It is absurd to think that members of the State Assembly, the Senate and the Governor would treat the people on the front lines of providing state services as they have. This absurdity is in fact reality. Last year the Governor refused to honor the union's contractually mandated pay raises for most state employees. Then he pushed a pension plan that was clearly unconstitutional reducing benefits for not only current employees, but retirees as well. Examples were given of cronies gaming the system. I can assure you the pensioners I know all receive well under 30k per year. That is hardly a "hefty benefit". Now, in addition to this, his negotiators have refused to budge at all in negotiations for the next union contract with AFSCME.
As a total fuck you to AFSCME, the Governor actually gave the Teamsters a three percent raise during a temporary extension of their contract, after he had already terminated the contract the State held with AFSCME. AFSCME members are at this moment working without a contract.
A bit of background, pensions are not a collective bargaining right in Illinois. None the less, it is still a mighty slight that in addition to pensions being attacked, the union proposed a one year salary freeze and that was not enough for the governor. This was assuming that revenues would increase with the ease of the recession. The Governor's office countered with a three year freeze, and an increase in healthcare costs amounting to a ten thousand dollar reduction in take home pay. They have not moved from this position. Employees are willing and able to accept a freeze, but with the increase of the price of food, necessities, and other goods, a reduction in pay is not acceptable. Many people live month to month, and a reduction like this could force the loss of their home and/or car.
So yes, the union is prepared to strike. The unfortunate thing is that it will not end well for either party in these negotiations. It will also not end well for those among us who rely on state services. The problem is that while the legislature is trying to pass blatantly unconstitutional laws to royally screw them over, the Governor's office is doing the same with what should be a simple contract negotiation.
Why are state employees so angry? Well, one the governor did not honor the last contract by denying most employees raises guaranteed by that contract. Some agencies did receive these raises, which makes it look like this isn't about cost savings, it is about divide and conquer tactics being utilized in order to break the union. Employees of the State of Illinois are angry to say the least. For many, this is the final straw. Pensions are guaranteed, and contract law is sacred, unless you are a lowly public servant it would seem.
The Illinois Constitution states, "Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired." Proposed laws diminish this benefit for current employees by raising eligibility requirements, decreasing the amount of the pensions (even for current retirees) and increasing required contributions. Now employees are forced to deal with a reduction in take home pay that is already stretched thin to pay ever increasing bills. Many employees have at one point been offered employment elsewhere, and have stayed with the state out of a feeling of duty to public service. In many more cases they stayed because at least they knew they could be secure in retirement. This has gone too far. A strike must be called to ensure lawmakers uphold their oath, and to ensure the Governor's Office understands they are in no position to dictate terms, violate contracts, or drastically reduce the take home pay of state employees.
So yes, if scheduled negotiations do not yield anything, the State of Illinois will shut down next week, possibly for weeks or more. As 95% of the employees are unionized, a total shutdown is anticipated. I say, "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains."
I should also note that many delivery services have given unofficial confirmation that picket lines will not be crossed. A major package delivery service is among them.
Edit: I removed all references to party ID as it has no bearing on the current situation.