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February 10, 2017

State worker faces loss of baby's oxygen tank


On Feb. 9, KMOV-TV – the CBS affiliate in St. Louis – aired “Fighting for Air”. The story profiles Kenea Williams, an Illinois state employee (a caregiver for people with disabilities at Murray Developmental Center in Centralia) whose infant son requires oxygen due to complications from his premature birth.

Due to the refusal of Governor Rauner to enact a budget, state government in September 2015 stopped paying health care providers for claims incurred by state employees. As a result, providers have increasingly forced state workers to pay up front for needed care.

In the case of Kenea and her baby boy, the provider of the infant’s oxygen tank tried to repossess it due to the state’s failure to pay its health claims.

Making matters worse, Kenea is one of some 30,000 AFSCME-represented state workers that Governor Rauner is trying to force to pay 100% more for their health care while freezing their pay under the terms he’s tried to impose on the union since he broke off negotiations more than a year ago. Rauner’s demands would force the typical state worker like Kenea to lose $10,000 in higher health costs.

"By refusing to develop a state budget or settle a fair contract with state workers like Kenea, Bruce Rauner is doing real harm to the people of Illinois," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. "Every lawmaker must stand up and tell the governor to drop his hostage-taking tactics, sign a budget and settle a fair contract with state workers now."

Kenea is a member of AFSCME Local 401. Union members are currently voting on whether to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary to resist Rauner’s extreme demands and refusal to negotiate.