SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - Tens of thousands of Illinois government workers have voted in favor of authorizing a strike if contract talks don't progress.
The state council of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees reported Thursday that 81 percent of union members voting favored a strike.
Roberta Lynch is AFSCME executive director. She says the vote empowers the union's executive board to call a strike "if no other path forward can be found."
The vote to authorize the union bargaining committee to call a strike does not necessarily mean that there will be a strike. The bargaining committee will meet in the coming days to chart its path, and pending litigation could also play a role.
"State workers don't want to strike. We are keenly aware of the importance of the public services we provide, and we are willing to compromise," AFSCME director Lynch said. "But if Governor Rauner continues to refuse his legal obligation to bargain in good faith, he risks a strike that would shut down state government, and he alone bears responsibility for the harm a strike would cause."
AFSCME's 38,000 members have been unable to agree on a contract with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for two years.
Rauner's general counsel is Dennis Murashko. He issued a statement saying the vote was "an attack on our state's hardworking taxpayers."
It's the first such vote in 40 years of state-employee collective bargaining.
Gov. Rauner's administration released a statement regarding the union's consideration of a strike-authorization vote.
Employees at work sites across the state voted from Jan. 30 through Sunday. They were asked whether to give the union's executive committee power to call a strike if necessary.
A state labor regulator declared last fall that talks had reached "impasse." That allows Rauner to implement the employment terms he prefers and the union to strike if it chooses.