WBEZ | AFSCME http://www.wbez.org/tags/afscme Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Unions sue to stop Chicago pension overhaul http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/city hall chicago flickr daniel x o nell.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Current and retired city workers and their labor unions have filed a lawsuit arguing a law overhauling Chicago&#39;s pension systems is unconstitutional.</p><p>The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court also asks a judge to stop the law from taking effect Jan. 1.</p><p>Chicago has the worst-funded pension system of any major U.S. city.</p><p>Legislation approved last year seeks to eliminate a $9.4 billion unfunded liability in two pension systems by increasing contributions and cutting benefits. It would affect about 57,000 laborers and municipal employees.</p><p>The plaintiffs are 12 current and former workers and four unions, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Nurses Association.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the law is constitutional. He says the changes are needed to ensure pension funds remain solvent and retirees receive benefits.</p></p> Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:04:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-sue-stop-chicago-pension-overhaul-111239 Judge rules against Quinn; says state can't close prisons http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/judge-rules-against-quinn-says-state-cant-close-prisons-103041 <p><p>A downstate Illinois judge ruled against the closure of seven state facilities Wednesday, which includes two prisons and two juvenile centers and three adult transition centers. The ruling marks a victory for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME,&nbsp;the labor union that represents many state employees, including those who work at those facilities.&nbsp;</p><p>AFSCME had sued to keep the facilities open. It argued in court that closing the prisons and adult transition centers had the potential to create dangerous working conditions for both employees and inmates. Union representatives who worked at those seven targeted facilities told stories of overcrowded conditions for inmates at some state prisons and dangerous working conditions for employees at others. Attorneys for the labor union argued closing more facilities would make working conditions even worse.</p><p>&quot;We think it&#39;s high time for the governor to stop wasting taxpayer money on these lawsuits and arbitrations,&quot; said Henry Bayer, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31. &quot;Instead he should be using those monies to make sure that our prisons and communities are safe.&quot;</p><p>In his decision, Judge Charles Cavaness wrote that AFSCME proved &quot;irreparable harm&quot;would come if the facilities closed because the employees &quot;may suffer physical injuries that cannot be fully remedied later.&quot;</p><p>Abdon Pallasch, a spokesman for Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn, said the office will be appealing the decision directly to the state Supreme Court. He said the facilities are not being used to their full capacity and are costing taxpayers $7 million a month to keep them open and staffed. The governor has said cuts in many government services were necessary because of increased unpaid pension obligations and a massive debt the state owes.</p><p>In court filings, attorneys for the state argued that working in a prison is an inherently dangerous job and that there is no such thing as a safe prison. Attorneys said that AFSCME had only speculated and not presented any real evidence that working conditions will be more dangerous if the closures are allowed to go forward.&nbsp;</p><p>One of the facilities targeted to close is the supermax prison in Tamms, Ill., which costs about $26 million a year to operate. Rob Osborne, the president of AFSCME Local 993 who works at the Vandalia Correctional Center, had testified that overcrowding and short staffing were problems. He said that if the Tamms prison closes, it would move dangerous inmates into his prison, which doesn&#39;t have cells, just beds in open spaces. He predicted there would be more violence in the Vandalia prison if Tamms is allowed to close.</p><p>The legal battle is one of several recent disputes AFSCME has had with the governor. Quinn won election in 2010 with large support from labor groups. But AFSCME has protested the governor in recent months, even booing him at a Democratic event at the Illinois State Fair in August.</p></p> Wed, 10 Oct 2012 15:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/criminal-justice/judge-rules-against-quinn-says-state-cant-close-prisons-103041 Loretto Hospital registered nurses vote to unionize http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LorettoHospital2.