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Illinois Governor Stands His Ground As Public Employees Threaten Strike

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Ted Goodman Reporter
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Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner launched a new website Tuesday in order to recruit temporary workers in case state employees decide to go on strike.

The governor, in response to a recent strike authorization vote by the state’s largest public employees union, encouraged residents to apply for permanent or temporary state jobs.

The site, titled “Working for a better Illinois,” is essentially an online job application form.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 announced Feb. 23 that 81 percent of its 38,000 members authorized the union’s bargaining committee to call for a strike if a new contract cannot be reached with the state of Illinois.

Rauner, who was elected in 2014, has been engaged in a drawn out battle with the state’s largest public employees union over new contract proposals.

The governor’s proposal adjusts the overtime pay for employees, and would increase the amount workers contribute into their health care plans. The governor is asserting that his proposal would save tax payers $3 billion.

The union argues that the plan forces state and university employees to pay double what they currently pay for health care.

The labor dispute between Rauner and AFSCME has been ongoing ever since the businessman was swept into office in 2014. The union’s previous contract expired July 1, 2015, and a potential strike by state employees has loomed over Springfield ever since.

The battle heated up in May, when Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent any unresolved labor negotiations between AFSCME and the administration to arbitration. Rauner said at the time the bill was “promoted by AFSCME to remove him from bargaining and replace him with an ‘unelected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers.’”

Rauner described the union’s demands as unsustainable, arguing taxpayers cannot afford AFSCME’s “unreasonable demands.” The governor said his offer is fair to both the taxpayers and AFSCME employees. His offer includes performance bonuses of up to 8 percent of a member’s salary, as well as additional health care options.

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