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Republican Governor Wins Big Fight Against AFSCME

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner: REUTERS/Jim Young, AFSCME Union Member Robin Chisolm: REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

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Ted Goodman Reporter

Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner scored a major victory against the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) when the state’s labor relations board declared an impasse between AFSCME and the governor’s administration.

The decision means the union must either accept the administration’s contract offer or go on strike. The ruling isn’t effective until it is written, giving the union some time to convince Rauner to return to the bargaining table.

AFSCME Council 31, which represents 38,000 Illinois public employees, promised to appeal the board’s verbal ruling and expressed disappointment with the decision. “Our union strongly disagrees with this ruling,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “We have consistently made clear that we are prepared to continue negotiating, while the Rauner Administration’s extreme demands, unfair labor practices and refusal to meet have sabotaged the collective bargaining process.”

Rauner asserted his contract proposal would save taxpayers $3 billion. The governor contends the proposed contract mirrors agreements the administration reached with 18 other unions in the state. The union argues the governor’s plan would force state and university employees to pay double what they currently pay for health care.

“Today’s decision is fair for taxpayers and state employees,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a statement. “As a result of this agreed-to process, the state can now implement its contract, saving the taxpayers more than $3 billion over four years.”

The labor dispute between Rauner and the state’s largest public employees union has going ever since the Republican businessman was swept into office in 2014. The union’s previous contract expired July 1, 2015, and a potential strike by state employees has loomed like a dark cloud over Springfield ever since.

The battle heated up in May, when Rauner vetoed a bill that would have sent any unresolved labor negotiations between AFSCME and the administration to arbitration. Rauner said at the time the bill was “promoted by AFSCME to remove him from bargaining and replace him with an ‘unelected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers.'”

Rauner described the union’s demands as unsustainable, arguing taxpayers cannot afford AFSCME’s “unreasonable demands.” The governor said his offer is fair to both the taxpayers and AFSCME employees. His offer includes performance bonuses of up to 8 percent of a member’s salary, as well as additional healthcare options.

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