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 248px; height: 328px;" title="The balloting enables the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to negotiate for 144 RNs at the hospital’s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave. (Flickr/Zol87)" /></div><p><em>Updated June 6, 2012, to include hospital management comments.</em></p><p>A union that has been trying for a decade to gain a foothold among hospital nurses in Chicago has won an election to represent 144 of them in the Austin neighborhood.<br /><br />Registered nurses at Loretto Hospital voted 80-37 to bring in Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The two-day vote, which ended Saturday, allows AFSCME to negotiate the pay, benefits and work conditions of RNs at the hospital&rsquo;s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave.<br /><br />&ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t have happy nurses, you don&rsquo;t have happy patients,&rdquo; said Kora Fields, an RN in the hospital&rsquo;s behavioral health unit who says she voted for the union.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live in the Austin area,&rdquo; Fields said. &ldquo;I grew up in the Austin area. My family comes to this hospital. My friends are treated here. I do love Loretto Hospital. But there needs to be increases in wages and we need to be respected as the professionals that we are.&rdquo;<br /><br />An AFSCME statement says pro-union nurses defied an &ldquo;aggressive anti-union campaign&rdquo; by Loretto management. The statement praises the nurses for their &ldquo;unwavering determination to improve patient care and ensure fair treatment on the job.&rdquo;<br /><br />Loretto spokesman Jim Waller called the hospital&rsquo;s nurse wages &ldquo;competitive for the marketplace&rdquo; and denied that management campaigned against AFSCME. &ldquo;We were just being clear what being in a union is and that what&rsquo;s paramount to us is patient safety,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Loretto, a 187-bed nonprofit facility, has helped lead an effort this year to exempt Illinois safety-net hospitals from proposed state Medicaid payment cuts.<br /><br />The vote, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, makes Loretto the second Chicago hospital whose registered nurses have unionized this year. In January, National Nurses United won an election to represent 150 at the South Side&rsquo;s Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.<br /><br />Until the Jackson Park election, unions had made little progress in Chicago-area hospitals except those owned by university and government entities.</p><p>The Loretto vote marks a rebound for AFSCME, which lost a bruising election battle last summer at the Northwest Side&rsquo;s Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center. RNs at that hospital voted against AFSCME after more than eight years of campaigning by the union.</p></p> Wed, 30 May 2012 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 Emanuel blames union for library closings http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-blames-union-library-closings-95366 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-05/RS2467_books_getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The union representing staff at Chicago libraries picked up discussions Friday with the city for the first time since the library system announced that it would close all neighborhood branch locations on Mondays for the foreseeable future. The new policy is set to go into effect at the start of the week, although AFSCME Council 31, which represents library staff in Chicago, sent a cease-and-desist letter to city and library officials on Thursday, in an effort to avoid the closings.</p><p>The two sides have had ongoing discussions starting several months ago, when Emanuel and the City Council were pondering cuts to the Chicago Public Library’s 2012 budget. According to library spokeswoman Ruth Lednicer, the library suffered $3.3 million in cuts in the final budget, amounting to 181 staff positions. At the time the budget was passed, aldermen and Emanuel said they believed shaving morning hours on Fridays and some Mondays at the neighborhood branches would help ensure full staffing without closing any locations.</p><p>“From our perspective, we’d like to reach an agreement that can rescind those layoffs, get the library employees back to work, and avoid any reduction in hours,” said Anders Lindall, spokesman for AFSCME Council 31. Lindall said the union has not agreed to reductions on Mondays and Fridays because it hopes that the cuts will be restored.</p><p>On Friday Emanuel said the union’s failure to agree to the original plan has forced the city instead to close all neighborhood branches for one full day a week.</p><p>“I didn’t support this, and I don’t want it, and that’s why I came up with and aldermen came up and agreed to a flexible proposal,” said Emanuel. “I expect labor, and that is AFSCME particularly, to help solve this problem. They knew during the budget discussions what we were going to do.”