last year to yank collective bargaining rights from thousands of state workers, passed a nonbinding resolution on Nov. 28 saying the state has no money for raises for workers for the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.  Quinn backed the resolution.

"The piggy bank is not there to be giving out raises," Quinn told lawmakers before they approved the we-have-no-cash resolution. "We have many bills to pay, and we have this pension challenge.  And so the notion that we would be giving out raises is not in the cards. So it’s better for everybody – the executive branch and the legislative branch – to let the government employees’ union know what the facts are.”

All this leaves Illinois state workers – who haven’t had raises in several years – and their union leaders steamed.

“In 40 years of collective bargaining, Pat Quinn is the first and only Illinois governor to terminate a union contract,” AFSCME District Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer said.   “His action will heighten employee frustration, provoke instability in the workplace and make settling a contract more difficult.”

Joanna Webb-Gauvin, AFSCME’s Illinois legislative director said “collective bargaining is based on give and take. This is an intrusion on that process.” She noted AFSCME members know of the state’s fiscal woes and have sacrificed to help solve them, even as Illinois cut 25 percent of its workforce since 2002.  “Our members and their salaries did not cause this fiscal crisis, and this resolution won’t solve them,” she said.

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