Illinois Labor Board Ruin Hopes Of Ending Union Fight

REUTERS/Larry Downing

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The Illinois state labor board declined a request by the governor Thursday to bypass an administrative judge and declare the public-sector union dispute at an impasse.

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and state unions have been in a bitter dispute since he entered office in January 2015, after he attempted to rein in union power in the hopes of reversing budget problems. Rauner petitioned the Illinois Labor Relations Board in January to declare the talks at an impasse, but the board denied his request, The Associated Press reports.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has been at the forefront of opposing the governor. It is also one of the few unions to not yet reach a compromise.

If the Illinois labor board had ruled the negotiations are at an impasse, the remaining state unions would have had to accept his last best contract proposal or go on strike.

AFSCME has already begun to position itself for a possible strike. The union began polling its members this past week and informing them on what to do during a strike. Additionally an estimated 10,000 union members and supporters surrounded the state capitol May 18 to protest Rauner and his labor policy reforms.

Rauner has also faced opposition from Democrats in the state legislature. They passed a bill March 3 that would have required the governor to forfeit his negotiation powers to an unelected arbitrator if an impasse is declared. He vetoed the bill May 16 and supporters could not override him. Democrats introduced an almost identical bill last February, which was also vetoed.

Rauner claimed on numerous occasions that limiting public-sector union power would help the state economy by reducing spending. 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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