August 2015

Not A Joke: Bruce Rauner Pondering Extension of “Superstar” Contract

Sun-Times, SJR Reports: Rauner’s Disgraced “Budget Guru” May Continue Six-Figure, Taxpayer-Funded Salary

CHICAGO – Despite the Rauner administration’s inability to find the cash to finance court-ordered services for people with disabilities and child care for working parents, the Sun-Times and State Journal-Register are reporting that Bruce Rauner inexplicably is considering re-upping the contract of a so-called “budget guru” who has been paid an estimated $165,000 in taxpayer dollars for eight months of work.

Reports yesterday initially suggested Donna Arduin – a lavishly-paid Republican operative who has left a trail of economic destruction in California, Florida and Michigan – was leaving Illinois with no budget in place, and the state mired in the greatest budget crisis in its history. Despite that record of failure, Rauner’s spokesperson heaped praise on the outgoing Arduin, who Rauner has affectionately referred to as a “superstar” in the past.

Arduin’s contract, reduced to a paltry $15,000-per-month after public outcry, was set to expire at the end of the month. But it now appears she’s actually going to be rewarded for producing a failed budget document that drew bipartisan outcry for its historic cuts to education, infrastructure and social services—while leading a budget strategy, predicated on Rauner’s rigid anti-union demands, that has perpetuated the current impasse.

“The fact that Bruce Rauner is even considering renewing the $15,000-per-month contract of his disgraced pet budget adviser – while cutting vital services for people who make only $15,000 in an entire year – shows the unrestrained hubris and utter incompetence of this administration,” said James Muhammad, an SEIU Healthcare Illinois vice president.

“It’s time for Bruce Rauner to account for every penny taxpayers have wasted on this failed ideologue who appears to have managed to both deepen our budget crisis at the same time as harming women, children, working families and people with disabilities.”

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Guest view: Labor arbitration best tool to protect vital services, resolve state contracts

Keith Kelleher, President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, wrote the following guest commentary in the Northwest Herald on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 about the importance of the Labor Arbitration bill, SB 1229. 

 

By KEITH KELLEHER -SEIU Healthcare Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner and a variety of state workers, including those who perform essential services such as our state’s child care providers and home care workers whom we represent, have failed to agree to a contract.

No one is served by perpetual labor strife, which is why Illinois workers and taxpayers need a responsible mechanism to come to an agreement on state contracts so as not to disrupt vital services. That’s why the Illinois House needs to follow the Senate’s bipartisan lead and overturn Gov. Rauner’s veto to enact an interest arbitration law (Senate Bill 1229) so that a panel of independent mediators can come to a fair resolution.

There has been a lot of confusion about this bill. This legislation simply extends the three-decades-old option of fair arbitration, not just to police officers, firefighters and prison guards, but to other state workers.

In addition, the arbitrator will be “neutral” and mutually agreed upon by the state and the union. The real reason Gov. Rauner strongly opposes SB 1229 is that neutral arbitration means a contract will result from the process. Based on the governor’s actions and statements, his intention is to pursue an anti-union agenda to take away the voice for workers and avoid making written agreements governing state employees.

On Aug. 4, the Northwest Herald published an editorial in opposition to Senate Bill 1229, saying it would “take the power of negotiating with the state’s labor unions out of the governor’s hands and place it into those of an unelected panel of arbitrators that has no accountability to taxpayers.” We respectfully disagree with this analysis.

SB 1229 does not give unions like ours more power. It merely protects the state’s workforce of home care workers and child care providers who support and empower working families. The truth is Illinois needs a stable and well-trained workforce more than ever.

A recent report from Innovation Illinois that studied the economic impact of investing in caregiver programs, such as home care and child care, found that for every dollar of spending on these programs, it generated $3.74 in economic activity. Home care, in particular, saved the state an estimated $1 billion in nursing home and institutional costs. And finally, these vital programs created more than 144,000 jobs directly and 67,000 jobs indirectly. This is why projecting and strengthening Illinois’ workforce should be a top priority for all elected officials.

Our two state contracts, which expired June 30, represent some 52,000 workers. Gov. Rauner is making unbelievable demands and is showing a level of hostility toward unions that we have never seen from a governor of either party. Gov. Rauner insisted at various points that we give up health care for our already low-paid workers; that our providers, already the lowest-paid workers in the state, agree to a four-year wage freeze; that they give up their ability to communicate with their union; that the state stop collecting dues; and that we eliminate vital training for thousands of providers.

