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Replacement Workers Could Take Over Permanently If Illinois Employees Go On Strike

REUTERS/Jim Young

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Ted Goodman Reporter

If Illinois public employees end up striking, replacement employees could take their jobs permanently.

Eighty-one percent of the members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 voted to authorize a strike Feb. 23, a move that prompted a dramatic response from Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Rauner set up a website that encourages residents to apply for permanent or temporary jobs with the state of Illinois in case the union members initiate a strike.

The website, titled “Working for a better Illinois,” is collecting job applications to fill the positions of union workers in the event of a labor strike.

“I don’t know what will be permissible and what won’t be permissible because we are in this territory that hasn’t been tested legally,” Robert Bruno, an assistant professor of labor and industrial relations at the University of Illinois, told The Times newspaper of Illinois.

AFSCME Council 31, which represents 38,000 public employees, called for a strike if a new contract cannot be reached with the state. Rauner, who was elected in 2014, has been engaged in a lengthy dispute with AFSCME over budget 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 dispute reached a tipping point in May, when Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent any unresolved labor negotiations to arbitration.

Rauner said at the time the bill was “promoted by AFSCME to remove him from bargaining and replace him with an ‘un-elected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers.’”

He 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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