SPRINGFIELD — In spite of resistance from the state's largest labor union, volunteers will get to use their muscle during what is being declared the first annual State Day of Service in Illinois.
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that on this day of service - April 22, 2017 - volunteers will be able to help out in state-run agencies that in the past have been strictly prohibited due to stipulations in the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) contract.
In the past, AFSCME has filed grievances and complaints involving volunteers attempting to get involved at places such as veterans homes and tourist centers.
“It’s ludicrous that it took an impasse in contract negotiations between AFSCME and the state for the governor to be able to welcome volunteers,” Mailee Smith, policy analyst with the Illinois Policy Institute, told the Record. “We as residents can do more to make our state a better place. Coming together builds community. Groups like scouts can do projects in our parks or go to veterans homes — but AFSCME stands in the way.”
While the day has been named by the governor, Smith said she still expects there to be pushback from organized labor groups and may not go as smoothly as expected.
“Throughout negotiations over AFSCME’s contract with the state, the union has refused to compromise on the use of volunteers,” Smith said. “Based on that and AFSCME’s history of opposing the use of volunteers, it’s likely AFSCME leadership will continue to oppose volunteers.”
In an announcement by Rauner regarding the service day, he stated that additional services by volunteers would be at “no cost to taxpayers while giving volunteers an opportunity to give back and help their fellow Illinois residents.”
Rauner also suggested that state agencies would benefit from volunteers coming together to clean state parks, do projects at that state fairgrounds, or volunteer at veterans homes. Schools could also be a major beneficiary of volunteers if allowed.
“Schools always benefit from volunteer involvement,” Smith said. “From parent readers to coaching assistants to coordinators of after-school activities, we see the enrichment of students that volunteers bring to our schools. It’s only obvious that volunteers likewise should be welcomed and valued in our state facilities and parks. This is our state — and we can make work to make it better together.”