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AFSCME gears up

Monday, Feb 4, 2013

* AFSCME has declared today and tomorrow to be action days on its contract. From the union’s Facebook page

Anything going on in your office or shop?

* Meanwhile, the Southern Illinoisan, which forcefully opposed the closure of the Tamms state prison, ran a recent editorial about a couple of assaults on prison guards, including this one

Less than two weeks ago, on Jan. 19, Menard Correctional Center in Chester was placed on lockdown after an inmate assaulted a correctional officer. Fortunately, the staff member’s injuries were limited to bruises, but a spokeswoman for the department of corrections expressed concern about the attack. […]

You may also recall Tamms was defended by some as an appropriate home for the “worst of the worst” state inmates before falling victim to protestations of inhumane conditions and excessive costs. Opponents of Tamms’ closure also said the super-maximum prison helped control inmate violence throughout the correctional system because prisoners did not want to get sent to the facility as punishment.

Ty Peterson, of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the bargaining unit for prison staff, said the employee attacked at Menard recently was transferred to the correctional center from Tamms, which still housed some inmates until the end of the year.

Are you beginning to see a disturbing pattern? Is what we are seeing at Pontiac and Menard the “new normal” for correctional centers in Illinois?

Wait. The guard was transferred from Tamms to Menard, not the prisoner. I’m not sure I get it.

- Posted by Rich Miller        


44 Comments
  1. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 11:48 am:

    That AFSCME sign doesn’t make any sense. Last time I checked you have to head just north of Illinois to find a governor that wants to “terminate” public employee unions.

    Then again, a little breathless hyperbole is always fun.


  2. - wordslinger - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 11:49 am:

    –Wait. The guard was transferred from Tamms to Menard, not the prisoner. I’m not sure I get it.–

    You’re not the only one.


  3. - Nieva - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 11:55 am:

    What we need to know is if the inmate is a former Tamms inmate. A guard getting bruised in not unusual at Menard. Breaking up a fight or sometimes just turning a key can get you on work comp. and a big check from the system.


  4. - StayFree75 - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 12:09 pm:

    Nothing going on in my shop as usual. One contract done, now back to sleep. Haven’t had a work related phone call in almost three years now. Oh, and I hear we’re getting 22 new employees soon, some with no defined job duties whatsoever.

    Its really hard to stomach as a CPA who previously worked in the “real world”, i.e. private sector.


  5. - SirLankselot - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 12:41 pm:

    In the private sector, your job can be threatened by the fluctuations of the economy. In the public sector, it’s by the whims of politicians.

    I’ll take my chances with Wall Street.


  6. - Rusty618 - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 12:42 pm:

    Here’s what happens guys. New guards, just like new inmates, are often tested. This guard was likely unfamiliar with the inmates and routines at Menard. Therefore, he received an initiation of sorts. You can expect more of this as the guards and inmates are shifted around in our overcrowded prison system.


  7. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    Hyperbole? Failing to honor a contract dwarfs anything Scott Walker did.


  8. - OneMan - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:13 pm:

    Seems to me not honoring a contract is basically terminating a union, what value does the right to negotiate a contract have?

    Seems to me it is one step removed from Milton Waddems and ‘fixing the glitch’


  9. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:15 pm:

    - Failing to honor a contract dwarfs anything Scott Walker did. -

    Well, please enlighten me. Did your paycheck change? Did you lose any of your benefits? Is Henry not still attending negotiations, also known as collective bargaining?


  10. - Chi - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:18 pm:

    -Hyperbole? Failing to honor a contract dwarfs anything Scott Walker did.-

    Talk about hyperbole. If the Governor fails to honor a contract, you take him to court, which AFSCME did. Did someone shut down the court system over the weekend?


  11. - lincolnlover - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:24 pm:

    Stay Free - Send your new hires over to my agency, will you? We have lost 1/2 our headcount over the past 10 years and now have 2 or 3 sites closed because there is no one to work there.


  12. - steve schnorf - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:41 pm:

    What is the current status of the contract?


  13. - CarrollCounty - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:46 pm:

    If the prisoners knew where he was from (Tamms) it could easily by retribution for Tamm’s (reputed) treatment of fellow gang members. Not that hard to imagine.

    If drugs are in prisons, surely the prisoners communicate between prisons. The state probably provides the email system for them.

    I am glad our Thomson prison will no longer be a supermax state prison, sounds like anything the US federal prison does will be better than that.


  14. - Reality Check - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:46 pm:

    @Steve, Quinn terminated the contract on Nov. 21, something no Illinois governor has done in 40 years of state employee collective bargaining. So the current status of the contract is, there is no contract.


  15. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:52 pm:

    - So the current status of the contract is, there is no contract. -

    And yet nothing has changed, because refusing to extend the expiration deadline for the fourth time doesn’t change anything for the members.

    AFSCME’s own statement regarding this:

    - AFSCME issued a statement saying the termination has “little immediate practical effect, as all existing terms and conditions of employment remain in place under state law.” -


  16. - StayFree75 - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 1:57 pm:

    Good to hear at least one agency is properly staffed. Thanks.

