Illinois state workers push for fair budget, contract

Despite proposals to freeze their pay and cut many state-run programs, Illinois state workers who attended a rally in Marion Wednesday night are upbeat about having a fair shake at the bargaining table.

"This is the first time this has ever happened," said Bonnie Brimm. She’s a 21-year state health care employee. She’s hoping Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn’t chip away at services — like food and medical supplies — she said is vital for veterans.

"I work and serve the people when they were called to duty and went to serve. To me, that’s an honor. Are we disrespecting them by not giving them the things the deserve?" said Brimm.

Many downstate lawmakers are joining in the chorus to stand up to Rauner including Democrat State Rep. Brandon Phelps.

"If you all, all of us, don’t stay united, this man will take over this state," Phelps told a cheering crowd. Phelps said the governor wants to weaken workers’ rights. Julie Yana’s daughter has autism, and she told the crowd her pay will shrink while insurance rates will skyrocket under the governor’s proposed health care cuts.

"It’s going to be $10,000 for our family, and that’s with no increase to cover that at all," Yana said. 

Brimm, like many of her colleagues, said her job is worth fighting for because the state’s future depends on it. "We have never had another governor do this to us. Ever. This one shouldn’t be either," Brimm told Local 6.

A spokesperson for Rauner released a statement saying: 

"Families in Southern Illinois and across the state are hurting under the 12 years of one-party rule, which has led to a $5 billion structural deficit and the worst credit rating of any state in the country. The status quo cannot continue, and Governor Rauner has proposed a number of reforms to help the next generation, which will free up resources to help balance the budget and protect our most vulnerable. However, the super majority in the legislature continues to block our reforms at the expense of middle-class families. 

Due to the state’s fiscal crisis, every layer of state government must be evaluated, which includes the employment contracts with state employees. The administration continues to bargain in good faith to reach a new contract with AFSCME that include proposals similar to those reached by the Teamsters and trade unions. The contracts reached with those 17 other unions contain provisions that other states have had for years, like a 40-hour work week, bonuses for exceptional performance and cost savings, provisions to improve the competitiveness of state services, and restrictions on overtime abuse. In our year of negotiations, we have seen very little progress and few concessions from AFSCME, but will continue to work to get a deal that is fair to both state employees and taxpayers."

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