The truth is we did not initially take a position on this legislation but grew into our support after sitting for months at the bargaining table with the Rauner administration, which, basically, refuses to acknowledge our right to exist.

Gov. Rauner’s goal in this budget debacle and shutdown has been to break the collective power of public and private-sector unions in ways that have nothing to do with saving taxpayers. Even former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar criticized Rauner for pursing an anti-union agenda instead of dealing with the state budget.

Gov. Rauner has said he will not lock out state workers. And likewise, SB 1229 forecloses any strike from state workers because it forces the arbitrators to resolve contract disputes. In other words, both sides recognize the need for compromise.

This legislation, interest arbitration, is a fair solution to the conflict between Rauner’s agenda and the need to continue vital services that, if were stopped, would do grave damage to the state’s workforce and harm our local economy.

SB 1229 will help level the playing field and preserve stability in Illinois so that legislators can search for real solutions to our long-term structural problems.

• Keith Kelleher is president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, a unit of the Service Employees International Union.

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Bruce Rauner’s Tale of Two Women: The Career Children’s Advocate & the $165,000 Hired Gun

This week we saw two headlines that sadly sum up exactly how Bruce Rauner operates, and what he has in store for vulnerable populations in Illinois.

First, you had news that Linda Saterfield, the longest-serving administrator of a state child care program in the nation and a 37-year public servant, was retiring, a few days after she was “reassigned,” a few days after she committed the crime of telling the truth in public testimony about how Rauner’s changes to the state’s Child Care Assistance Program would be – her word – “devastating” to Illinois working families.

Then you had news that a highly-paid right-wing operative, Donna Arduin – whose specialty is parachuting into states and finding ways to make money by denying benefits to kids, seniors and people with disabilities – was riding into the sunset after a few months of lucrative work. Presumably Rauner’s “superstar” budget guru cashed her $165,000 check, even while Illinois remains mired in the worst budget crisis in state history.

So on the one hand you had a committed career child advocate, praised by members of both parties after serving multiple governors, being cashiered in the midst of suffocating cuts to a workforce-building program that, by virtually every measure, is a success.

On the other hand, you had an ideologue with a proven track record of destruction, whose chief accomplishment may not merely be concocting a bizarre and extreme budget that had no chance of passage, but also draconian rules changes to social service agencies that would, if enacted, fundamentally shred the social safety net in Illinois, while also surely inviting costly legal challenges.

Bottom line: Bruce Rauner came into office touting his business acumen and pointing to the obscene fortune he has amassed by acquiring and selling companies, and the “superstars” he was going to recruit to “turnaround” Illinois.

Linda Saterfield was an actual superstar, dispensed with for daring speak the truth, whose vast experience and institutional knowledge can in no way be replaced.

Donna Arduin was a Rauner-brand superstar, whose indifference to the suffering of the most vulnerable Illinoisans – all in the name of alarming Darwinian budget logic now being felt in every corner of the state – earned her a huge paycheck.

One of them will be missed.

 

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Kicking People While They’re Down: DHS Hearing on Drastic Rauner Rules Changes to Deny Benefits to the Needy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2015

CHICAGO-Drastic rules changes the Rauner administration is proposing to tear apart the Illinois social safety net and make it easier to exclude the needy from a wide range of essential benefits, including food stamps, child care and Medicaid, will be the subject of a hearing TODAY at 1 p.m.

The Rauner administration is adding a blizzard of new barriers to access services as well as denying due process to the very poor in ways that conflict with existing statutes, regulations and court cases—not to mention Rauner’s own public statements that he is committed to preserving benefits for the vulnerable.

Among the changes, the state would alter the entire premise for Illinois social services and place the burden of proof for aid on those who need help the most—a drastic departure from current conditions—and would move hearings when benefits are denied far away from access points for the poor.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois member leader, Roshoundria Leach, a home healthcare worker in the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), testified in opposition to the rule changes by Gov. Rauner and the Department of Human Services.

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Roshoundria Leach_DORS_worker_testifying_DHS_Gov_Rauner_hearing_to_deny_care_Chicago_08_26_15_CROPMy name is Roshundria Leach.

I have worked as a home healthcare care provider for eight years.

I am also a proud union member of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, an organization that represents over 92,000 home care, nursing home, health systems workers and child care providers.

I appreciate the opportunity to express my strong opposition to the proposed rule changes by the Illinois Department of Human Services, especially with respect to the Home Services Program which I’m a part of.

Along with my fellow home care workers we officially endorse the comments filed by the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the Illinois legal services programs about the new DHS rule changes.

