June 13, 2018

Court hears oral arguments in state contract impasse case

The 4th District Appellate Court heard oral arguments on June 13 in AFSCME Council 31’s appeal of the Labor Board’s decision backing Gov. Bruce Rauner’s claim that the parties were at impasse in negotiations between the state of Illinois and AFSCME.

This case dates to January 2016 when Gov. Rauner walked away from bargaining and sought to impose his terms, including a 100% increase in employee costs for health care that would cost the average state worker $10,000, and an end to basic safeguards against irresponsible privatization schemes.

The Labor Board ruled that contract negotiations were at impasse. AFSCME appealed that decision to state court.

In March 2017, the appellate court granted the union’s request to put the labor board’s decision on hold—and stay Rauner’s hand—until the appeal is decided. The court predicated its ruling on a finding that the union has demonstrated a “reasonable likelihood” of prevailing in its appeal.

“There isn't and never has been any impasse,” AFSCME Council 31 Deputy Director Mike Newman said. “This case is about whether an employer, in this case Gov. Rauner, can refuse to comply with his legal duty to bargain in good faith.”

At the June 13 hearing, the court questioned why the labor board had changed, without justification, the way in which it defined an impasse. The appellate panel of three judges also questioned the state’s refusal to give the union information it needed to bargain (deemed an unfair labor practice by the labor board).

“Rauner never respected the right of working people to bargain collectively, so he simply walked away from the bargaining table and refused to do his job,” Newman said. “AFSCME members never accepted that, and neither does Illinois law. The governor has a duty to bargain in good faith, and we're confident this court will hold him to it.”

Now that oral arguments are completed, the court will issue a decision. There is no timeframe for a decision, which can typically take months to be issued.

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