Illinois Democrats were unable to secure enough votes Wednesday to override a veto in their attempts to bypass Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to resolve an ongoing labor dispute.
Rauner and state unions have failed to agree on new labor contracts impacting public-sector workers. The Democratic majority in the state legislature passed a bill March 3 that would require Rauner to forfeit his negotiation powers to an independent arbitrator if an impasse is declared. He vetoed the bill May 16, and supporters failed to secure enough votes to override his block.
“[It] was unprecedented and unaffordable, and simply another attempt by the Majority Party in the legislature to insert themselves into the contract process and put hard working families in Illinois on the hook for a $3 billion tax hike,” Governor Spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement. “It is now time to move forward and find compromise on a balanced budget.”
Democrats introduced an almost identical bill last February, which passed the Democratic majority in both legislative chambers in May but was vetoed in July. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has remained one of his biggest opponents, even as most state unions managed to eventually reach a compromise with the governor.
“We are deeply disappointed in the 48 legislators in the House today who failed to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of the fair arbitration bill,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “They sided with the governor against the people of Illinois and against the public service workers.”
Rauner petitioned the Illinois Labor Relations Board in January 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. An impasse would force the remaining state unions to accept his last contract proposal or go on strike.
“The bill would have allowed government-worker unions to unilaterally take contract negotiations out of Rauner’s hands and delegate decisions worth billions of dollars to a panel of unelected, third-party arbitrators who are not accountable to taxpayers,” Illinois Policy Institute Attorney Heather Weiner wrote. “[The] vote is a substantial win for Illinois taxpayers.”
The governor detailed in a memo sent by his office in July 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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