As a home care provider I support my own father, a retired police officer who served for over 17-years.

My father had one of his lungs removed during surgery four years ago when he was suffering from cancer. And he uses a wheelchair now to get around due to a severe back injury.

I am here as an advocate for him, my community of fellow home care workers and those who live with disabilities.

I see firsthand the difficulty of those who have to fight for their own care and access to vital services – not to mention the most basic tasks that many of us take for granted, like being able to feed, dress, and bathe, and the freedom of mobility.

These new proposed rule changes by DHS to limit and restrict both the notices to those who will be denied care; and to make the appeals process harder for low-income people and families to navigate, are simply unfair and unjustified.

Let’s be crystal clear: these rule changes are designed to make life more difficult and to prevent people from appealing to the State when they are denied vital services.

These changes will be felt by those who are most vulnerable and those who are in most need of support – whether the need is home care assistance, food stamps, or child care.

Three of the worst examples that demonstrate these barriers, especially for those in the Home Services Program, include:

1)      The burden of proof is placed on the program participants;

2)      Hearings will be moved far away from participants and difficult to access;

3)      And the difficulty in securing continued benefits while the appeals process is pending.

The main reasons why we oppose these rule changes include:

1) It is not right to expect consumers to be able to effectively navigate the maze of processes and procedures to appeal DHS’ decision to deny or reject care.

2) It is not fair to move hearings for appeals far away from consumers and that place a huge burden on them to travel to either Chicago or Decatur to appeal their termination in the Home Services Program. Let me emphasize as well that adults with disabilities face major obstacles with respect to transportation. These challenges create even further barriers to accessing healthcare and vital services.

3) Previously, a consumer had 30-days to continue getting vital services while they appealed their termination in the HSP program. But these new rule changes slash this timeframe to only 10 days.

As other advocacy organizations have stated about these rule changes, what has become clear is the necessity to make notices and the process for appealing the denial of services much simpler for clients – not harder.

DHS needs to make this process work better for those with disabilities, and create a system that is more streamlined and more effective.

And it is my personal belief – after seeing those who live with disabilities up close — that DHS should place its emphasis, focus and presumption towards granting vital services, especially for home care – and not in denying or taking services away.
But I have some questions of my own for the Rauner administration.

  • As a home care worker in the Department of Rehabilitative Services, why exactly, is the Illinois Department of Human Services instituting a series of hurdles in order to deny vital services and home care assistance to adults with disabilities?
  • I would like to hear, in plain English, the rational basis, and what objectives are being meant, to implement these new rules?
  • Please tell me, as a home care worker, as a taxpayer of Illinois, why these changes? And why now?

It appears to me that these new changes, especially for the Home Services Program, are a bureaucratic process to deny, defer, and delay services for low-income individuals and families who need support.

I wish I was testifying about why we must protect and expand vital programs — like the Home Services Program that gives adults with disabilities a sense of independence, privacy, decency, self-respect, and choice for their own care.

But instead, home care workers and fellow advocates are tasked with explaining how these hurdles will impact those with disabilities, and defending vital programs.

It is true that my father should hopefully not have to deal with being denied access to the Home Services Program because his health condition is so severe.

But what would happen if his case wasn’t as “severe”?

My father could just as easily be thrown off the HSP program – and we would have to navigate the extreme bureaucratic maze to fight for an appeal.

Imagine those individuals and families who don’t have those supports, or resources to fight for an appeal for either the Home Services Program, or child care, or food stamps?

That’s why I am lending my voice to this cause to stop this injustice.

For all these reasons, I urge Gov. Rauner’s administration, and the Illinois Department of Human Services, to stop its proposed rule changes and instead invest its time and energy into passing a state budget that protects and actually expands vital services for working families.

Thank you.

 

 

 

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PURGED: Report Says Rauner Official Who Told the Truth Now Gone From Administration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Contact: Graeme Zielinski, graeme.zielinski@seiuhcil.org

 

PURGED: Report Says Rauner Official Who Told the Truth Now Gone From Administration

Sun-Times: Ex-child care chief who testified to “devastating” impact of Rauner cuts is out

CHICAGO – Just one week after being removed from her longtime post as chief administrator of the state’s child care programs – following public testimony that Bruce Rauner’s cuts to the Child Care Assistance Programs (CCAP) would be “devastating” to thousands of Illinois families – a well-respected, veteran public servant is officially out of the Rauner administration.

