Late last month, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R-eal Life Republican) made headlines after he allowed his government to go into a partial shutdown rather than succumb to Democrats’ demands for a tax-and-spend budget.

Now, almost a month later, democrats are still pushing for more taxes and more entitlement spending—but Rauner isn’t backing down.

At the forefront of the assault against Rauner’s efforts to curb Illinois’ $6 billion dollar deficit (the largest in the nation) are the state’s infamous unions. AFSCME’s (the state, local, and municipal workers’ union) contract ran out with the State of Illinois on June 30, and officials are warning Rauner that if he refuses to deal, union members will go on strike. Back in May, Illinois’ Democrat-controlled legislature passed a bill that would bring in an arbitrator if either the State or the union declares an impasse in contract talks; Rauner, however, is expected to veto that bill, which means that a union strike could be in the cards.

For their part, Rauner’s administration seems to be preparing for much worse than a slowdown. According to a report by the State Journal-Register, staffers have been contacting retired state employees and floating the idea of short-term contract work in the event that the union decides to strike.

Reactions have been mixed:

David Scheina, 65, of rural Sangamon County said he got a call from an administrator at the Department of Children and Family Services about two weeks ago. He was not available to take the call, and the employee left a voice mail message.
“The message asked me to call her back if I was interested in going to work should the possibility occur that the employees go out on strike,” Scheina said.
Scheina said he did not return the call.
“I was somewhat appalled by it,” he said. “I feel it was wrong, an employee on state time trying to line up retirees to cross a potential picket line that I didn’t see being suggested. I thought it wasn’t bargaining in good faith.”

Another retired DCFS worker said she received a call from a DCFS employee near the end of June. The retiree, who asked not to be identified by name because she’s not made a decision, said the call covered the same topic. The DCFS employee asked about her willingness to come back on a 75-day temporary contract “in case the union does something.”
The retiree said she was not asked to make a commitment at the time of the call. She said it sounded like an initial call to compile a list of people to be contacted later in the event of a work action.

Representatives from the administration haven’t denied making the calls, saying that they’re working to ensure that essential state services won’t shut down if union members decide to walk.

Rauner isn’t alone in this battle–he’s fielded some support at the highest level of union-busting politics:

scott walker rauner tweets

When it comes to taking on Democrats and the unions, Walker knows how much pressure can fall on a governor being pushed to take the easy way out. Everything coming out of Springfield tells me that Rauner isn’t ready to capitulate, but a little support from his high-profile Republican colleagues couldn’t hurt.

We’ll keep you updated on Illinois’ budget battle.


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