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Playing Politics with a Child’s Life

In Illinois, politics could imperil an infant’s life.
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By Anders Lindall, AFSCME Council 31 ·

Meet Kenea Williams, an Illinois state employee whose infant son requires oxygen due to complications stemming from his premature birth. Her baby’s life could be in jeopardy as her state’s governor plays politics.

On Feb. 9, KMOV-TV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, aired “Fighting for Air,” a story that profiled Williams, a caregiver for people with disabilities at Murray Developmental Center in Centralia.

Because of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s refusal to enact a budget, the state government in September 2015 stopped paying health care providers for claims submitted by state employees. As a result, providers have increasingly forced state workers to pay up front for needed care.

In the case of Williams and her baby boy, the provider of the infant’s oxygen tank tried to repossess it because the state failed to pay its health claims.

Williams is one of about 30,000 AFSCME-represented state workers who would be forced to pay substantially more for their health care if Rauner has his way.  At the same time, Rauner proposes to freeze state worker pay under terms he’s tried to impose on AFSCME since he broke off negotiations more than a year ago.

“By refusing to develop a state budget or settle a fair contract with state workers like Kenea, Bruce Rauner is doing real harm to the people of Illinois,” Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “Every lawmaker must stand up and tell the governor to drop his hostage-taking tactics, sign a budget and settle a fair contract with state workers now.”

Kenea is a member of AFSCME Local 401 (Murray Center). AFSCME members throughout Illinois are voting on whether to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike to resist Rauner’s extreme demands.

To learn about the issues roiling Illinois go here. To read Council 31’s press release on this issue, go here.

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