AFSCME Council 31 says Rauner administration officials have walked away from talks over a new labor contract and are claiming that negations are at an impasse.
The union, which contends that the talks are not at an impasse, says it "will take legal action" if the administration refuses to return to the negotiating table.
AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch issued this statement:
We are shocked that the Rauner Administration would walk away and refuse to continue negotiations. The Governor's rash action invites confrontation and chaos -- it is not the path to a fair agreement. The people of Illinois deserve leadership that is focused on working together and getting things done, not someone who demands his own way or nothing at all. With no state budget to fund the public services that Illinois residents rely on and no union contract for the men and women who provide those services, the last thing the people of Illinois need is another manufactured crisis from a governor unwilling to do the hard work of compromise.
In reality, there is no impasse between our union and the Rauner Administration. Until the final minutes of today's meeting, both parties continued to exchange proposals on many issues. There has been no hint that the administration would simply refuse to continue to negotiate. If they will not return to the table, our union will take legal action. It is a violation of state labor law for a party to declare impasse where none exists.
The parties do have areas of serious disagreement. For example, the administration wants to double employee's costs for health care, making the state's health plan the worst in the nation for any state workforce. It would also would freeze wages for four years, which coupled with its huge hikes in health costs would take money from the pockets of working families. Our union believes that public-service workers, like all working people, deserve wages that can sustain a family and health care they can afford. We also disagree with the administration's insistence on eliminating safeguards that prevent unfettered privatization of public services.
Despite our differences, AFSCME remains committed to finding common ground. We've been successful in reaching fair agreements with every Illinois governor of both parties for the past 40 years. But that can't happen if the Rauner administration refuses to remain at the table and negotiate.
As a candidate, Bruce Rauner repeatedly threatened to impose his extreme demands on state employees, and to force a strike in order to do so. That's why unions representing state employees backed legislation to provide for arbitration as an alternative means of reaching a fair agreement. When the governor vetoed that bill, he pledged to work in good faith to reach a settlement--a pledge he has broken today.
Public-service workers in state government keep us safe, respond to emergencies, protect kids, care for the most vulnerable and fulfill countless other essential functions in every Illinois community every day. They deserve a governor who respects the work they do and who will work in good faith to reach an agreement that's fair to all.
Check back with Progress Illinois as this story develops.
UPDATE (4:21 p.m.): Gov. Bruce Rauner's Communications Director Lance Trover released the following statement regarding contract negotiations with AFSCME:
Today marked the 67th day of negotiations with AFSCME. Like every previous session, AFSCME rejected all of the Governor's core proposals and insisted that they would never agree to those proposals despite our good faith efforts to address union concerns.
In light of that position, our negotiators asked AFSCME if they believed we were at impasse. If so, both parties signed a tolling agreement establishing a Labor Board process by which that determination can be made. AFSCME insists that the parties are not at impasse while rejecting the offer for additional sessions next week.
After a year of no meaningful progress, we must now evaluate the benefit of future sessions given AFSCME's intransigence. In light of their answers today, we will now decide if the previously-agreed dispute resolution process should be considered.