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Peoria government employee union waves a red flag about working conditions

Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union, or AFSCME, listen to a council executive speak about conditions at state prisons and detention centers in Illinois.
Seth Perlman
/
AP
Members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees union, or AFSCME, listen to a council executive speak about conditions at state prisons and detention centers in Illinois.

Anyone who was in attendance at Tuesday’s City Council meeting noticed the sea of green AFSCME shirts representing an unusually large audience compared to the attendance council meetings typically bring in.

The American Federation of State County & Municipal Employee (AFSCME) Local 3464 is a union representing employees of the City of Peoria, the Peoria Public Library, the Peoria Civic Center, and the Peoria Housing Authority.

Matthew Hayes, a local city worker, introduced the group's concerns to the Council during the public comment portion of the meeting.

“Tonight, our union members have gathered here to voice some of our issues and make our presence known,” he stated. “For years now, the union has been weak from high turnover rates, minimal staffing, increased workloads, lack of wage compensation, and other departmental issues leading to a work environment that doesn’t fit the needs of its employees.”

AFSCME Local 3464 claims that their workers have been “faced with request after request to make do with less,” and that the “city government has used every crisis to cut city services and staff.”

The union claims it is now standard for a singular employee in a city department to be tasked with a workload that was typically given to two or three employees in the past, resulting in workers regularly having to put in
50-70 hour workweeks. And they say while employees have been put under the strain of more work for less pay, managers and higher-up positions are seeing an increase of at least 4% in their income on a yearly basis.

Understaffing is also resulting in increasingly high turnover rates. A 911 center worker reported that due to the staffing shortages, very few potential new hires are able to make it entirely through the extensive training process - because nobody is available to train them.

A letter from union vice president Anthony Walraven read, “None of us want to be here today. We want to work our jobs, serve the community, and go home at the end of the day to our families.”

“[This] doesn’t just affect us,” he wrote. “It affects the people of Peoria…it affects them in overworked code enforcement workers who can’t maintain the type of rental inspection processes that would prevent the worst abuses of landlords…it affects the libraries and librarians… it affects people who have trouble getting the roads plowed…and the list goes on.”

The issues that our city employees are facing will ultimately come back to Peorians. Being overworked, underpaid, and undervalued makes it incredibly difficult to provide and maintain a high standard of quality work- and to no fault of the workers.

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