Wednesday, August 19, 2015 07:26 PM
Concerned by the Rauner administration’s failure to reach a contract agreement with Illinois’ largest government-employee union, the Illinois Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of legislation that would mandate arbitration and prohibit strikes and lockouts if an agreement can’t be reached.
“The state needs a contract with its employees,” said Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), the measure’s sponsor. “Honestly, it doesn’t seem like the governor’s office is making much progress. Our last contract expired more than a month ago and the two sides still seem miles apart.”
The legislation, Senate Bill 1229, establishes a process in which the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) may be required to submit to binding interest arbitration if the two sides can’t reach an agreement. It also specifically prohibits strikes and lockouts once the arbitration process begins. A similar model is already successfully used for decades during contract negotiations for the state police and prison guards, as well as local police and firefighters.
The first step in the process is mediation. If mediation is not successful, either party can request binding interest arbitration. The state and AFSCME would also have the option to continue the mediation process with the explicit agreement of both groups.
“We don’t need a work stoppage or a government shutdown,” Harmon said. “Illinois taxpayers deserve better. We need to encourage both sides to be reasonable and compromise.”
Listen to Sen. Harmon's remarks on the floor:
State Senator Gary Forby (D- Benton), who serves as the Senate’s Labor Committee Chairman, thinks the measure takes bureaucracy out of the negotiations, which will create a platform for non-politicized negotiations.
“Since Governor Rauner began his term, he has waged an all-out war against organized labor and working families,” said Forby. “It’s clear the Governor doesn’t want fair negotiations, so if we take the bureaucracy out of the negotiation process, then it gives us a clearer path to reach an agreement.”
Senator John Mulroe (D-Chicago) supported the measure when it passed from the Senate in April, and again voted in favor of the legislation. He released the following statement regarding the legislation:
“This proposal provides a process (arbitration) to resolve issues that cannot be resolved during meaningful and reasonable negotiations. Arbitration is not mandated. It is the last resort in effort to avoid shutting the government down, which could occur because of a strike or a lock out. It simply persuades both sides to move toward a mutual agreement. This would keep the doors of government open.”
The measure now goes to the House, where Representative Mike Smiddy (D-Port Byron) has 15 days to call the measure for a veto override vote before the governor’s veto becomes permanent. To override the governor’s veto would take 71 votes in the House.