Strike threat raises stakes in state union talks
SPRINGFIELD (AP) — The emerging threat of at least 30,000 Illinois state employees striking might seem extreme, but union leaders say they're seriously considering the prospect as contract talks have stalemated amid an overall state government financial picture that is equally extreme.
Illinois remains mired in a fiscal quagmire that includes a crushing $96 billion deficit in public-worker pension systems and a festering $9 billion backlog of unpaid bills to service providers.
That's the backdrop for ongoing negotiations between Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and the state's largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which often finds itself on the defensive at a time when organized labor across the country has suffered losses. AFSCME has futilely fought against facility closures, appealed to the courts to enforce raises promised in 2011 and has little to show for more than a year of contract talks to replace one that expired eight months ago.
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