It’s down to crunch time.
One week from today, the state is scheduled to lay off 2,600 state workers, including 1,000 employees of the Illinois Department of Corrections. About 125 of those layoffs would be at Vandalia Correctional Center.
Area officials have done what they can to halt the cuts. In fact, the mayors of Fayette County’s three largest communities – Vandalia, St. Elmo and Brownstown – had a face-to-face meeting with Gov. Pat Quinn earlier this month. At that meeting, the mayors did their best to convince the governor to look elsewhere to balance the state’s faltering economy. Petitions from area residents opposing the cuts were presented to the governor.
Apparently, those efforts were to no avail. Since that time, Quinn has made no effort to alter his plan or reach out to the targeted communities.
The union that represents the IDOC workers (the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees) has filed for a temporary injunction to stop the layoffs, but a hearing on the matter was postponed until this Wednesday. Vandalia Mayor Ricky Gottman traveled to Johnson County on Wednesday to represent the city. No information from that hearing was available at press time.
It’s time for both sides to come to the table. And it’s time for both to make concessions for the good of all involved. Already with one of the highest unemployment rates in the region, Fayette County cannot stand the loss of 125 high-paying jobs without plunging us into a deeper economic tailspin. The governor has a responsibility to help hard-hit areas like Fayette County – not target them for yet another round of cuts. And likewise, AFSCME has a responsibility to its members to consider concessions for the good of all. If everyone shares in the cuts, no one gets left out in the cold.
These are times that test a community’s mettle. We have come through tough times before, but doing so requires us to pull together. That is what’s needed now.