October 23, 2018

Appellate court rejects Rauner impasse claim in state contract negotiations

The Illinois State Labor Relations Board was “clearly erroneous” on several points when it backed Governor Bruce Rauner’s January 2016 claim of an impasse in negotiations between the Rauner administration and AFSCME Council 31, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth District Appellate Court ruled Oct. 23.

The appellate court vacated the labor board’s finding of impasse and remanded the case to the board.

"Refusing to negotiate in good faith and trying to impose his extreme demands are part of a pattern of behavior for Bruce Rauner. Instead of doing his job as governor, his overriding goal has been to weaken unions, especially those in the public service," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said.

"Today the court backs up what we’ve said all along, there never was an impasse," Lynch added. "The Rauner administration should immediately come back to the bargaining table with our union instead of wasting more taxpayer money on losing litigation."

The labor board was wrong to depart from its usual practice in determining the question of impasse and to do so without offering any explanation, the appellate panel found.

If the labor board had followed precedent of the past 30 years, "the parties would not be at overall impasse", the judges wrote. Thus, "the ILRB's conclusion … was in error."

The court also found that the Rauner administration violated labor law by failing to provide AFSCME with information it requested pertaining to subjects of bargaining. "[P]arties may not claim a lawful impasse if they have failed to provide information considered relevant to those issues upon which they disagree because this effectively frustrates the bargaining process," the judges wrote.

Rauner had made an array of extreme demands in bargaining, including no pay increase for state workers for four years, a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would cost the average worker thousands of dollars a year, and a free hand to privatize public services without oversight.

Then the Rauner administration walked away from negotiations on Jan. 8, 2016, declaring that the parties were at impasse and asking the labor board—whose members Rauner appoints—to give it the power to unilaterally impose the terms of its final offer.

AFSCME strongly disputed that the parties were at impasse and repeatedly sought to restart good-faith negotiations.

The union appealed the board decision to the appellate court, which ruled for AFSCME today.

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