For more than two years now Governor Quinn has been relentlessly lobbying for passage of legislation that would strip collective bargaining rights from thousands of state employees–with AFSCME and other unions standing firmly against passage of such a measure. Despite that opposition, in the spring of 2011 the House of Representatives voted to pass SB 1556, which changes the criteria for determining whether employees are covered under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.

Over the course of the following nineteen months, the labor movement beat back repeated efforts by the Quinn Administration to pass the bill in the State Senate. But on Jan. 3rd, the governor finally did jam the measure through. The Senate roll call is on the Council 31 website at www.afscme31.org.

SB 1556 covers employees who meet certain “managerial or supervisory” criteria under the governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and comptroller who:
1) Have gained union representation on or after December 2, 2008; or
2) For whom a petition for union representation is currently pending before the labor board;
3) Are not currently represented by a union or part of a pending petition.

Except for a very few instances, the legislation does not identify specific titles that will be impacted. Rather it allows the governor to deny collective bargaining rights to 3,580 individuals of his choosing in the above categories who meet certain very broad criteria for managerial and supervisory. Up to 1,900 of those individuals can be in the first category—individuals who were certified as union members on or after December 2, 2008.

At this point, there is no way to know which individuals currently in the union would lose their right to representation—but certainly every single former merit compensation employee who was certified as a union member on or after December 2, 2008 is at risk.

The only employees currently in the union who are specifically denied union representation under the terms of this legislation are Legislative Liaisons.

Within hours of the passage of SB 1556 in the Senate, Sen. Don Harmon, who voted in support of the measure, filed a motion to reconsider. This motion has the effect of placing the legislation on hold so that it cannot be sent to the governor for his signature.

Sen. Harmon has indicated that he put the legislation on hold because he wants to see if the affected unions can reach a compromise with the Quinn Administration. There is no indication that he will actually call the motion for a vote. If no compromise is quickly reached, he will likely withdraw his motion and the measure will go to the governor’s desk.

Your involvement is absolutely critical at this time. It is urgent that you contact your state senator immediately. If he or she voted NO (a correct vote) on 1556, be sure to say thanks and ask any Democratic senator to call Sen. Harmon and Sen. Cullerton and tell them to support AFSCME’s efforts to reach a compromise that protects the bargaining rights of current union members. If your state senator vote YES (a wrong vote!), let him or her know how angry you are that they voted to deny you union representation. Then urge your senator to reconsider his or her vote and to tell their Senate leadership—Senator Cullerton for Democrats, Senator Radogno for Republicans—that they want to see a compromise that will protect your right to union representation.

While Sen. Harmon’s motion to reconsider is a positive development, it is not cause for great hope. Over the course of the past two years, AFSCME has repeatedly attempted to reach a compromise with the Quinn Administration that would allow greater management flexibility while protecting the collective bargaining rights of all current union members. No such agreement could be reached because the governor has insisted on having the power to remove employees from the bargaining unit. With SB 1556 poised to go to the governor’s desk whenever Sen. Harmon decides to withdraw his motion to reconsider, any further negotiations will be even more difficult.

That’s why it’s so essential that you enlist the support of your state senator. Make sure that he or she commits to contact Senate leadership to support a compromise that protects the collective bargaining rights of all current union members.