Hey Rauner, do your job!

April 10, 2017

AFSCME Local 1989 member Criage Lynnette Althage reports from Chicago on a picket to demand that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner negotiate with state workers.

SOME 1,500 union members and supporters turned out in downtown Chicaog to picket a campaign fundraiser for Illinois' budget-cutting Gov Bruce Rauner on March 31. The cold and rainy day didn't stop protesters from gathering in front of the Hilton Hotel under the slogan "Rauner Do Your Job!" and chanting "Don't dictate. Negotiate."

For more than two years, Republican millionaire-turned-governor has refused to pass a state budget, which has left public services without funding and in danger. Five unions representing workers in state government are currently waiting for Rauner to settle contracts with them. The notoriously anti-union governor has refused to even negotiate with AFSCME over the last year.

The mood was upbeat with a sense of solidarity, as workers from many local unions and organization came together to walk the picket.

Unions and community organizations affected by lack of funding as a result of Rauner stalling on signing a budget were all there, including, to name a few, the Chicago Federation of Labor, Service Employees International Union, Amalgamated Transit Union, Laborers, Arise Chicago, Citizen Action Chicago, the Illinois Nurses Association, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Graduate Employees Organization, Illinois Education Association and AFSCME.

Workers protest Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner outside the Hilton Hotel in Chicago
Workers protest Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner outside the Hilton Hotel in Chicago (Citizen Action Illinois)

Rauner's wealthy donors attending the event that night had to walk through the expansive picket that ran from Balbo Drive, past the grand Hilton Hotel's entrance on Michigan Avenue, down to 8th Street. With 1,500 people chanting, you could hear it all the way from State Street. After the picket, we converged on 8th street for a rally, with speakers including AFSCME Council 31's Roberta Lynch.

AFSCME MEMBERS are demanding that Rauner and his team sit down and resume negotiating the state workers contract. They want the governor to stop pushing his plan for a 100 percent employee costs for health care, which would to a cut in take-home pay of some $10,000.

In late February, state workers voted by an overwhelming 81 percent to give their union bargaining committee authority to call a strike, showing they're serious about this fight. Since then, Rauner has done his best to try to intimidate state workers, announcing a job portal for recruiting strikebreakers.

Union members also want Rauner to pass a fair budget that is brought to him by the legislature so that state universities and services can be fully funded, restored and made whole. My own AFSCME Local 1989 at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) made our own signs and were there with other locals, to demand that Rauner pass a budget.

State workers have faced cuts, furloughs and layoffs during a time when the governor and his contemporaries have raked in millions of dollars a day.

Workers at NEIU have just come off of a five-day furlough. Three of our paychecks will be reduced to paltry sums, which puts members trying to pay mortgage, medical, and utility at risk of not being able to cover their bills. The first paycheck will only be missing one day, but the following two paychecks will be missing two days of work each.

In addition to the February strike vote, the March 31 action showed that state workers aren't letting this go without a fight. We make the state run, not this union-busting governor.

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