Leadership at Illinois’ largest state-worker union wants a strike.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees announced its
intentions Jan. 13. At the end of the month, the union will hold a vote to
authorize a strike by nearly 30,000 state workers.
The announcement came after the union offered weak tea compromise on contract
negotiations with the state, which have dragged on for nearly two years. Gov.
Bruce Rauner’s team dismissed AFSCME’s offer as “superficial” and moved forward
with implementation of a last, best, final offer to the union.
AFSCME’s strike vote confirms what many already know. The union has no interest
in most working Illinoisans’ struggles.
Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, sent a breathless email
to membership in advance of the vote.
“Over the coming months, we will be called on to take our commitment to public
service ever deeper, to build on the support shown by our communities, and to
send a powerful message that no government can truly serve its citizens by
trampling on the employees who provide those services,” she wrote.
Here’s the reality: Illinois’ state workers are the highest-paid in the nation
when adjusting for cost of living. Many enjoy a 37.5-hour workweek. And most
receive health insurance so lavish a comparable plan is not even available for
purchase on Illinois’ state-run health insurance exchange. It’s a platinum-level
plan at a bronze-level price.
Perhaps these benefits would be fair in a booming state economy where people in
need were served adequately. This is not the case in the Land of Lincoln.
The union’s rhetoric is a slap in the face to the vast majority of middle-class
Illinoisans who do not take a paycheck from the state.
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Those Illinoisans have suffered one of the nation’s worst jobs
recoveries in the wake of the Great Recession – including the
highest black unemployment rate in the U.S.
Those Illinoisans have watched promising blue-collar opportunities
evaporate, only to reappear in other states.
Those Illinoisans face the lion’s share of the highest property
taxes in the nation, which flow to unsustainable benefits in local
government they would never see in their own workplaces.
Those Illinoisans are waving goodbye to their neighbors as they
leave the state at record rates.
None of this matters to AFSCME. The union has been gifted perk after
perk and an ever-stronger flow of dues money for decades, all with
little friction from Democrat and Republican governors.
Now, the union is kicking and screaming at the idea that it must
come down to earth if the state is to keep its head above water.
Rauner wants AFSCME members to pay a fair share of their health
insurance costs and work 40 hours a week before overtime kicks in.
That’s what an attack on the middle class looks like to AFSCME?
That’s worth walking off the job? After all the suffering the rest
of the state has endured for decades? Don’t be fooled.
To be clear, these circumstances are no fault of the Illinoisans who
work for the state.
And if any AFSCME members are sick of their union’s behavior, they
can distance themselves by becoming a fair-share payer. That means
none of their dues money will flow to union politics. And they can’t
be punished for crossing the picket line during a strike.
AFSCME’s grandstanding thus far is enough to make anyone run for
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