SPRINGFIELD -- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is certainly rattling the saber when it comes to the idea of a strike by state workers.
Its most recent memo to members updating contract talks said "there's no longer much reason to believe that this contract can be settled at the bargaining table." It blamed the hard-line stand by Gov. PAT QUINN's administration on things like a three-year general wage freeze, a partial freeze on anniversary raises and higher health insurance payments.
AFSCME now says a strike is a real possibility. The memo laid out the next steps that will be taken, up to and including a strike authorization vote. You'll find people around the Capitol who still think a strike is a remote possibility, despite what AFSCME says. Still, a prudent thing might be for state agencies to begin preparing for the possibility.
Are they? It's sort of hard to tell, based on what Quinn is saying. During a rare Springfield appearance last week, the governor was asked if the administration is doing anything to prepare for a strike.
"No, I hope we can use collective bargaining to reach an agreement that will work for everyone," Quinn said.
A reporter then said that may be the goal, but doesn't the state have to have contingency plans in case there's a strike?
"You're always prepared," Quinn said. "I think the bottom line is we want to work very closely at the bargaining table."
Maybe Quinn is just being extremely careful about what he says of strike contingency plans. It would be frightening, though, to think the administration hasn't taken some concrete steps to figure out what it will do in the event of a strike. Given this administration's track record, it might be wise to be frightened.
* One thing we learned last week is the administration is targeting paid holidays in its union contract talks.
State employees get a rather generous 12 paid holidays, 13 in even-numbered years when they get Election Day as a paid holiday, apparently because it takes them all day to vote.
The state is negotiating contracts with other unions besides AFSCME, including the Teamsters. In a recent memo to members updating contract talks, the Teamsters said the administration initially proposed eliminating Washington's Birthday (also known as Presidents Day), Columbus Day, the Friday after Thanksgiving and Election Day as paid holidays. The memo said the administration eased that and now wants to eliminate only Columbus Day and Election Day.
AFSCME, meanwhile, sent a memo to members saying the administration had backed off a demand to eliminate Columbus Day. The memo didn't mention other holidays, and the union wouldn't comment further.
Page 2 of 2 - * This should come as a surprise to no one, but Quinn appears to have moved his underwear out of the Executive Mansion.
Remember in 2010, when questioned about whether he lives in the Executive Mansion, Quinn said, "My clothes are at the governor's mansion in Springfield. Even my underwear is there. I think that establishes residency, doesn't it?"
That was then. Last week, when Quinn was asked about concealed carry and gun control issues, he said, "I live in the Chicago area, the city of Chicago."
Further, Quinn also mentioned pension reform discussions he had with Sen. DON HARMON.
"He's a very good man. He's my state senator," Quinn said.
Harmon lives in Oak Park, a suburb that abuts the northwest side of Chicago. If he lived in the Executive Mansion, Quinn's state senator would be ANDY MANAR of Bunker Hill.
Oh, well. Who really cares anymore about where the governor lives, as long as it isn't in a federal prison?
* "It means permanent for the time being." Rep. LOU LANG, D-Skokie, when asked if making the income tax hike permanent meant forever.
Doug Finke, a Statehouse reporter for GateHouse News Service, can be reached at (217) 788-1527. Follow him at twitter.com/DougFinkeSJR.