November 15, 2016

Rauner-appointed board rules “impasse” in state employee contract dispute

The state panel of the Illinois Labor Relations Board, whose members are appointed by Governor Rauner, today issued a ruling that contract negotiations between the Rauner Administration and AFSCME Council 31 are at an impasse. 

“Our union strongly disagrees with this ruling,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “We have consistently made clear that we are prepared to continue negotiating, while the Rauner Administration’s refusal to meet has sabotaged the collective bargaining process.”

The board’s ruling in effect rejects the recommended decision and order advanced in September by its own administrative law judge who presided over months of hearings in the case last spring.

“The judge who heard the facts in this case found there was no impasse on key issues and urged the board to order Governor Rauner back to the bargaining table. The board is wrong to ignore her findings,” Lynch said.

Rauner is demanding that employees health insurance costs increase by 100% even as he would freeze their wages for four years. He also wants to do away with standards that prevent unaccountable outsourcing of public services for private profit. 

An impasse ruling from the board opens the door for Governor Rauner to try to unilaterally impose his demands, but does not require him to do so.

“The governor is trying to force state workers to accept his unfair terms or go out on strike,” Lynch said. “Rauner’s path of conflict and confrontation is unfair to workers and wrong for the people of Illinois.”

Instead, Rauner could opt to renew the negotiations he broke off more than 10 months ago. His representatives walked away from the bargaining table on Jan. 8 and have refused to meet with the union’s bargaining committee ever since.

“The governor should negotiate, not dictate,” Lynch said. “Public service workers in state government deserve fair treatment and they want to do their jobs. They know that a strike would hurt every Illinois citizen. That’s why our union has said repeatedly that we want to work constructively toward a settlement. We have not seen the same commitment from the governor.”

Rauner cannot seek to implement his terms until the board issues a final written ruling—not just today’s verbal order—in the days or weeks ahead. Once the order is issued, the union will appeal it in state court.

Illinois state employees represented by AFSCME Council 31 protect kids from abuse and neglect, care for veterans and individuals with developmental disabilities, keep prisons safe, respond to emergencies, maintain state parks and historic sites and provide many other vital public services statewide every day.

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