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Rauner warns striking AFSCME workers would be fired

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State officials are warning members of the state’s largest public employee union that their job, pay and benefits are at stake if they go forward with a proposed strike.

The union, AFSCME, told its members Friday they’ve scheduled a strike authorization vote sometime between Jan. 30 and mid-February. AFSCME leadership said the governor is waging a war on workers. Gov. Bruce Rauner said the state’s largest union should look around.

“What I hope we can do is work together to implement our contract. That’s where we’re at,” Rauner said. “It should be done. We’re at a place where we’ve done 19 other contracts with unions and the government. They’re good, fair contracts for employees and taxpayers.”

The union filed an appeal of the state labor board’s impasse declaration last month. The case may have to be decided by the state supreme court.

A memo from the governor’s office of labor relations to state employees said consequences of a strike include no pay, strikers would pay full cost of health insurance, and if the strike were deemed illegal, the striker would be fired.

The memo obtained by the Illinois News Network said the bridge agreement to the next contract had a “no strike, no lockout” clause, which could mean a strike would be illegal. Deputy Director of Labor Relations John Terranova said the state “will vigorously pursue all lawful means at its disposal for challenging an unlawful strike.”

Rauner said a strike wouldn’t be good for anyone.

“If it were to happen, we would be ready,” Rauner said Tuesday at an event in Rochester.

The memo said if there is a strike the state will tap whatever resources it needs, from private vendors, other states and local governments, to maintain services.

“But we are hoping and encouraging them, let’s just implement the contract, and stay at work and do productive things for the people of Illinois,” Rauner said.

Even if a strike were authorized, AFSCME’s message to its members said, “That does not necessarily mean there will be a strike—as the committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair settlement. But it does mean that if all such efforts fail, you will be prepared to go out on strike when the committee issues the call.”

AFSCME’s last contract expired summer of 2015.

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