Illinois Democrats Try To Silence Gov. Rauner Over Union Talks

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Democrats in the Illinois legislature may soon silence Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner by taking way his ability to negotiate with public unions.

SB1229 was introduced in February in response to troubled labor negotiations between Rauner and the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The measure would allow an arbitrator to takeover state labor negotiations if a new agreement is not reached within 30 days.

Some have argued, though, that the bill is a huge giveaway to state unions. According to F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy expert at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the measure will put power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats while allowing unions to stonewall deals they don’t like.

“Under impasse arbitration, an unelected arbitrator will write a contract binding taxpayers,” Vernuccio wrote in June for the Illinois Policy Institute. “Neither party can make a change during this time without the consent of the other. These are known as ‘evergreen clauses’ and give one party the ability to stonewall and keep a beneficial contract in place.”

The measure was introduced after Rauner had only been in office for about a month. It is also set to expire in four years when his first term will end. The bill was passed by the Democrat majority in both the state House and Senate in May.

In July Rauner vetoed the bill but the Senate was able to override it with a 3/5 majority Aug. 19. The House filed its intent to override the veto the following day. Though a vote was expected for Tuesday, lawmakers have 15 days total after filing to override a veto to vote. If the House also gets a 3/5 majority, the measure will be enacted.

Arguing it will help the state economy, Rauner has tried to rein in union power. According to The Illinois Policy Institute, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital to economic growth and stability.

“Illinois’ low standing for total job growth is unusual given that Illinois has the largest population in the Midwest and the fifth largest nationally,” the Institute noted in a report for 2014. “It takes a particularly toxic combination of bad policy and corrupt dealings to hinder such a large and talented workforce from keeping up with the likes of Kentucky and Connecticut.”

“Illinois tracks last of all states for private-sector job creation in 2014, one of only four states to be negative for jobs on the year,” the report added.

Though the last public sector labor agreement expired in June, Rauner has stood by his stance while negotiating with AFSCME. There has even been concerns state workers could end up striking. At the moment the only thing preventing a strike is that each side keeps agreeing to extend the expired contract.

According to a memo sent out by the governor’s office in July, AFSCME and Rauner have been unable to reach consensus on several key issues.

“AFSCME has refused to move off the proposals I reported in my last update,” the memo stated. “Those proposals are outrageously expensive and unacceptable to the Governor.”

According to the memo, 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. The 11.5 percent pay increase alone would cost over $1.25 billion in just four years according to the memo. Instead, the governor is arguing that the agreement made by the Teamsters in June was much more reasonable.

“We met with the head of the Teamsters in mid-June,” the memo stated. “They wanted a fair deal that would not bankrupt the state. Two weeks later, after negotiating around the clock, we had a tentative agreement.”

Rauner also tried to stop public unions from forcing state employees from paying dues. He ordered state agencies to stop collecting the dues with an executive order while also filing a federal lawsuit to end the state law that requires them. A state judge, however, dismissed the lawsuit.

AFSCME did not respond to requests for comment from TheDCNF.

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