Labor Day has significance for union

Published 09/04 2013 11:46AM

Updated 09/04 2013 11:51AM

SPRINGFIELD -- For most people, Labor Day is all about pool parties and barbeques. But for one of the state's biggest workforces, the day means much more. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels explains why things may be better for workers this year compared to last.

Almost exactly one year ago, our state labor unions organized one of the biggest protests in state history.

"At no point had we ever been faced with the takeaways that the governor had on the table."

More than 40,000 state workers weren't getting paid their promised raises. Then, hundreds of them were stripped of their union rights completely. Finally, the state canceled the whole AFSCME contract.

"It was clearly the biggest fight we'd ever had with the state."

And, it almost took them to their breaking point.

"We thought, in order to have a fair contract, we were going to have to go on strike."

AFSCME says the last year has been one of the toughest for state workers, not knowing if they'd have a job or not. But, this year, things are a lot different.

"Members have a lot more to celebrate this Labor Day then they had in Labor Day 2012. The fight we were in at the time was about protecting the value of a union contract. We ended up getting a fair contract and that's where we sit today."

But, another day, they say, means another fight.

"We are prepared to fight any bill that comes before the legislature that could harm our members."

He's talking about pension reform.

"It's sort of like a sword hanging over us. What's going to happen? We don't know."

It's something AFSCME says is a scary thought considering some of our neighboring states are already anti-union.

"The overall climate that labor faces in the U.S. today is not at all good. Clearly, it's bleeding over into the public sector here in Illinois."

Lawmakers in the special pension reform committee say they're close to a deal and hope to come up with a plan before November.

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