Quinn cancellation stymies union protest
SPRINGFIELD -- When the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees found out that Gov. Pat Quinn was scheduled to give opening remarks at a Springfield conference, the union knew what it wanted to do.
AFSCME organized a protest rally of about 50 people outside the Crowne Plaza Hotel, where the annual Illinois Digital Government Summit began Wednesday.
The only thing was Quinn wasn’t there.
Quinn’s office said they notified event organizers two weeks ago that the governor would not be able to attend.
An AFSCME representative said an event organizer told him the governor’s office delivered the notice at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Both are correct.
“We were told two weeks ago that he had a conflict and surely wouldn’t be able to speak,” said Jack Mortimer of Government Technology Magazine, which organized the summit. “But our program guide had already gone to print.”
The program guide listed Quinn as delivering opening remarks first thing Wednesday morning as the conference got under way.
However, that’s not where AFSCME learned that Quinn was scheduled to speak. Jeff Bigelow, regional director for AFSCME Council 31, said the union learned of Quinn’s appearance from the web site devoted to the summit. As of Wednesday morning, the site still listed Quinn as giving opening remarks beginning at 8:45 a.m.
“He’s been advertised as showing up there for weeks and weeks,” Bigelow said. “It’s clear to me, from talking to the person who was running the show there, that they knew he was scheduled to give opening remarks and the fact that they called and said they were not doing it at seven (Tuesday night) shows there was a scheduling.”
Or hopeful thinking on his part, Mortimer said.
“We kept him on the web site in hopes that maybe a miracle would happen and his schedule would change, but it didn’t,” Mortimer said. “I didn’t find that for sure until (Tuesday night). I said is there any hope and they said ‘Nope. It’s still the same situation.’”
Quinn spokeswoman Brooke Anderson said the governor had “other engagements” that prevented his attendance. She would not elaborate. Quinn’s official schedule for Wednesday listed one public event, a 2 p.m. appearance in Chicago to highlight a new crime prevention law.
“That doesn’t mean that’s the only meeting and such he’s having,” Anderson said. “We have other things to do. We receive dozens of these requests daily and we cannot attend them all.”
She reiterated that “we made clear two weeks ago the governor was not attending this event.”
AFSCME protesters booed Quinn off the state at the Illinois State Fair and also sent protesters to the Democratic National Convention last week that Quinn attended. They are angry that Quinn has rescinded pay raises, wants to reduce pensions, cut jobs, close facilities, and is taking a hard line in current contract talks.
Bigelow said the union will keep up the pressure.
“We will be everywhere he has a public event,” he said.
Doug Finke can be reached at (217) 788-1527.