Fight for a Fair Contract

Our battle to secure a union contract that protects basic workplace rights and a decent standard of living is now in the courts. After the Illinois Labor Relations Board upheld Governor Rauner’s contention that AFSCME contract negotiations were at impasse, the governor tried to immediately impose his extreme terms on state employees—raising health care costs by 100% and stripping away all protections against subcontracting.

But AFSCME appealed the Labor Board’s decision in state court and the Fourth District Appellate Court issued a Stay that blocks Rauner from imposing his terms while the case is being heard. Rauner tried an end run around that ruling by asking the Illinois Supreme Court to lift the Stay and take the case on direct appeal. But the Supreme Court denied his motion. So the Stay remains in effect and the Union’s appeal will be heard in the Fourth District Appellate Court. Briefs in the case are due in May and oral arguments are scheduled to take place in August. There is no way to know when the court will issue its decision.

With the Stay in place, the “Tolling Agreement,” which extends the terms of our previous union contract, remains in effect.

If AFSCME members prevail in appellate court, Rauner will undoubtedly appeal to the Supreme Court, but he will not be able to impose his terms while his appeal is pending. If Rauner wins in appellate court, AFSCME will appeal to the Supreme Court and ask that court to issue a Stay that would prevent him from imposing while that appeal is being heard.

Getting Our Message Out

Rauner’s new TV ads direct viewers to a website that includes a vile attack on state employees. It attempts to portray employees as overpaid and greedy—with vastly inflated claims as to the cost of our union’s proposals in contract negotiations.

Of course, Rauner fails to mention that months ago, the AFSCME Bargaining Committee put forward a new settlement framework that included a four-year wage freeze. No one with basic math skills and a basic sense of fairness would consider that excessive. Nor does he mention that he blew off that significant compromise within a matter of hours and continued his adamant refusal to return to the bargaining table and work constructively to find common ground.

That’s why it’s so important to continue to reach out in your local communities and make sure everyone is getting the true facts about Bruce Rauner’s unfair attacks on state workers. Be sure to look for opportunities to speak at your church, civic groups, or political organizations. And now that Spring is here, Council 31 is printing a new batch of the very popular “We Support State Employees” yard and window signs. You can contact your local union to help with distribution in your community.

And don’t forget one of the most important ways to get our message out! Watch for a Bruce Rauner Disinformation Visit in your local community—and be prepared to respond.

Rauner is in full reelection campaign mode (with 1.5 years to go to Election Day) and he’s travelling the state on a non-stop Falsehood Tour. To help set the record straight, AFSCME members, other union members, and community groups have been coming out to “greet” Rauner when he comes to their communities.

We’ve already been there in Alton, Lincoln, Peoria, Chicago, Columbia, Robinson and Moline. There’s usually little advance notice of where Rauner is going to turn up, so like the AFSCME Facebook page for news of a protest when Rauner is coming to your town.

RC-6/CU-500 Interest Arbitration

After nearly a year of exhaustive testimony before an independent arbitrator, hearings have concluded in the interest arbitration proceedings that will establish new contract terms for IDOC and IDJJ security employees in the RC-6 and CU-500 bargaining units.

AFSCME based the final offer made in the interest arbitration on the award that the arbitrator had previously made in the interest arbitration for FOP Troopers Lodge 41. It includes a four-year wage freeze and an 8.5% increase in health care costs. The Rauner Administration’s settlement offer is for a four-year wage freeze and a 100% increase in health care costs. Although the arbitrator did not award any step increases in the Troopers arbitration, AFSCME’s final offer includes step increases in the last two years of the contract.

We do not know at this point when the arbitrator will issue his award in the AFSCME interest arbitration. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even though the award was issued more than six months ago in the FOP/Troopers’ arbitration, it still has not been implemented because Rauner has invoked a seldom-used provision in state labor law that allows a state “governing body” to reject the arbitrator’s award and ask him to reconsider. The governing body, made up entirely of Rauner appointees, has twice rejected the Troopers’ award based on the governor’s contention that health care costs should increase by 100%, not the 8.5% specified in the award.

At the same time, Rauner is pursuing charges against both AFSCME and the FOP/Troopers at the Labor Board in a complex maneuver that is intended to have health insurance costs declared only a “permissive” rather than a “mandatory” subject of bargaining. If the Labor Board finds that health care is not a mandatory subject of bargaining, then Rauner would be able to impose his huge health care cost increases on employees. Of course, the unions would appeal any such ruling in state court and seek a Stay to prevent him from doing so.

More on the Legal Front

There are three other legal proceedings underway of importance to AFSCME members:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan is challenging the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that AFSCME and other unions won in St. Clair County Circuit Court to ensure that state employees continue to be paid despite the state budget standoff. The AG’s appeal of the TRO is now before the Fifth District Appellate Court. Briefs have been filed and a ruling could come at any time.
AFSCME filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the Rauner Administration for its failure to pay state employee step increases as of July 1, 2015. The Labor Board dismissed the charge and the union filed an appeal of the Board’s ruling in the Fifth District Appellate Court. Oral arguments on the appeal were heard in early April and a decision could come in the next several months.
AFSCME also filed a ULP over the Rauner Administration’s threat to immediately cease health insurance payments in the event of a strike—even though payments continue for 30 days in all other instances in which an employee is not in paid status. Again, the Labor Board ruled against the Union and the case is on appeal in the Fifth District Appellate Court. Oral arguments have concluded and a ruling could come at any time.

