While Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Winnetka, argues the measure is an expensive,
taxpayer-funded gift to organized labor that Illinois can’t afford, Democratic
proponents say the bill would forestall a work stoppage and protect state
workers and services.
At issue is House Bill 580, essentially a revival of 2015’s vetoed Senate Bill
1229, which would let arbitrators decide between the state’s and the American
Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ final contract offers.
The House Labor and Commerce Committee on Thursday sent an amendment to the bill
to the full chamber Thursday, restarting the fight over the measure.
And that fight will be timely, as the Rauner administration last month asked the
Illinois Labor Relations Board to declare an impasse in the yearlong contract
talks between the state and AFSCME, which have failed to yield an agreement.
The governor’s office was quick to take up the challenge Thursday, issuing a
statement accusing AFSCME of reneging on an agreement to let the Illinois Labor
Relations Board decide whether an impasse exists and trying to shift the
contract decision to arbitrators.
“Instead of lobbying for yet another version of the failed legislation from last
fall, AFSCME should defend its proposals before the Labor Board,” the governor’s
statement said. “This is what AFSCME has agreed to do in that very forum, on
three separate occasions. If AFSCME believes its actions are reasonable, it
should make its case to the board.”
AFSCME, however, says the Rauner team is improperly seeking an impasse with the
goal of imposing its own contract terms and forcing a strike.
In a union Q&A sheet published this month, AFSCME says it has “clearly and
consistently stated our willingness to continue to negotiate, while the Rauner
administration is trying to persuade the Labor Board to allow it to force its
extreme demands on employees — or force the disruption that a strike would
Rep. Mike Smiddy, D-Hillsdale, on Thursday said the governor’s promise to stay
at the bargaining table likely was one of the major reasons for the failure of
an override effort of SB 1229 last fall.
Smiddy said Rauner, now seeking an impasse in the contract negotiations,
shouldn’t be surprised the legislation is back in play.
“We do not want to create a work stoppage here in the state of Illinois,” said
Smiddy, one of the chief co-sponsors of HB 580. “If we do not pass this piece of
legislation and sign it into law, the governor can implement his last, best and
final offer to the employees which would ultimately, probably make a work
stoppage happen, and that’s something the people of Illinois do not deserve and
need right now.”
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The administration says its reasoning now is the same as it was in
the fall. It says the bill could hand the union a $3 billion
contract windfall that taxpayers cannot afford.
“If HB 580 becomes law, the General Assembly would effectively cede
major financial decisions to unelected, unaccountable arbitrators,”
Rauner’s office said.
“AFSCME is gambling for a big payday in arbitration. But it is the
General Assembly that will have the difficult job of finding the
money to pay for AFSCME’s jackpot, likely at the expense of cutting
essential services in the state, imposing employee layoffs, or other
drastic measures,” according to the Rauner statement.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, on
Thursday said the bill is about fairness and keeping government
“What we’re going to do by this is ensure fairness, ensure that both
parties stay at the table, ensure that government stays open and
that the union’s not going to strike and the administration’s not
going to lock them out, and I don’t see how you can go wrong with
that,” Welch said.
Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, a member of the House Labor and
Commerce Committee, disagreed.
“It does disturb me that we seem to have no regard for the taxpayer
— none whatsoever,” Kay said.
“It also seems we have no regard for the people who generally pass
appropriations bills, and that’s the General Assembly. I think
you’ve taken that out of our hands, (and) I think that’s totally
wrong,” Kay said.
It would take simple majority votes in each chamber to get HB 580 to
Rauner’s desk, where he would likely veto it. An override effort
would require a three-fifths majority vote in each chamber.
Last fall, the Senate passed the override measure with 37 Democrats
and one Republican, Sen. Sam McCann of Plainview, supporting it.
McCann said he was heeding the will of his district.
The override motion failed to get the 71 required votes in House,
with 68 Democrats backing it and no Republicans voting in favor.
Democrats not voting for the bill were Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood
with a “no” vote; Rep. Jack Franks of Woodstock, who voted present;
and Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago, who was absent.
The General Assembly next returns to Springfield on Tuesday.
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