    But to be honest, they are not exactly “new hires.” Absolutely they are new employees to my agency, but if I disclosed how they became part of my agency, it would be real easy to figure out who I am.


  17. - transplant - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    Thursday night at Menard an inmate in segregation was allegedly murdered by his cellmate, who is serving 3 life sentences without possibility of parole. Both men were from the Chicago area. By Saturday, the cellmate had been transferred to Pontiac. Not seeing any repercussions for this guy, he can’t be executed, he can’t be sent to Tamms, now he’s closer to home, and what’s one more life sentence at this point?


  18. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 2:02 pm:

    I’m not an AFSCME member, but yes i believe Henry is still negotiating. Not sure what an AFSCME members paycheck has to do with anything, other than it is lower than agreed to. Negotiations are going nowhere, and how could they when there has been a unilateral breach of a previous contract. There will be no agreement and there will be a strike vote


  19. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 2:04 pm:

    AFSCME did take him to Court and succeeded. Quinn has continued to appeal and lose and great cost to this State


  20. - Demoralized - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 2:17 pm:

    @Generation X:

    I’m terribly sorry for your suffering. Those years of raises and step increases just weren’t quite enough. This year of a flat salary must be tough.

    ============

    The fact is that the chickens have finally come home to roost. And because of that neither side really has anything to talk about. The state let the union contracts get so out of control and now they are having to dig their heels in to say enough is enough.

    Don’t think for one minute that I want any employee’s salary or benefits to be decimated. I don’t. Though I’m not in the union my fortunes are also tied to the benefit discussions (too bad the state stopped the practice of parity in raises with the union several years ago, but I digress). But there has to be some sort of acknowledgement that raises will not be forthcoming (from the union) and that draconian benefit cuts will not be stomached (from the state). Until that happens I see no real light at the end of the tunnel.

    As for “action” at my workplace, there is none. I don’t even see people wearing green. Sure, there might be a strike but employees won’t stomach more than a few days of a strike (lack of pay, loss of insurance, etc.). The strike (if it happens - I’m not convinced yet) would only be symbolic. Maybe it’s necessary but I doubt it will have much of an effect.


  21. - Sgtstu - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 2:47 pm:

    Nieva - “just turning a key ”

    Your lack of knownedge concerning what a State prison guard does is showing in a big way. These people keep murders like that away from you and the ones you love. Just a little respect might be a good thing.


  22. - Jay - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:42 pm:

    Demoralized - your lack of knowledge on the subject is obvious but what should actually bother you is the fact that a contract was signed and our government decides, that while it is a legal document, they can just disregard. As for the next contract, where is the workers faith that anything negotiated will be lived up to. BTW ANYONE can apply for these glory filled jobs, including you.


  23. - Grandson of Man - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:44 pm:

    We have a recurring solidarity day at my office, and it’s nice to see workers participate.

    I voted to strike if necessary but hope dearly that my union leaders use the utmost discretion in considering a strike. I would not like to strike unless the situation warrants it (a very bad deal). I understand fully that the state is broke, so I support the idea that I must make a sacrifice, but not to the point that it decimates workers who earn less than I do.


  24. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:46 pm:

    === that a contract was signed===

    The contract has expired.


  25. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:48 pm:

    @ demoralized. I sympathize with your position and merit comp employees have been unfairly treated. Apparently though the Chickens havent fully come home to roost yet as the “At wIll” are still getting raises all across the state.

    Regardless a contract is a binding agreement which must be fulfilled and my response was a counter to a poster who insisted that AFSCME would be worse off in Wisconsin which isnt supported by facts


  26. - Jay - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:52 pm:

    Miller - It is understood that contract is over but its terms were never meet, or should that not be a point of contention?


  27. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 3:57 pm:

    - AFSCME would be worse off in Wisconsin which isnt supported by facts -

    I guess collective bargaining isn’t something you hold too dearly? Because that’s what Walker took away, in case you missed it.

    Those workers in Wisconsin didn’t overlook it, they filled up the capitol for weeks, and initiated nearly succesfull recall. Maybe you should go talk to some of them and tell them your tale of woe.


  28. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 4:39 pm:

    Yes because unilaterally ignoring a valid contract has no impact on collective bargaining right? If Quinn succeeds in not paying those raises, you dont believe that every agreement thereafter would be worthless?
    The difference between Quinn and Walker is that Walker was far more effective at implementing his tactics because he used legal means. Quinn went outside the law, which will ultimately fail, but it wasnt for lack of effort


  29. - Generation X - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 4:42 pm:

    Had Bill Brady broken the contract instead of Quinn, Springfield would have made Madison look like the Macys Day parade


  30. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 4:44 pm:

    ===but its terms were never meet===

    The issue in contention is legit. The contract said: “subject to appropriation.” The money wasn’t appropriated. It wasn’t Quinn’s idea.