</p><p>According to spokeswoman Tarrah Cooper from Emanuel’s office, closing on Monday and Friday mornings would have required union agreement, but closing libraries for full Mondays does not. Lindall said the union’s contract states otherwise.</p><p>“They have a duty to inform the union, and to discuss with the union changes in the schedule,” said Lindall, referring to City Hall and library administrators. “It can’t be unilaterally implemented, and we want to meet with them to have those discussions.”</p><p>Several Chicago aldermen said they are not happy at the news that branches would now close for another full day, bringing neighborhood locations down to five open days per week.</p><p>Nicholas Sposato (36th), said he hopes that the two sides figure out a better solution, too. He says equal blame for the impasse lies with the city.</p><p>“It’s just every time there’s some sort of dispute, labor’s always to blame,” said Sposato. “You just see it over and over and over and over that labor this, labor that, labor wouldn’t budge, labor wouldn’t this. I thought labor really budged a lot, took a big enough hit already with these library cuts.”</p></p> Fri, 06 Jan 2012 23:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-blames-union-library-closings-95366 Quinn maintains plan to close state facilities despite labor dispute http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-maintains-plan-close-state-facilities-despite-labor-dispute-92778 <p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said he wants to move forward with proposed layoffs and closing seven state facilities despite an arbitrator's ruling that doing so would violate a contract with labor unions.</p><p>Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled on Monday that Quinn’s plan to close several prisons and mental facilities would violate an agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. Last year’s contract guaranteed no members would be laid off through mid-2012 if the union agreed to cost cutting measures.&nbsp;</p><p>Quinn’s proposed closings would eliminate an estimated state 2,000 jobs. He said cuts need to be made to the state’s budget and blames the Illinois lawmakers for not giving him enough money to run the government.</p><p>AFSCME spokesperson Anders Lindall said the state should honor that agreement despite its budget problems.</p><p>“It can't take in the benefits with one hand and then walk away when it's inconvenient for it to keep its commitments,” Lindall says.</p><p>In a statement, Quinn’s office said it will go to court in hopes of going forward with the closings and layoffs.</p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 22:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-maintains-plan-close-state-facilities-despite-labor-dispute-92778 Quinn maintains plan to close state facilities despite labor dispute http://www.wbez.org/content/quinn-maintains-plan-close-state-facilities-despite-labor-dispute <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-04/singer mental health 2_IndyStar.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-04/singer mental health 2_IndyStar.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 267px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="H. Douglas Singer Mental Health Center is one of seven state facilities Gov. Quinn is targeting for closure. (IndyStar) ">Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said he wants to move forward with proposed layoffs and closing seven state facilities despite an arbitrator's ruling that doing so would violate a contract with labor unions.</p><p>Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled on Monday that Quinn’s plan to close several prisons and mental facilities would violate an agreement with AFSCME, the state's largest public employees union. Last year’s contract guaranteed no members would be laid off through mid-2012 if the union agreed to cost cutting measures.&nbsp;</p><p>Quinn’s proposed closings would eliminate an estimated state 2,000 jobs. He said cuts need to be made to the state’s budget and blames the Illinois lawmakers for not giving him enough money to run the government.</p><p>AFSCME spokesperson Anders Lindall said the state should honor that agreement despite its budget problems.</p><p>“It can't take in the benefits with one hand and then walk away when it's inconvenient for it to keep its commitments,” Lindall says.</p><p>In a statement, Quinn’s office said it will go to court in hopes of going forward with the closings and layoffs.</p></p> Mon, 03 Oct 2011 22:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/quinn-maintains-plan-close-state-facilities-despite-labor-dispute Quinn threatens to lay off 1,900 state employees, close 7 facilities http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-threatens-lay-1900-state-employees-close-7-facilities-91707 <p><p>Illinois Governor Pat Quinn on Thursday threatened to fire almost two thousand state workers. He also moved to close a handful of prisons and facilities for people with disabilities, setting up a game of chicken with the legislature.