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Tensions Mount as Labor Strike Looms

Written by Ankin Law Office

Tensions between Governor Bruce Rauner’s office and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees are reaching a boiling point. Neither side has been able negotiate a satisfactory labor contract that would replace a temporary agreement which expired on June 30th.

Recently, Governor Rauner attempted to appoint an unelected arbitrator to break the impasse in lieu of the provisions legislators inserted within SB 1229 which would create a new, binding interest arbitration process. The governor’s veto was overridden by the Illinois Senate in a 38-15 super-majority vote. The Illinois House of Representatives is poised to vote on SB 1229 on September 2nd. When they vote, they will have just enough votes to override the veto but it will take every Democrat in the chamber to do so.

When this happens, it will force Governor Rauner to participate in the binding arbitration process that the AFSCME is seeking. This arbitration would take place with non-elected arbitrators at the helm who will most likely push to approve the 11.5% pay increases that the union is seeking over the next four-year period.

Governor Rauner has attempted to strong arm this process from day one. Yes, the state is facing a pension crisis and a budget shortfall. Both sides of the political aisle agree on this. However, the governor has attempted to place the burden for the state’s budget on the men and women who teach in our schools, heal the sick in our hospitals, and keep our streets safe. That makes no sense whatsoever and. The AFSCME has called him on it and the elected legislators in the General Assembly agree.

If as expected the House overrides the veto, it’s unlikely to sit well with voters who elected Rauner based in large part on his promise to bring the state’s budget and pension deficit under control. Thus, while the Illinois General Assembly has given the AFSCME a huge victory for state employees, legislators will need to work quickly to propose and pass viable solutions to the nearly $4 billion in expenditures this victory will create. If they do not, voters could easily turn against them in the upcoming election cycle.

Should the House fail to override the veto, a strike would be imminent. The AFSCME has made their position on this clear. If that happens, the real losers will be our communities. Thus, it is imperative that both sides come together as quickly as possible to resolve their differences. If they do not, it could create long-term damage to the state’s economy which still has a long way to go before it will fully recover from the recession.