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."
"I demand respect, I deserve respect. That’s the message that I think this vote sends most clearly," Lynch said.
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.
Governor Rauner's office released a statement on the vote:
“The vote to authorize a strike is an attack on our state's hardworking taxpayers and all those who rely on critical services provided everyday. It is a direct result of AFSCME leadership’s ongoing misinformation campaign about our proposal. AFSCME leaders would rather strike than work 40 hours a week before earning overtime. They want to earn overtime after working just 37.5 hours per week. AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow volunteers like Boy Scout troops to lend a helping hand inside government. They want to ban the use of volunteers. AFSCME leaders would rather strike than allow state employees to be paid based on merit. They want to stick to paying people based on seniority, regardless of whether they’re doing a good job. And while hard working families across the state face skyrocketing health insurance premiums, AFSCME leaders want to strike to force higher taxes to subsidize their health care plans that are far more generous than taxpayers have. Put simply, AFSCME leaders will do or say anything to avoid implementing a contract that is fair to both taxpayers and state employees alike. If AFSCME chooses to strike, we will use every resource to ensure services continue to be available to the people of Illinois. We continue to encourage AFSCME to work with us in implementing a contract that is similar to those ratified by 20 other unions.”
- The Associated Press and Brian Mackey contributed to this report.