</p><p>One-thousand-nine-hundred and thirty-eight workers would be laid off, and seven facilities closed, including a central Illinois prison, and a mental health hospital in Tinley Park. Quinn insisted he is bound by the budget the legislature sent him, which he said includes "draconian" cuts.</p><p>"And so any member of the General Assembly who doesn't like what I said today, in terms of closures and layoffs, they have to realize that they voted for this," Quinn said at a Chicago press conference. "That's what they voted for in the spring. I'm carrying it out - responsibly - but we have to do it."</p><p>The governor signed that budget earlier this summer, but is asking the legislature to reallocate more than $300 million in spending. He said if lawmakers take that action when they meet next month, the cuts he announced Thursday may be avoided.</p><p>The closures and layoffs wouldn't take effect for several months. A legislative committee will examine Quinn's proposal, but does not have the power to block it.</p><p>Meantime, the major public employees union in Illinois, AFSCME, said it will fight Quinn's plan.</p><p>"These cuts would throw those thousands - up to 2,000 working men and women out of a job, people who get up to work every day and do often thankless, frequently difficult and - in the prisons and elsewhere - very dangerous work, the real work of state government," said Anders Lindall, an AFSCME spokesman.</p><p>Lindall says Quinn's proposal would effectively break a contract agreement prohibiting faciltiy closures or layoffs through mid-2012. He said the union would fight the moves, either by appealing to a contract arbitrator, or by going to the courts.</p><p>Such a battle could be avoided, the union said, if the legislature appropriates more money. But the governor should not count on support from Republican state Sen. Matt Murphy of Palatine.</p><p>Quinn "has come here to lecture the General Assembly to spend even more," Murphy said in a press conference immediately following the governor's. "That tax increase that was sold as temporary - how temporary does it look right now when it doesn't even pay the bills we have today?"</p><p>House Republican Leader Tom Cross questioned the facilities Quinn picked for closure, accusing Quinn of&nbsp;targeting "Republican facilities and Republican jobs."</p><p>"This appears to be a quid pro quo by the governor to get votes for more spending that he wants," Cross said in a statement. "If we are going to cut – we need to let the cuts stand.”</p><p>But Senate President John Cullerton, whose Democrats control the state Senate, has "already stated his intent to revisit the shortcomings of the budget that was passed this spring," according to his spokeswoman.</p></p> Thu, 08 Sep 2011 20:34:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-threatens-lay-1900-state-employees-close-7-facilities-91707 Quinn indicates layoffs coming, another break to pact with union http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-indicates-layoffs-coming-another-break-pact-union-91582 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-07/AP110601082693.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn said he'll announce further budget cuts later this week. Quinn indicated on Tuesday that will include layoffs, a move that would constitute another break from an agreement the governor made last year with the major state employee union.</p><p>Quinn would not say how many layoffs to expect.</p><p>"You know, we have to do what we have to do in order to make sure we get through this fiscal year with the appropriation that the General Assembly provided," Quinn said during a press conference at LaSalle II Magnet Academy in Chicago's East Ukrainian Village neighborhood.</p><p>Quinn, a Chicago Democrat, claims lawmakers didn't appropriate enough money for him to keep his agreement with AFSCME, the union representing thousands of state employees. Before last year's election, he signed a deal with the union, pledging not to close facilities or lay off any workers though June of 2012.</p><p>But he already broke part of the deal earlier this summer when he halted pay increases. That fight is still taking place in court.</p><p>"Those who are unhappy about any cuts really should visit their members of the General Assembly, their representatives and senators," Quinn said, while denying the layoff threat is just an effort to force lawmakers to appropriate more money.</p><p>A spokesman for House Speaker Mike Madigan said Tuesday that - to his knowledge - the speaker's staff has yet to hear anything from the governor's office regarding potential layoffs or facility closures.</p><p>The expected budget moves, which were reported Tuesday in the <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-09-06/news/ct-met-pat-quinn-illinois-budget-20110906_1_quinn-plans-major-state-employees-union-pat-quinn"><em>Chicago Tribune</em></a>, would further strain Quinn's relationship with AFSCME.</p><p>"Anytime somebody enters into a contract, you expect them to live up to it. And anytime somebody gives you their word, you expect them to keep it," said Anders Lindall, an AFSCME spokesman.