Big corporations got tax breaks last year, and the state’s largest public employee union is still asking: what about us? Hundreds of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 members demanded their promised pay raises during a rally in a mostly empty capitol building. Henry Bayer (pictured), Council 31’s executive director, says the governor is being disingenuous by cancelling raises for front line workers due to lack of funds, yet finding money for corporate tax breaks.
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“Labor comes before capital,” he says. “This governor gave $300 million to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Frontline workers… he can pay them what they’re owed. They certainly deserve it, and they certainly need it a lot more than the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.” The union delivered a “collection notice” of sorts to the governor’s office. It read:
“This is an attempt to collect a debt. On behalf of 30,000 Illinois state employees who care for the most vulnerable, keep prisons safe and much more, we are seeking to uphold and enforce our legally binding collective bargaining agreement with the State of Illinois and you, Gov. Quinn. You say you ‘believe in the right of working people to organize’ and that unions exist to ‘make sure people get a decent wage.’ Yet you have failed to comply with our union contract and the law with respect to the pay schedule of the men and women who do the real work of state government. Instead you have chosen to provoke a costly court battle. Please immediately remit the amount you owe in full.
[AFSCME bargaining committee]”
AFSCME members left the capitol after they said the governor’s staff refused to meet with them. A spokeswoman for the governor says she tried, but she wanted to meet with director Bayer and a small group – not hundreds of protestors, as she says AFSCME demanded. She says a “meeting” with a sea of protestors wouldn’t have been productive.