AFSCME poll: Biased, pro-union questions omit key facts about contract negotiations with the governor
Despite prior agreements with the state, Illinois’ largest government-worker union is backtracking on its promises and distorting facts in order to reach its unreasonable demands.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the state’s largest government-worker union, has released a new poll it claims is proof Illinoisans hold more favorable views of government-worker unions than of Gov. Bruce Rauner. But the poll doesn’t tell the whole story, and is blatantly slanted both in the phrasing of questions and when considering the questions pollsters neglected to ask the respondents.
For example, the poll didn’t ask working- and middle-class voters how they feel about paying for free retiree health care and million-dollar pensions for government workers.
Nor did the poll ask whether voters approve of their taxes going up in order to pay for the additional $3 billion in benefits AFSCME is demanding in contract negotiations with the governor.
And it didn’t ask what voters thought about AFSCME salaries rising at twice the rate of inflation since 2004, and five times faster than the earnings of the rest of Illinoisans.
Beyond the poll’s obvious bias, AFSCME is using the poll to falsely claim Rauner has walked away from contract negotiations in order to impose his own contract on state workers.
But AFSCME’s own words show it was the union that broke down contract negotiations. Furthermore, it was AFSCME that agreed to the labor process it now opposes.
AFSCME agreed to the process it now opposes
AFSCME has repeatedly claimed the state walked away from contract negotiations and that Rauner is trying to “unilaterally impose” his own terms. That is dishonest rhetoric.
AFSCME’s contract with the state expired June 30, 2015. Before the contract expired, the state and AFSCME entered into a tolling agreement – a signed contract binding the parties to continue negotiating in good faith beyond the expiration of the contract. Since then, the parties have entered into two more tolling agreements, the last of which is still in effect.
In the third tolling agreement, AFSCME specifically promised the agreement would “remain in effect until impasse is reached.” And, as set forth below in the text from the tolling agreement, AFSCME agreed that if the parties disagreed on whether a stalemate in negotiations exists, the issue would be submitted to the Illinois Labor Relations Board to decide:
And that is exactly what the state has done. Contract negotiations between AFSCME and the state broke down in January 2016, when an AFSCME representative left stating, “I have nothing else to say and am not interested in hearing what you have to say at this point – carry that message that back to your principals.”
Following the process that AFSCME agreed to in the third tolling agreement, Rauner then asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board to determine whether discussions between the two parties are at an impasse, or stalemate. Under both the tolling agreement and Illinois labor law, the board can determine an impasse exists, and if so Rauner will be able to implement his last contract offer.
But AFSCME continues to ignore its promises in the tolling agreement. In a statement released with the poll, AFSCME claims Rauner walked away from negotiations and is trying to “unilaterally impose” his own contract terms. AFSCME has repeated this falsehood in multiple media outlets, including an oped published in the Chicago Tribune and written by AFSCME Council 31’s Executive Director Roberta Lynch.
And AFSCME never mentions it agreed to the impasse procedure it now opposes. It never mentions contract negotiations broke down when its own representative told the governor’s negotiators he was “not interested in hearing what you have to say.” And it portrays Rauner as “unilaterally imposing” his terms, when all he is doing is submitting the matter to the Illinois Labor Relations Board – exactly as the tolling agreement and Illinois labor law allow following impasse. The governor is not imposing any terms on AFSCME; rather, he is waiting for the authorities reviewing the matter to determine whether he can implement his offer.
In sum, AFSCME wants to ignore both its promises and Illinois labor law, and instead throw Rauner under the bus for abiding by the parties’ agreement and the law.
AFSCME, polling questions omit inconvenient facts about government workers’ extravagant benefits and unreasonable demands
AFSCME has also neglected to mention other pertinent facts behind the negotiations. The poll likewise omitted this information in its questions.
For example, the poll’s questions did not mention AFSCME specifically but included references to “our everyday heroes like caregivers and emergency responders” – workers who are not even represented in the AFSCME contract. This is a common tactic by AFSCME leaders – to reference police, fire or other sympathetic government workers who do not actually belong to AFSCME 31.
In addition, the polling language implied Rauner “refuses to negotiate with workers.” What the polling question left out – and what AFSCME also fails to note – is at least 18 unions have ratified contracts with the state. Clearly, Rauner is not refusing to negotiate with state workers. AFSCME is refusing to negotiate with him.
For example, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, representing educators at the Illinois School for the Deaf, ratified a collective bargaining agreement May 17 that includes provisions to help address the state’s ongoing financial crisis, including a four-year temporary wage freeze, implementation of merit pay for conscientious workers, and changes to the state-provided health insurance program that allows employees to keep their current premiums, maintain their current coverage or mix and match to best suit their needs.
The Teamsters reached an agreement with the state in August 2015. That agreement includes a four-year wage freeze, continuation of a 40-hour workweek and the implementation of a bonus system for employees meeting or exceeding expectations.
AFSCME has repeatedly rejected similar provisions, continuing to demand guaranteed four-year wage increases, platinum-level health insurance coverage at little cost to union members, and a workweek with overtime for workers after 37.5 hours.
Rather than follow the lead of the 18 other unions that have negotiated in good faith with the state and accepted contracts that take into account Illinois’ dire fiscal situation, AFSCME distorts the facts. Instead, it has chosen to engage in a misinformation campaign to smear the process it once promised to follow.