</p><p>During the 2010 election for governor, the union declined to endorse either Quinn or his opponent in the Democratic primary, then-Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. AFSCME ultimately supported Quinn in the general election, donating more than $225,000 to his campaign.</p><p>Quinn's opponent in the November election, Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, on Tuesday released a statement chastising the governor for his budget maneuverings, while refusing to endorse any additional appropriations.</p><p>"Once again, Governor Quinn is betraying the citizens of Illinois and proving that his word is suspect," Brady said, referring to the governor's election year agreement with AFSCME as a "campaign deal."</p></p> Wed, 07 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-indicates-layoffs-coming-another-break-pact-union-91582 Arbitrator: Quinn must give pay raises to workers http://www.wbez.org/story/arbitrator-quinn-must-give-pay-raises-workers-89349 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-19/RS819_AP110601082693.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>An independent arbitrator has ruled&nbsp;that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn violated the union contract with&nbsp;30,000 state workers by refusing to give them a pay raise due July&nbsp;1.&nbsp;</p><div><p>Arbitrator Edwin Benn on Tuesday ordered Quinn to start paying&nbsp;the 2 percent increase within 30 days with back pay. That's&nbsp;according to a copy of Benn's opinion provided by the American&nbsp;Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.&nbsp;</p><p>Quinn had said the Legislature did not appropriate the $75&nbsp;million necessary to pay the employees in 14 state agencies.&nbsp;</p><p>Benn noted in his order that AFSCME had agreed to concessions to&nbsp;help the state during a fiscal crisis. Those included delaying half&nbsp;of the 4 percent raise union workers were supposed to get July 1.</p><p>Quinn's office says he will appeal.</p><p>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></div><div>&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 19 Jul 2011 15:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/arbitrator-quinn-must-give-pay-raises-workers-89349 Illinois state union workers protest pay cuts http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-state-union-workers-protest-pay-cuts-89042 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-12/afscme.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Scores of state union workers rallied in downtown Chicago Tuesday to protest a plan to cancel their pay increases in 14 agencies. They carried signs that said "Governor Quinn, keep your word", "Stand up for the middle class", and "Public servants deserve fair pay."</p><div><p>Some members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) say Illinois Governor Pat Quinn violated their contract when he&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/quinn-denies-responsibility-cutting-pay-raises-state-employees-89037">cut their raises</a>.&nbsp;</p><p>Others do not think the Governor is entirely to blame. "I believe these legislators think they can do things, and it takes this type of people coming out, people coming together to let them know that we're not going back, that we're going to stand here, that we're going to fight for the raises that we think we should get," said Antonio Stewart, who works for the Department of Employment Security. He is not going to lose his raise, but was protesting in solidarity with his fellow workers.</p><p>"I blame the legislature, the body in general, more than the Governor specifically," said Wes James, "although I think he could step up to the plate and do a lot to send that budget back and say, 'No, this is an obligation that we have, we have to fund it and, you know, we'll pull shortages and make cuts elsewhere.'" James works for the Illinois Department of Labor investigating construction contractors who build public works projects.</p><p>Many had set aside that money already, said Lydia Williams,&nbsp;president of AFSCME Council 31, and a employee for the Department of Human Rights for 30 years. "A lot of members who have large families, and they were depending on this raise; a lot of our members have children in college; they were counting on this raise; so he is putting a hardship on our members," she said.</p><p>Williams believes that Quinn should have worked more closely with the union and with legislators to resolve the issue, which she called a surprise. "Governor Quinn, we ask you to honor the contract…show some integrity, show some leadership!", said Williams.</p><p>AFSCME Council 31 has filed a federal lawsuit against the Governor to reinstate the raises, and&nbsp;it's also brought in an arbitrator.&nbsp;</p></div></p> Tue, 12 Jul 2011 20:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/illinois-state-union-workers-protest-pay-cuts-89042