* From an e-mail to members from AFSCME Council 31 executive dirctor Roberta Lynch…
The negotiations currently underway for a new AFSCME state contract are the worst we’ve ever seen. The Rauner Administration is demanding dozens of changes to the current contract language—changes that would wipe out vitally important workplace rights, jeopardize employee health and safety, compromise the quality of services we provide to the public, undermine the union’s ability to advocate for employees, reduce promotional opportunities, and drive down take-home pay.
And after months at the bargaining table, the Administration has barely budged from any of these extreme and harmful demands, even as the June 30 contract expiration date fast approaches.
Some weeks ago, AFSCME proposed an agreement to extend the current union contract for as long as necessary to reach a new contract. The Administration rejected that proposal, but subsequently proposed an alternative “tolling agreement” which preserves all rights under the AFSCME contract for another month while negotiations continue and bars any strike, work stoppage or lockout during that time. Yesterday, AFSCME and the Rauner Administration signed that agreement.
This tolling agreement means that all current contractual rights of union members remain in place until July 31—with one exception: Over AFSCME’s objections, the Administration is freezing all step increases and semi-automatic promotions as of July 1. It is the union’s position that even without the tolling agreement, the employer would be required to maintain step and semi-automatic movement. So AFSCME intends to immediately file grievances seeking to undo this freeze.
While the one-month tolling agreement is clearly a positive step in the ongoing efforts to reach a contract settlement for state workers, it is by no means an indication that the Rauner Administration has shifted from its core goal of eliminating unions in our state, and particularly in state government.
There is every reason to believe that the governor remains determined to try to impose his extreme and harmful demands—possibly by forcing a strike or lockout—once that agreement ends. That’s why AFSCME is continuing to build support for enactment of Senate Bill 1229.
This legislation would allow unions representing employees in state government to invoke arbitration procedures if a contract settlement can’t be reached at the bargaining table, preventing the disruption of vital state services. Under the procedures set forth in the bill, an independent arbitrator, mutually chosen by the parties, would have the authority to resolve all outstanding issues.
SB 1229 passed both houses of the legislature and is now on the governor’s desk. Unfortunately, he has already sent strong signals that he intends to veto this legislation, calling it “horrible legislation” that would take away his power. It will be essential to have the legislative votes needed to override that veto.
Call your state representative and senator TODAY at 888-912-5959 or via Click-to-Call.
Tell them: “I support Senate Bill 1229 to help protect public services and ensure fairness for state employees. If the governor vetoes this legislation, please vote to override his veto.”
For a fact sheet on SB 1229, click here.
At the same time that we push to enact SB 1229, we have to be prepared for the conflict the governor seems determined to cause if it does not become law. AFSCME members want to settle our contract without any disruption to the vital services that we provide to the citizens of this state. But we cannot and will not accept a contract that guts our rights and jeopardizes our economic security. If the governor tries to force that kind of contract on us, we must be ready to stand up and resist.
In the coming weeks your local union will be providing you with information on how to best prepare for the possibility of such a struggle. Your AFSCME Bargaining Committee will be back at the negotiating table next week, once again making every effort to reach a fair contract settlement. Show them you back them up 100% by wearing your union buttons, displaying your window or yard signs, and—most importantly—by making clear your readiness to do whatever is necessary to protect the hard-won rights and economic progress that your union contract embodies.