JOLIET – Chants of "Hey hey, ho ho, Rauner's cuts have got to go," could be heard at the Illinois Department of Human Services building in Joliet Wednesday afternoon.
State employees who work at 45 E. Webster St. and are a part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 picketed around the building as part of a planned day of picketing for Illinois AFSCME employees throughout the state.
State employees also picketed in Alton, Anna, Aurora, Bloomington, Champaign, Charleston, Chicago, Danville, Galesburg, Kankakee, Pontiac and Rock Island.
The goal was to garner support for unions as six months of negotiations for a state employees' contract has yielded little common ground.
"We remain very far apart," AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said.
"Typically, a lot more progress would have been made than at this point," Lindall said. "This is the result of the Rauner administration continuing to push extreme and harmful proposals that would hurt those that need the services and those that provide those services."
Picketers circled the building three times before heading inside because of the mid-day heat. But they said it was important to get the message out.
"We're here because we believe contract negotiations need to be fair," said Theresa Jackson, a case worker for Human Services. "From the beginning, Rauner wants to establish a 'Right to Work' state, which means you won't work."
Jackson was referring to Rauner's "Right to Work" agenda, which involves giving public employees the ability to opt out of unions.
Bernice Ford, another case worker who is also chair for the political arm of AFSCME Local 2794, said workers were protesting to draw attention to the governor's proposals, which she calls unfair.
"We are not interested in the cuts he is proposing in insurance and other areas," Ford said. "We want to draw attention to the governor's unfair proposal."
Rauner addressed the AFSCME picketing at a press conference Tuesday.
He said public workers deserve good pay and benefits, but he claimed those workers are getting paid more than equivalent private sector workers.
He also said public workers have unaffordable pensions and health care benefits, and a pay scale based on seniority instead of productivity, effectiveness and saving taxpayer money.
"The insiders in government, who are making a lot of money from government, are going to be cranky about the changes," Rauner said. "Change is difficult. But we've got to make change."
Ford said both sides have to work out a deal soon.
"[Rauner] wants to draw attention to the argument that state workers are overpaid," Ford said. "We're willing to work with the governor. But he has to be willing to work with us, as well."
Lindall agreed, adding that there has never been a work stoppage in 40 years.
This story has been changed to correct the chant picketers were using in their demonstration. The Herald-News regrets the error.