AFSCME uses prisoners as pawns in budget debate
A representative from the state-worker union called for collective action from governments of prison towns to force Gov. Bruce Rauner’s hand in the budget debate, which could expose thousands of incarcerated Illinoisans to squalid, dangerous conditions.
A June 20 debate over the water bill at Western Illinois Correctional Center in Mount Sterling, Ill., offered a window into the mentality of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees when dealing with Gov. Bruce Rauner.
The union’s strategy? Win at all costs. Even if it means harm to incarcerated Illinoisans.
The state owes the city of 1,900 residents more than $300,000 for water service, according to the West-Central, Ill., Herald-Whig. On June 20, Mount Sterling City Council held a debate over whether the town should shut off the water at Western Illinois Correctional Center. Prison supporters came out in force to oppose the water shutoff, as it would in all likelihood mean the shuttering of the prison facility and a loss of jobs.
Mike Oeser, a chief steward with AFSCME Local 3567 and a worker at the prison, testified before the council to this effect.
But his speech quickly became troubling.
Oeser suggested that if Mount Sterling did choose to shut down the water supply to the prison, it would be much more effective if Mount Sterling joined forces with other Illinois prison towns and asked them to do the same.
“If you intend to pursue this shutoff action, everyone in our community and everyone in every other adversely affected community would benefit by you building a coalition,” Oeser said.
“Danville, Decatur, Galesburg, Canton, Pittsfield, Lincoln, Logan, Jacksonville, these are all small communities I’m sure are in the same place. If we fight this alone, this is one of those losing battles.”
Exposing thousands of incarcerated Illinoisans to squalid, dangerous conditions for political gain. That is the course of action put forth by Oeser.
The Mount Sterling example proves a disturbing reality about the mindset among those in the state’s largest government-worker union: AFSCME’s demands come first. Prisoners be damned.