AFSCME Executive Director: Strike a Real Possibility
By Sean Crawford
Illinois' largest public employees' union is talking more about a strike.
Henry Bayer, who is the executive director of the AFSCME union, said contract talks with the governor's office are going nowhere.
Bayer said a strike is a real possibility, and he said Gov. Quinn is the catalyst.
"You know we've been negotiating contracts with governors going back to the middle 70's,” Bayer said. “We've always been able to settle those contracts without a strike, but it appears from the posture this administration has taken that perhaps they would like to provoke a strike."
Bayer said Quinn's termination of the union's previous contract and his attempts to force cuts in pay and benefits has workers ready to go on the picket line.
AFSCME sent a memo to members recently that offered tips on preparing for a strike, such as getting doctor visits done in advance and putting off large purchases.
Bayer said AFSCME agreed to put off earlier pay raises to help the state's financial situation, but he said the latest demands are unacceptable.
"There just doesn't seem to be any appreciation by the administration for the pressures our members are under,” Bayer said. “And instead of showing some appreciation and honoring their contract and trying to reach a fair settlement, this governor has just been dismissive."
The Quinn Administration said it continues meeting with AFSCME "to reach a contract that is fair for both state workers and the taxpayers of Illinois."
AFSCME members would need to vote to go on strike. No vote has been scheduled.
AFSCME represents nearly 40-thousand workers in various parts of government. Not everyone could walk off the job. For example, prison guards would have to keep working.