Linda Saterfield’s public testimony at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules sent shockwaves through state government and the media, as she was the first Rauner official to speak publicly on the “devastating” impact of Rauner’s child care cuts. Two weeks later, Ms. Saterfield no longer has a job.

The Chicago Sun-Times now reports that Saterfield, a 37-year veteran of both Republican and Democratic administrations in Springfield, has accepted early retirement after a massive internal backlash and “reassignment” for what the Rauner administration called unspecified “internal personnel reasons.”

Rauner’s cuts are so severe that the JCAR hearing at which Saterfield testified had been requested by Ounce of Prevention, a group headed by Gov. Rauner’s wife Diana, who has fiercely opposed Rauner’s cuts to critical child care programs. Rauner’s administrative changes to the CCAP program continue to draw increasing scrutiny for their draconian impacts on low-income working families, especially single moms.

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St. Louis Workers Keep Pressure on Local Lawmakers for Minimum Wage Increase

Show Me 15 8.19.15 Rally for $15 WageWorkers Gather, Call on Lewis Reed and Board of Alderman to Hold Resumed Session, Pass Minimum Wage Increase

March From McDonald’s to City Hall Symbolize Movement to Raise Wages’ Progress in Missouri

St. Louis, MO- Low wage workers in the health care and fast food industries gathered at a McDonald’s near city hall to call on President Reed and the rest of the Board of Alderman to have a resumed session and pass a bill to raise minimum wage. Holding signs that read “Fast Food stands with Health Care” and “We All Need a raise,” the workers marched several blocks to City Hall, where they continued their rally.

“I’m here today, speaking on behalf of all health care workers. Our work is challenging and requires a lot of patience. At times, this work can even be dangerous. This is why we all need to be paid a livable wage,” said nursing home employee Paula Simpson. “For 19 years I’ve seen employees struggle with payday loans, bill collectors and rent payment. That shouldn’t be an issue when you do what we do.”

A bill to raise minimum wage has been voted out of committee, but needs to be passed into perfection and brought to a final vote. President Reed, who has supported raising the minimum wage, has yet to call a resumed session to make this happen.

“We need to raise the wage not just for fast food workers, but for all workers in St. Louis, because we are all struggling,” said Jeanina Jenkins, a Chipotle employee with Show Me 15. “We want 15, we want union rights, but we also support raising the minimum wage. We don’t want anyone to be left out of this because all work deserves a decent pay.”

Workers spoke out on the difficulty of living on low wages, as well as their frustration with the process of raising minimum wage.

“It’s because of the risks we’ve taken that minimum wage is a being discussed. But the time for playing politics is over,” said Mike Cogshell, who works at Sonic in St. Louis. “If the alderman support us, then they should take action. We’ll keep fighting no matter what, but we are disappointed they haven’t done anything.”

 

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Why are low-income parents and children being targeted by our governor?

On Wednesday morning, State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Olympia Fields) introduced a bill that would roll back Gov. Bruce Rauner’s draconian new eligibility requirements to the Child Care Assistance Program that have denied 90% of applicants since July 1st.
Shannon Norris TestifyingShannon Norris, a Springfield child care provider of ten years, testified in front of the Senate Human Services Committee during a hearing on the bill, where it advanced to the full Senate on a 6-3 vote.

Here’s some of what Shannon had to say to lawmakers:

As we all know, Governor Rauner implemented changes in eligibility that severely restrict access to this program, and there have already been repercussions. Since July 1, 90% of new applicants to the Child Care Assistance Program have been denied. These are families who in the past, up until June 30, would have qualified.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of working parents have ALREADY been denied the child care that would allow them to enter or stay in the workforce knowing their children are being cared for in safe environments.

What are all those people going to do? Leave their children home alone or with someone who may not be qualified? Quit their jobs? We need people working and contributing to our economy right now and child care assistance is a necessary part of the equation for those earning low wages.

This deliberate effort to destroy a successful program without debate or public input is a terrible way to govern. It’s even worse for the security of tens of thousands of children and the economic security of tens of thousands of Illinois working families.

This is a program that has long enjoyed bipartisan support – but now the Rauner Administration is doing everything they can to cutoff access.

The part that upsets me the most is these changes – which make no mistake are an attempt to destroy this program – were made outside of the budget crisis. Why are low-income parents and children being targeted by our Governor?

I encourage legislators to stand up to the governor’s back-door destruction of the Child Care Assistance Program, and roll back his rule changes that have thrown thousands of families into uncertainty. Don’t pull the rug out from low-income parents who are doing everything they can to give their children a better future. Our state is better than that.

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