CFL News
February 03, 2012

AFSCME members protest state worker raise cancellations

State workers deliver a collection notice to Governor Pat Quinn demanding pay for raises they were promised

Source: Springfield Journal-Register

By CHRIS WETTERICH

Demanding raises that Gov. Pat Quinn has canceled, dozens of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees rallied Thursday in front of the governor's office, causing a brief confrontation with Secretary of State police officers.

AFSCME members tried to present Quinn with an oversized "collection notice" for the raises, which were withheld by the governor for 30,000 unionized employees in 14 state agencies in July. Those workers, mostly AFSCME members, were supposed to receive a 2 percent raise on July 1, a 1.25 percent raise on Jan. 1 and another 2 percent on Wednesday. None of the raises have been paid.

Quinn has said the legislature did not appropriate enough money to fund the raises.

The rally came a day after Democrat Quinn touted his record with labor in his State of the State speech, obliquely referring to labor battles in Wisconsin and Indiana.

In Wisconsin, Republican Gov. Scott Walker faces a recall election over his signature on a bill removing collective bargaining rights for public employees who are not police or firefighters. In Indiana, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels supports “right to work” legislation that would allow workers not to pay union dues even if they're in jobs covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

"Here in Illinois, unlike other states in the Midwest, we believe in the right of working people to organize," Quinn said in his speech.

Henry Bayer, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said the governor's representatives refused to meet with the AFSCME members gathered outside Quinn's office. Quinn’s public schedule said he was in Belvidere on Thursday.

"The message to us is clear: This governor has no respect for front-line employees," Bayer said. "He doesn't care about the commitments he made to them."

Quinn spokeswoman Annie Thompson said a representative offered to meet with a handful of union members in the governor’s office.

"We did offer to meet with a smaller group of representatives. Ultimately they refused. They wanted one individual to meet with the entire group. We didn’t feel that would result in the most productive conversation," Thompson said.

A Secretary of State police officer told the crowd that having a rally, holding up signs and chanting on the Statehouse’s second floor was not allowed. The crowd eventually complied.

As the union members left, many gave their signs, which said “Governor Quinn Respect Worker Rights” to a group of visiting schoolchildren from Mason City, some of whom waved the signs and chanted “Honor our contract” along with AFSCME members.

“We’re here today … to collect a debt, a debt that he (Quinn) had agreed to pay,” said Steve Nordyke, 36, an information services analyst at the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “There was a contract and agreement.

“We’re standing here, we’re not going on strike, we’re not taking our services away,” he said. “We’re just asking to be paid for those services.”

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