On February 23, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced the highly anticipated outcome of a member-wide vote on strike authorization. Members of the state’s largest employee union, representing approximately 38,000 public service workers in Illinois state government, voted to give their union bargaining committee the authority to call a future strike. However, the ballot outcome does not mean a strike is imminent. A union representative emphasized that state workers do not want to strike, and that AFSCME is still open to compromise.
Though the Governor has renegotiated contracts with 20 other labor organizations, a compromise with AFSCME remains elusive. Governor Rauner is seeking changes that he emphasizes would streamline government and save taxpayer dollars. AFSCME representatives maintain the Governor’s terms are unreasonable.
The call for strike authorization came after years of failed negotiations between AFSCME and Governor Bruce Rauner. The Rauner administration has sought to implement a contract with AFSCME to replace the contract that expired in 2015; however, discussions between the two parties stalled more than a year ago after the Governor declared they had reached an impasse in the contract talks. A state labor panel later agreed with the Governor, but a temporary court order secured by AFSCME has prevented the Rauner administration from moving forward with implementation of the Governor’s preferred terms.