By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner now wants to charge the largest union of state workers $2 million a day merely for exercising its right to take its contract dispute with him to court.
Rauner on Dec. 22 filed an unfair labor practices charge against AFSCME Council 31, seeking the $2 million payment on grounds that it costs the government that much not to implement the “final offer” Rauner made to the 40,000-plus workers.
For most of 2016, Rauner refused to negotiate with AFSCME to replace the expired contract. His hand-picked Illinois Labor Relations Board then ruled that the two sides were at impasse, which allows him to impose his contract terms unilaterally.
Rauner’s demands include a 100 percent increase for health care, a four-year pay freeze, and no limit to outsourcing AFSCME members’ work to non-union, out-of-state providers.
AFSCME, noting that Rauner had not responded to union requests for information, argued that talks couldn’t be at an impasse before that information was provided. On Dec. 6, the union obtained a temporary restraining order in circuit court to keep Rauner from imposing his conditions, and that remains in effect pending a Jan. 13 hearing.
Rauner lawyer Dennis Murashko calls the AFSCME efforts “stalling” in this public statement: “Continuing to stall, instead of working with us to implement our last, best and final offer that is substantially similar to the contracts agreed to by 18 other unions, only costs taxpayers more money – approximately $2 million every day this drags on,” he said.
“As a result, our administration … is seeking damages for the $2 million each day we are prevented from implementing a contract that is fair to taxpayers and employees alike.”
AFSCME fired back that the union is merely exercising its legal right to pursue judicial remedies on behalf of members.
“Not only is the unfair labor charge totally frivolous, but the estimated financial cost is total fiction,” the union said in a statement.
Union spokesman Anders Lindall noted that the real problem is that Rauner intentionally torpedoed the negotiations.
“The real waste of taxpayer money is Governor Rauner’s stubborn refusal to negotiate with our union for nearly a year,” he said. “All that time, AFSCME members have been working hard to serve our communities. This filing is a disgraceful attempt to intimidate union members from exercising their legal rights. The governor may wish to dictate, not negotiate, but he is not above the law.
“Instead of bringing frivolous claims before his appointed Labor Board, Governor Rauner should return to bargaining in good faith and work with us toward an agreement that’s fair to all,” Lindall added. “If he refuses to do so, any resulting litigation and the threat of a disruptive strike are Bruce Rauner’s fault alone.”
PRIVATE UNIONS JOIN IN SUPPORT
Twenty-three Illinois union leaders representing both private and public employees issued the following letter to each of the AFSCME members on Dec. 19 to show their support.
“We know that state employees like you face an unprecedented assault from a governor who seeks to strip you of your rights and drive down your income. Bruce Rauner has consistently tried to paint you in the worst possible light – overpaid and underworked – while at the same time trying to weaken your union, drastically increase your health care costs and freeze your wages for four years.
“We want you to know that we value the work you do every day – much of it difficult and demanding. We know how often you go the extra mile to service the people of this state.
“We also want you to know that we stand with you now as Governor Rauner tries to impose his extreme and unfair terms on you. You are surely on the front lines of a battle of critical importance to every working person in our state.
“There is no doubt that Rauner seeks conflict and confrontation while you have consistently urged reasoned negotiations and expressed your willingness to compromise to find common ground.
“Whatever course you take to defend your rights, your family’s well-being, and the vital services you provide, we hope that you will draw strength from the knowledge that you are not alone. Your fight is our fight and you can count on our support in the difficult days ahead.”
The letter was signed by:
- Michael Carrigan, Illinois AFL-CIO president.
- Robert Boskovich, Iron Workers District president, Chicago and vicinity.
- Donald Finn, IBEW Local 134 business manager.
- Alice Johnson, Illinois Nurses Association executive director.
- Karen Kent, UNITE HERE Local 1 president.
- Frank Libby, Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters president.
- William Niesman, IBEW Local 9 business manager.
- Rocco Terranova, Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 president.
- Jorge Ramirez, Chicago Federation of Labor president.
- Kenneth Boyd, UFCW Local 1546 president.
- Brian Hickey, Operating Engineers Local 399 president.
- Mack Julion, Letter Carriers Branch 11 president.
- Cinda Klickna, Illinois Education Association president.
- Ronald McInroy, UAW Region 4 director.
- Ronald Powell, UFCW Local 881 president.
- David Wickster, Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council executive director.
- Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 president.
- Pat Devaney, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois president.
- Ron Honse, Communications Workers of America District 4 staff representative.
- Keith Kelleher, SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana president.
- Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union president.
- Dan Montgomery, Illinois Federation of Teachers president.
- Jesse Rios, American Federation of Government Employees Council 73 president emeritus.