Health Insurance Game Plan Revealed

For nearly two years the Rauner Administration has insisted that under their “last, best and final offer,” employees would have alternative options, rather than having to accept a 100% increase in health care premiums. But despite repeated requests across the bargaining table and in subsequent exchanges, the Administration has refused to provide any information on what those “alternative options” would actually be.

Now, they have finally been forced to put their cards on the table due to a requirement that all elements of any proposed health care changes be submitted to the General Assembly’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA). AFSCME was able to obtain a copy of that submission the Rauner Administration recently made and the information it contains is extremely revealing.

First, it makes clear that under the Rauner scheme, employees who want to keep their current health care plan would actually have to pay a premium increase of 120%. Second, it outlines several other options, all of which keep premiums lower by drastically increasing out-of-pocket costs. In each instance, the out-of-pocket maximum rises dramatically from the current $3000 per year for an individual to between $6,850-$7,150 per individual per year.

DOC Privatization

In what the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) has characterized as “retaliation” for their failure to agree to Rauner’s contract terms, the governor is now moving forward with a scheme to lay off more than 100 nurses in the Department of Corrections and replace them with contractual employees.

AFSCME has joined with the INA to fight this privatization by working together to pass SB 19, which would bar this privatization, as well as the possible privatization of health–related positions in DOC currently held by AFSCME members.

The bill whizzed through both houses of the General Assembly and is now on the governor’s desk. He’s expected to veto it—so lobbying is urgently needed to get legislators on board to override the veto.

Rauner Still Holds Budget Hostage

After he sabotaged the Senate’s so-called “grand bargain” budget plan, Bruce Rauner is now travelling around the state trying to lay the blame for that fiasco on Mike Madigan. In fact, when the deal fell apart last month, Senate Republicans readily admitted off the record that it was Rauner who had effectively pulled the plug. No one mentioned any involvement by Mike Madigan until Rauner invented that little tale on his cross-state reelection tour.

Now it’s looking like maybe Rauner really doesn’t want a budget as he thinks he can lay the blame for its lack on Madigan’s doorstep. But, the AP recently published a compelling report which makes clear that Rauner has failed to fulfill his constitutional duty to present to the General Assembly a balanced budget for its consideration.

Illinois had a budget every year until Bruce Rauner came along—and you can be sure that we will have one again once he’s gone. The only question is how much damage will be done until that day arrives.

Both Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate say they’re not giving up on trying to resolve the budget stalemate. Let’s just hope ‘not giving up’ doesn’t mean capitulation to Rauner’s harmful demands.
Pension-Cutting Bill Still a Threat

Originally part of the Senate’s “grand bargain,” pension-cutting legislation is still in the picture even though the bargain itself has fallen apart.

SB 16 would cut the pension benefits of all active employees in the SERS, TRS and SURS funds by requiring employees to choose either to take a reduced COLA in retirement or to have their pay frozen for purposes of pension benefit calculation.

Either way employees lose

As a result of an intensive grassroots lobbying effort, SB 16 was narrowly defeated in the Senate (26-27-2) earlier this year. However, it was put on postponed consideration which means it can be called again at any time and just a few weeks ago, a Senate committee held a hearing on the bill.

Call your state senator (888-912-5959) and tell him or her to vote NO on SB 16!

Legislation Aimed at State Workers

Thus far AFSCME lobbyists have been successful in derailing several bills that would negatively impact state employees, including:

    • SB 1367, sponsored by Republican senator Kay McConnaughay, would eliminate reliance on federal standards to set the mileage reimbursement rate for state employees required to use their cars as part of their jobs, instead allowing the Governor’s Office to set the reimbursement rate at whatever level it chooses.
    • SB 1621, sponsored by Republican senator Chuck Weaver, would require the State Comptroller to publish a list of the name of each state employee along with his/her salary, the dollar amount the state pays toward his/her health insurance, the dollar amount the state pays toward his/her pension, and the cost of any other benefits he/she receives.
    • There are numerous bills that remove various titles from the union. Information will be sent out to the affected employees so they can help educate legislators why these bills should not be passed

However, these bills could re-emerge before session ends, so we will to continue to be vigilant.

Not Really

The Rauner Administration continues to repeat the false claim that all other unions representing state employees have settled on contract terms that are substantially the same as those the governor is seeking to impose on AFSCME members.

In fact, there are five other unions that haven’t settled new contracts—and where settlements have been reached, there are big differences between those terms and the terms the governor is trying to impose. Click here to see a chart that makes clear just how big.

More Rauner Hostility

In his appearances around the state, Bruce Rauner seldom misses an opportunity to take potshots at state employees—seeking to portray us as overpaid and our work of little value.

Yesterday he made his lack of appreciation for the work we do only too clear when he told the Quad Cities media in reference to state employees: “I don’t want you to strike, but we’re probably not going to miss you if you go.”

Maybe Bruce Rauner wouldn’t miss us—but who else is the “we” in that sentence. Certainly not the veterans who come to us for assistance, the individuals with severe developmental disabilities who depend on us for care, the nature lovers who flock to the state parks we maintain, the children we rescue from abusive homes, or so many others who count on state services. Of course, Bruce Rauner doesn’t speak for any of them—and you have to wonder if he even knows they exist—or has the slightest clue as to how important our work is to them.

Courtesy of AFSCME Council 31