February 16, 2016

House approves fair arbitration bill, bill goes to Senate

In a 67-46-2 vote on February 16, the Illinois House of Representatives approved House Bill 580 to provide all state employees with the same option of a neutral arbitration process to resolve union contract disputes that is already available to state troopers and correctional officers in state government, as well as to police, first responders and other public safety workers at the local government level.

As a candidate, Governor Rauner vowed to shut down state government and force workers out on strike in order to get his way. Last month he walked away from negotiations with state government’s largest union, AFSCME, breaking the pledge he made to lawmakers last summer that he would continue to negotiate. Instead he is seeking the power to impose his own terms without further negotiations. Public service workers in state government would be forced to accept those terms or go on strike.

“Governor Rauner’s approach of chaos and confrontation hurts the people of Illinois. Public service workers want an agreement that’s fair to all,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said. “Submitting our differences to an independent third party can ensure working people are treated fairly and public services are not disrupted.”

The governor is seeking to force state employees to pay double their current cost to keep their health care while getting zero pay increase for four years. He would also wipe out existing protections against irresponsible privatization and institute a program of bonuses that opens the door to cronyism and favoritism in state government.

The legislation affects more than 70,000 state employees represented by seven unions, including child protection investigators, caregivers for veterans, state parks employees, nurses, and home care and child care workers.

The bill does not require interest arbitration but allows it as an option. Interest arbitration is a long-established, fair process under which an independent arbitrator mutually chosen by the parties conducts hearings, examines the issues where differences remain between the parties—taking into account factors such as the state’s fiscal condition—and issues a recommended settlement that the parties may accept.

The bill now goes to the Illinois Senate.

Related News