JUL 26, 2023
Labor Day: Unions announce agreement for 2024 DNC; AFSCME approves contract with the state
From left to right, Gov. JB Pritzker, Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter, and Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson sign a labor peace agreement Tuesday for the 2024 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. [Ben Szalinski/The Daily Line]
Democratic leaders announced a pair of major union contracts had been agreed to Tuesday, averting labor drama in Illinois and Chicago over the next year ahead of the city’s hosting of the 2024 Democratic National Convention.
Democrats gathered at McCormick Place in Chicago Tuesday morning alongside 10 Chicago union leaders to announce a labor peace agreement that ensures unions will not go on strike before or during the Democratic National Convention (DNC) as they work to prepare the city to host the 2024 convention next August. AFSCME Council 31, the main labor union for state workers, also announced Tuesday its members signed off on a new contract with the state.
While impasses between labor unions have grabbed national headlines this summer as Hollywood actors and writers have walked off the job and UPS workers engaged in tense negotiations that have been tentatively resolved, Democratic leaders said there are no signs of union struggles in Illinois and Chicago.
“It does speak to the values of the Democratic Party… we are the most pro-union state and the most pro-union county and the most pro-union city in this country,” Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter said at a news conference. “We get an incredible amount of support from our Democratic leaders here in Illinois.”
Reiter spearheaded negotiations for 10 Chicago labor unions to come to a peace agreement for work involving next year’s DNC, which is being primarily held at the United Center. The agreement, which was not fully disclosed Tuesday, ensures labor unions working on DNC projects will not strike in exchange for smooth working conditions.
“Chicago’s labor movement comes to every table ready to get a deal done for our members,” Reiter said.
The 2024 DNC labor agreement being reached this month is the earliest a labor peace agreement has been reached before a convention, leaders said. It’s in stark contrast to the DNC’s 2016 agreement with labor unions in Philadelphia, which wasn’t reached until shortly before the convention.
“We’ve reached this important milestone because everyone came to the table in good faith with the best interests of all sides in mind,” Gov. JB Pritzker said.
Chicago has a long history on the frontlines of labor movements, and officials said that history played a role in making it relatively easy for unions and convention leaders to agree to a deal.
“The engagement between the party and the labor movement is probably the highest it’s been in a long time,” Reiter said.
Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said he believes the agreement will be beneficial for union workers like himself that live on the South and West Sides of the city, though he declined to say what about the labor peace agreement will specifically benefit communities historically left out of major events in Chicago.
“Labor rights and civil rights, he said, are one in the same,” Johnson said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “He said that the enemies of the Negro are the enemies of labor. So the lessons that we’re learning here is that the neighborhoods that have experienced disinvestment are also the neighborhoods that understand the value of… what it means to be tied to the labor movement.”
Separately on Tuesday, Pritzker and AFSCME Council 31 released details about a new labor agreement for 35,000 state workers. The four-year agreement was reached on July 1, the day after the previous contract expired. Union members have been reviewing the contract over the last three weeks and recently approved it, according to a statement from the governor’s office and AFSCME.
Though the agreement was reached earlier this month as the contract expired, it avoided any public drama between Democratic state leaders and the union that could be potentially politically damaging as Democrats intend to use Illinois and Chicago Democrat-supported policies as a backdrop for 2024 campaigns.
“This contract represents a partnership that won’t just expand our pool of state employees — it will strengthen our state’s workforce and provide opportunity for employees and their families,” Pritzker said in a statement. “I’m thankful for a productive negotiation that led to a contract which recognizes the valuable contributions of state employees and makes government more efficient.”
AFSCME members will get a 4 percent raise this year, retroactive to July 1. Over the life of the contract that runs until 2027, members will see wages increase by nearly 18 percent. Parental leave is also being expanded to 12 weeks.
“This contract helps to address the toll that inflation has taken on state employee incomes and keeps health care affordable,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement.
Republicans worried during the budget vote in May the Fiscal Year 2024 budget could be put out of balance by results of the new AFSCME contract, though Pritzker said expected results from contract negotiations were accounted for when lawmakers crafted the budget.
According to Pritzker’s office, cost-of-living adjustments and stipends in the contract will cost an additional $204 million in Fiscal Year 2024 and $625 million over four years.
Another key part of the contract aims to address hiring challenges at the state and “expedite filling of vacancies and improve strategies to recruit, hire, and retain workers.” The state hiring process has been criticized by workers, state hiring officials and lawmakers for being inefficient and making it difficult for the state to fill positions.
The new contract contains updated language to reflect the state’s electronic hiring process, a general commitment for AFSCME and the state to work together to make the hiring process faster, provides for establishing a joint committee between labor and management to identify roadblocks to hiring, a pilot program for recruitment bonuses for hard-to-fill positions, and an agreement allowing employees on parental leave to bid on vacant positions.
On the disciplinary front, the contract streamlines the process for the employer in cases of documented consistent absences from work and allows telehealth to be a documented form of absences.
Democratic leaders gave a positive update Tuesday on fundraising efforts for the DNC, which is expected to come with a hefty price tag. Pritzker, a key leader of fundraising efforts for the convention, declined to give specific numbers on fundraising and said there is still a long way to go before the convention begins, but said it’s been a large effort that has been going well.
DNC Chair Jaime Harrison gave fundraising efforts a glowing review.
“I have been around these conventions for a while and I have not seen this level of excitement that I’ve seen for this convention,” Harrison said. “It’s not only in Chicago, but it’s around the country… a lot of folks who are very interested, a lot of people who want to be supportive… I think this will be one of the easier conventions that we’ve had in terms of doing the type of fundraising just because of the initial excitement that we’re seeing right now.”
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