With a contract deadline just one week away, state workers in Illinois are continuing to push for a fair labor agreement.
Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) say they are not pleased with Governor Bruce Rauner's proposed cuts in pay and benefits, and his willingness to allow a government shutdown. Anders Lindall with AFSCME Council 31 says a strike is not in the public's best interest.
"We have never had a governor who has made such extreme demands as to give state employees no choice but to force them out on strike for fairness," he says. "That's not what the people want and certainly not what state employees or our union wants."
Contracts also expire on June 30 with several smaller unions representing about 5,000 nurses and police officers. While negotiations have been underway for six months, the governor has remained quiet about contract talks. A spokesperson for the governor recently said Rauner is committed to bargaining in good faith to reach a deal that is fair to both state employees and taxpayers.
If no agreement is reached before June 30, Lindall says the terms of the current contract should be extended while bargaining continues. He adds that state employees are committed to serving the people and providing vital services to communities.
"That includes protecting kids from abuse and neglect, taking care of people with profound disabilities, working in our state parks, and keeping us all safe by investigating crimes and responding to emergencies," he says. "We want to keep doing that work. It's not just a job, but a calling to serve."
There is no formal agreement to extend the contract, but Lindall says bargaining dates have been scheduled for July.