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Illinois Dems Advance Bill To Help State Unions Bypass Governor

Illinois Democrats in the state legislature passed a bill Thursday to help labor unions overcome Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner during contract negotiations.

Rauner and state labor unions have been in a bitter labor dispute since he entered office over a year ago. The two sides have been tasked with negotiating a new labor contract for state workers, but critical disagreements have turned into a heated dispute. Democrats are advancing a bill that may help state unions bypass the governor.

“It would create the incentive to stay at the table and to negotiate a fair deal between the parties,” State Sen. Don Harmon said according to Northern Public Radio. “So we may disagree on the bill and its methods, but the net is the same: that the parties stay at the table.”

Democrats introduced an almost identical bill last February, which was passed by the Democratic majority in both legislative chambers in May but vetoed by Rauner in July. The measures would allow either side to form an arbitration panel during troubled negotiations, but in doing so the governor would relinquish his authority to negotiate to unelected bureaucrats.

Rauner has petitioned the Illinois Labor Relations Board to declare the talks at an impasse. If the Illinois labor board rules the negotiations are at an impasse, it would be a huge victory for the governor — the remaining state unions will have to accept his last contract proposal or go on strike.

Rauner has claimed on numerous occasions that limiting public-sector union power will help the state economy by reducing spending. Some state unions, however, have fought to increase their power. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has remained one of the biggest opponents, even as most state unions managed to eventually reach a compromise with the governor.

A memo sent by his office in July detailed that AFSCME is demanding an 11.5 to 29 percent pay increase for state employees, a 37.5 hour work week and five weeks of fully-paid vacation, among other privileges.

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