October 02, 2018

More Rauner games on step increases

Rauner at Tribune editorial board meetingGovernor Rauner has once again let down the more than 20,000 state employees whose step increases he has illegally denied since 2015.

Disregarding a clear directive from an Illinois Labor Relations Board compliance officer that all employees should be restored to their appropriate step effective October 1, the Rauner administration instead submitted an 18-page letter to the officer with a lengthy justification for why the steps have not been restored.

The letter blames Rauner's failure to comply in part on the supposed difficulty of calculating the appropriate placement, claiming that preparing the estimates will require another “six to eight weeks”.

What’s more, despite a clear and direct ruling from the appellate court and the labor board that steps are owed from July 1, 2015, to the present, the Rauner administration continues to put forth its own fiction that steps should only be restored until January 2016 when Rauner broke off contract negotiations with the union.

Pointing to the fact that the compliance officer directed that a hearing should be held by a Labor Board administrative law judge as soon as possible after Oct. 1 to consider “issues in dispute”, the administration insists that the step placement must be argued at such a hearing.

“Bruce Rauner will do everything in his power to rob state employees of the money they are rightly owed, including running up costs to taxpayers in the form of interest payments that will eventually be due,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “Our union has opposed Rauner’s relentless assaults on state employees every step of the way. We’ve defeated him in the legislature and in the courts, and we won’t stop now. We'll keep fighting until all employees are paid what they are owed.”

Oct. 19 update: Last week AFSCME filed a motion to compel the labor board to seek a direct court order enforcing compliance. Regrettably the board did not consider it at its October meeting and is not scheduled to meet again until Nov. 14.

The labor board did go along with a motion filed by the Rauner administration to ask the Attorney General to ask a court to escrow funds before they lapsed so they could be used for step increases, but the Attorney General’s office turned down the request by the ILRB. The AG said there is no statutory authority for the board to take such action.

This begs the question: Why did the Rauner administration file this motion with the labor board when the board lacked the authority to move forward? Rauner could have gone directly to court instead of asking the labor board to do it for him.

This is just another attempt by Rauner to confuse the issue and to delay the payment of steps that are owed to employees.  AFSCME did not oppose the motion, but we did not think it made much sense.

If Rauner was serious about complying with the law as well as treating state employees fairly, he would put employees on the proper step right now. And instead of a phony attempt to escrow funds, he would use those funds right now as a down payment to those employees who were illegally denied step increases.

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