  31. - Norseman - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 4:54 pm:

    === I voted to strike if necessary ===

    I missed that AFSCME had asked for a strike vote.


  32. - Norseman - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 5:09 pm:

    I don’t believe the contract itself said “subject to appropriations.” I thought Quinn’s argument related to a funding reference in the law. I believe the following section is what is being argued.

    “Illinois Public Labor Relations Act
    5 ILCS 315/21) (from Ch. 48, par. 1621)
    Sec. 21. Subject to the appropriation power of the employer, employers and exclusive representatives may negotiate multi-year collective bargaining agreements pursuant to the provisions of this Act.”


  33. - Demoralized - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 5:18 pm:

    @Jay:

    I’m fairly certain I have knowledge of the contract considering my position. You can disagree with me but don’t question my intelligence.

    Also, theoretically the contract could have always been broken because of insufficient funding. This Governor happens to be the first one that did it. You can’t spend money that the legislature doesn’t give you and I think the General Assembly is making it pretty clear lately that they will be heard on the issue of labor contracts, at least in the area of compensation.

    AFSCME’s beef should really be with the General Assembly and their decision not to honor the financial obligations of the contract.

    I’ve never said that this entire thing isn’t a mess or that there are not implications for labor contracts in general. I just think everybody would do well to understand that it’t the General Assembly that provides the money, not the Governor.


  34. - Reality Check - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 5:50 pm:

    @Demoralized both an independent arbitrator and the trial court have ruled against your argument. Your reading is not correct and has been rejected in both forums. It is time to honor the previous contract and settle a fair successor agreement going forward.


  35. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 5:53 pm:

    Demoralized “not the Governor” Your arguement might have an air of truth to it. The problem I see is the Governor has the power to move money around when he needs to. He choose not to and disregarded a select group of workers. This is held true by the fact the Judge on the lawsuit seized the excess money and then ordered the Governor to pay its debts to State workers. The Governor’s hands have dirt on them too.


  36. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 6:27 pm:

    - The contract said: “subject to appropriation.” The money wasn’t appropriated. -

    Thanks for the dose of reality, it’s unbelievable how this is completely ignored by most people discussing the issue.


  37. - Young Contrarian - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 6:31 pm:

    I appreciate everybody’s concern for collective bargaining rights and contract obligations. However, with an aging/declining population, a deindustrialized service economy, businesses being recruited to warmer, lower tax, right-to-work states, for example, Texas, where is Illinois going to find 1/10 of a trillion dollars to be able to fully fund pension obligations?


  38. - Anonymous - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 6:43 pm:

    ‘Thanks for the dose of reality, it’s unbelievable how this is completely ignored by most people discussing the issue. ‘

    Then why give it to all the other agencies? You realize of course, employees with same title, doing same job in two different agencies with same senority/employment status ect ect were treated differently under the same contract. Did the contract mention anything about selectively playing favorites?


  39. - Small Town Liberal - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 6:54 pm:

    - Then why give it to all the other agencies? -

    As I understand it, the GA refused to appropriate the money for agencies that are completely funded from GRF. I could be wrong, but I believe that’s how it was explained to me.

    I’m also pretty sure the funding was in the governor’s budget proposal, and he tried to get the legislature to appropriate the money after they removed it. They said no.


  40. - Demoralized - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 7:59 pm:

    @Reality Check:

    And yet the money still hasn’t been given out. Let me know when it happens.

    @Anon:

    There is power to move money around but it’s limited to 2% of operations (and it is within single funds - you can’t move money around between funds). Unless people were suggesting that agencies simply forgo other significant parts of their operations then that argument doesn’t hold water. Anyway, not enough money could have been moved around anyway to pay the raises. Also, I don’t put much stock in the “unfair treatment” argument. When there are Admin Assistants that make more than I do then fairness has already left the building.


  41. - Anon. - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 8:47 pm:

    ==Thanks for the dose of reality, it’s unbelievable how this is completely ignored by most people discussing the issue.==

    Actually, the facts were ignored by the governor. There is case law out there in other states on what happens when the legislature appropriates a lump sum for an agency that is enough to pay full contractual amounts and everything else the agency must pay, and the decision is: pay the contractual obligations first. If there is enough to pay them, you must. Non-contractual spending is limited to whatever is left. That’s the reality.


  42. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 10:05 pm:

    Other unions around the state are telling their members AFSCME is going on strike next week, or at least calling for the strike vote.


  43. - IDOT GUY - Monday, Feb 4, 13 @ 11:15 pm:

    I heard from a couple of our secretaries (whom are AFSCME) that they were told they will probably be striking soon.


  44. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Feb 5, 13 @ 10:07 am:

    @Anon:

    You CANNOT pay payroll from any old line item you choose. Agencies didn’t get a lump appropriation. The sooner some of you understand that the better off you will be. You can quote case law, arbitrator rulings, and court orders all you want but the fact is unless the General Assembly allocates the money for the raises they ain’t getting paid. It’s really up to AFSCME to get the General Assembly to follow the court orders because absent that the game is over.


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