Illinois workers vow strike without union deal with Rauner

(ROCKFORD ADVOCATE)–It’s official. The AFSCME has authorized its leaders to stage a walkout if they can’t come to terms with Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the union announced Thursday.

The union’s executive director, Roberta Lynch, said at a morning news conference that 81 percent of eligible members voted for the strike, though she wouldn’t give details.

The vote doesn’t guarantee a strike, but it gives union leaders the ability to call one if they see fit. Lynch said she is hopeful that the union and Rauner will resume negotiations.

The state’s largest public employee union with about 38,000 members, AFSCME has been without a contract since July 2015. In November, an arbitrator awarded Rauner the ability to implement his “last, best, and final offer,” but AFSCME has been challenging that ruling in court.

The union is seeking salary increases and other benefits that would cost Illinois taxpayers more than $3 billion over the life of a new four-year contract. Rauner’s final offer includes a salary freeze for workers, who are the highest paid in the U.S. when adjusted for inflation. He also wants employees to pay more for their health insurance, but give them more options.

AFSCME’s three-week voting period at 711 work sites across the state concluded last week.

In several messages the union sent to members during the voting, union leaders openly encouraged a “yes” vote, according to emails obtained by the Illinois News Network.

Last Wednesday, AFSCME members said electioneering was going on at their polling place, and that they dropped their ballots into unsecure boxes. A union spokesperson said there was no interference by AFSCME in the voting process.

–Illinois News Network

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