After almost a year of negotiating, Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has reached labor agreements Thursday with three public sector unions, but he still faces some major holdouts.
The recent round of labor agreements represents a huge victory for Rauner. The Associated Press reports the agreements will last four years each. Since taking office in January, Problems with unions have defined much of his administration. Despite the recent success, Rauner still has to come to an agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and SEIU Healthcare.
Arriving at a labor agreement with AFSCME represents a major obstacle for Rauner. The union has been highly critical of his administration. Rauner has tried to limit the power public sector unions and pursued policies unions tend to oppose. He has said limiting union power will help the state economy. According to The Illinois Policy Institute, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital to economic growth and stability.
AFSCME is one of the most powerful unions in the country. It represents public sector employees and retirees and has been known to be very active during political campaigns, primarily in support of Democratic candidates.
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. The union has demanded a 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.
Additionally, Rauner has advocated for outlawing mandatory union dues or fees. The policy, known as right-to-work, is very much opposed by most unions. In May, Democratic Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan gave Rauner a week to submit a bill if he wants a vote on the policy. Rauner, though, failed to meet the deadline.
His reforms have made Rauner a target of more union-friendly state lawmakers as well. Democrats introduced a bill in February that would have allowed unions to override the governor during troubled labor negotiations. It was passed by the Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature in May. Rauner vetoed the measure in July. Tensions through the labor talks even led to concerns Rauner would use the national guard to keep the government functional if state workers decided to strike.
The new contracts will cover workers at the Departments of Agriculture, Central Management Services, Corrections, Human Services, Juvenile Justice, Transportation, Veterans’ Affairs, State Police and the Historic Preservation Agency. Back in June, Rauner was able able to reach a labor agreement with the Teamsters. That contract, he argued, was much more reasonable than what AFSCME is demanding.
AFSCME represents more than 30,000 employees and the SEIU Healthcare represents 52,000 state workers. The governor’s office and AFSCME did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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