April 08, 2013

Quinn signs bill to take away bargaining rights

Over the weekend, Gov. Pat Quinn signed SB 1556, legislation that gives him the ability to deny union representation to over 3,500 state employees.

Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer called SB 1556, “a blatantly anti-worker piece of legislation.” It passed the General Assembly in January with support from legislators in both parties.

The new law will take away bargaining rights from thousands of workers under the jurisdiction of the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Comptroller, Treasurer and Board of Elections.

The new law covers employees under the governor who:

  1. Have gained union representation on or after December 2, 2008; or
  2. For whom a petition for union representation is currently pending before the labor board; or
  3. Are not currently represented by a union or part of a pending petition.

The law allows the governor to deny collective bargaining rights to 3,580 individuals of his choosing in the above categories who meet any one of certain broad criteria, including anyone in a Rutan-exempt or term appointment position, anyone who has “significant and independent discretionary authority,” or anyone who is a supervisor, even if they do not spend a preponderance of their time supervising.

The bill allows the governor to select up to 1,900 of those positions entirely at his own discretion from the first category – individuals already in the union who were certified by the labor board as being entitled to union representation on or after December 2, 2008.

Because this measure amends the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, which establishes which Illinois employees have a right to collective bargaining, there is no basis to challenge the law in court.

The law became effective immediately upon signing. The governor now has up to one year to designate any individuals (subject to the criteria above) whose bargaining rights he will take away.

At this point, there is no way to know which employees currently in the union the governor would designate to lose their right to union representation – every former merit compensation employee who was certified as a bargaining unit member on or after December 2, 2008 is at risk.

AFSCME is seeking to reduce the negative impact that the bill would have on union members.  Its sponsor, Sen. Don Harmon, is facilitating negotiations between the union and the department of Central Management Services in which AFSCME is working to secure an agreement that 1) the governor will not remove all 1,900 positions that the law permits; 2) no employee removed from the bargaining unit will suffer a reduction in pay; 3) employees designated to be removed will be offered the option of taking another bargaining unit position. 

“It is extremely disappointing that the governor has made it one of his top priorities to take bargaining rights away from employees.  The labor movement fought hard to defeat this legislation—and we will continue to fight to minimize the damage that it will do to employees, “ Bayer said.

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