AFSCME members set 2019 legislative agenda
More than 500 delegates from AFSCME local unions across the state braved single digit temperatures, wind and snow to gather in Springfield on January 26 for the biennial AFSCME Legislative Conference. Together they set the union’s 2019 legislative agenda and participated in workshops to prepare for the current challenges and opportunities facing working people in Illinois.
Executive Director Roberta Lynch opened the conference with a rousing speech celebrating the downfall of ousted former governor Bruce Rauner after four long years of unrelenting attacks on public employees and the labor movement.
“Bruce Rauner is the biggest loser in decades and we’re still standing strong,” Lynch said to the packed crowd. “We’re stronger than when he came into office. We did it by sticking up for ourselves and by sticking up for each other!”
Lynch emphasized the need for unity in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case abolishing fair share fees.
“It’s critical that we build connections and strengthen our union,” Lynch said. “Everybody must feel that this is their union.”
AFSCME, she said, is ready to fight for legislation that will benefit union members, as well as improving the lives of all people in our state, including a $15 minimum wage and a fair tax system.
“All of us, no matter our income, need quality public services,” Lynch emphasized. “We need to stand for legislative priorities that promote fairness for all people.”
Lynch encouraged members to be active in their union and in the legislative process.
“Everything you do today matters for tomorrow,” she said. “We’ve come this far because you showed up, stood up and spoke up. That’s how we beat Bruce Rauner and that’s how we’ll keep on winning.”
The delegates unanimously approved the union’s 2019 legislative agenda, pledging to work for the following:
- Support responsible budget and adequate revenues for state and local governments;
- Strengthen union rights in response to unprecedented assault;
- Restore state employee step increases;
- Support adequate funding for state universities;
- Stabilize pension funds and oppose cuts to retirement benefits;
- Press for improved workplace safety;
- Fight privatization of public services and assets;
- Fight to improve wage levels in community disability agencies and other AFSCME-represented nonprofit agencies; and
- Protect workers’ rights.
Deputy Director Mike Newman closed out the conference with a call to continue our tireless efforts to protect workers’ rights and advance an agenda that improves the lives of all people. Even after so many years of fighting for justice, he said, AFSCME was ready for more.
“We’re a stronger union today than ever before,” Newman said. “Our opponents know why: We never quit.”