SB 1556 — Another example of the unrelenting effort to undermine collective bargaining rights for public employees was the enactment earlier this year of SB 1556—legislation that strips thousands of state employees of their right to union representation.

SB 1556:

Allows the governor to designate up to 3,580 positions as exempt from coverage under the state collective bargaining law based on extremely broad criteria;
Provides that up to 1,900 of those can be positions that had previously met the criteria for coverage under the collective bargaining law and are currently represented by a labor union;
Provides that those designations must be made within one year of the effective date of the legislation;
Allows the governor’s designations to be challenged before the Illinois State Labor Relations Board, but provides that such designations “shall presume to have been properly made”—making it extremely difficult to prevail in such challenges.
The deadline for Governor Quinn to sign this legislation is Sunday, April 7. Since he was the chief advocate for the bill, it is widely assumed that he will do so, but both AFSCME and the Illinois State Federation of Labor have sent him letters urging him to veto it instead. In his letter urging a veto, Council 31 Executive Director Henry Bayer called SB 1556, “a blatantly anti-worker piece of legislation.”

Given the likelihood that SB 1556 will be signed into law, AFSCME has been following up on the commitment made by its sponsor, Senator Don Harmon, to attempt to minimize the negative impact that the bill will have on union-represented employees. Sen. Harmon is facilitating negotiations between the union and CMS in which AFSCME is seeking to secure an agreement that:

the governor will not remove all 1900 positions that the law permits;
no employee removed from the bargaining unit will suffer a reduction in pay;
employees designated to be removed will be offered the option of taking another bargaining unit position.
AFSCME will not give up this fight. We’ll continue to represent to the fullest extent possible under the Personnel Rules members who are removed from the bargaining unit. And wherever the facts warrant, we’ll challenge removals at the Labor Board.