Rauner urged to call AFSCME's 'bluff'
Three conservative activists took to the airways recently to offer their support to Gov. Bruce Rauner's decision to seek replacement workers in advance of a possible strike by the state's largest public employee union.
"I think there are plenty of people who are out of work in this state who would welcome an opportunity to work for the state if the AFSCME people go on strike," Pat Hughes, co-founder of the Illinois Opportunity Project, said during an Illinois Rising Radio show. “I say he should call their bluff."
Hughes was joined by Illinois Policy Institute attorney Mailee Smith and Dan Proft, host of the Chicago-based talk show and a principal in Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
Smith said November's ruling by Illinois Labor Relations Board shows the futility of further talks between the governor's office and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
"There's no purpose in going back to the table," she said. "AFSCME has stalled; they continue to demand these extravagant benefits. Even the administrative law judge with the labor board, she actually said the union's conduct calls into question its commitment to reaching an agreement through bargaining."
Any strike plans by AFSCME's leadership have been delayed by the March 3 ruling by the Fourth District Appellate Court that put a hold on the labor board’s decision that the state and union were at an impasse. That ruling means AFSCME cannot strike because Rauner cannot impose terms on it.
The state's contract with the union employees expired on July 1, 2015, and talks since then have been unproductive. Both sides must now wait – perhaps for months – for the appellate court to rule on the impasse.
Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said the appellate court decision was in the best interest of all the people of Illinois.
“We strongly urge Gov. Rauner to join us in the spirit of compromise and return to bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement that is truly fair to all," Lynch said.
Rauner’s office issued a statement saying it was “very disappointed” with the ruling.
Although Mailee has questioned the true level of union membership work stoppage support, Lynch said 81 percent of members voted in favor of a strike authorization.
“Now that doesn't guarantee that there will be a strike, but it takes this impasse between the governor and the largest state workers union to the next level," Proft said. "And, at least, I think we would have to start game-planning for the possibility of a strike and what the governor should do if that should come to pass."
The strike authorization vote prompted the governor's office to launch a jobs website.
"This is his potential air traffic controllers moment," Hughes said, referring to the President Ronald Reagan-era busting of the nation's air traffic controllers union.