I wanted to bring you up to date on some important legal developments affecting AFSCME members in state government—especially two critical cases coming up this week.
*The onset of a new fiscal year is fast approaching with Bruce Rauner continuing to hold the state budget hostage—refusing all efforts to reach a compromise and jeopardizing the fiscal stability of our state. Without a state budget in place, state employees continue to be paid only because of a court order (Temporary Restraining Order) that AFSCME and other unions won in state circuit court in 2015. Earlier this year in an effort to force an end to the budget standoff, Attorney General Lisa Madigan petitioned the circuit court to dissolve that order. AFSCME strongly opposed her motion, arguing that state employees should not be used as pawns in the budget battle. The judge agreed and denied her motion. The AG then appealed to the Fifth District Appellate Court.
This Tuesday, June 13, the appellate court will hear oral arguments in this case. The issue before the court is not the merits of the unions’ legal claim that employees should be paid even without a budget in place, but rather whether there is sufficient likelihood of prevailing on that claim for the court to issue a TRO that continues paychecks while that case is pending. Because the issue is a narrow one, the appellate court may issue a relatively speedy ruling.
If the Attorney General prevails in appellate court, it is unlikely that paychecks would be halted immediately. The AG’s original petition recognized that there would need to be notice provided to employees. Moreover, AFSCME would appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court and seek to have the TRO swiftly restored.
*As you know only too well, one of Bruce Rauner’s top priorities has been drastically increasing state employee health care costs. Rauner is currently blocked from moving forward with his scheme to impose a 120% increase in health care premiums on all state employees due to a Stay that AFSCME won in the Fourth District Appellate Court while the union’s appeal of the ILRB finding of impasse in state contract negotiations is pending before that court.
In addition, Rauner has been blocked from imposing those big health care cost increases on AFSCME members in the RC-6 and CU-500 bargaining units in DOC and DJJ, as well as Troopers Lodge #41/FOP, because the contracts for those employees are currently in interest arbitration proceedings—and no conditions of employment can be changed during that process.
However, in an attempt to end run the courts and the independent arbitrator, Rauner has once again turned to his preferred venue, the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB), where he filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) claim against Troopers Lodge #41 for submitting a proposal on health insurance as part of its offer in the interest arbitration. Rauner alleged that health insurance was not a mandatory subject of bargaining.
After extensive testimony, in March the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on the Labor Board staff who heard the case issued a lengthy and well-reasoned Recommended Order denying Rauner’s charge against the Troopers and finding that health care is in fact a mandatory subject of bargaining.
This Tuesday, June 13, at its regularly scheduled meeting, the Labor Board will vote on whether to accept the ALJ’s recommendation affirming that health care is a mandatory subject of bargaining. If the Labor Board rejects the ALJ’s recommendation and declares that health care is not a mandatory subject of bargaining, then Rauner will undoubtedly renew his efforts to impose his huge cost increases on employees, including AFSCME members. However, in that instance, the Troopers will have the right to appeal the ILRB ruling in state appellate court and to seek a Stay that would block Rauner from any such attempt.
*The independent arbitrator has already issued his award in the Troopers’ interest arbitration—accepting the Rauner Administration’s proposal for a four-year wage and four-year step freeze, while rejecting its proposal for a 120% increase in health care costs. However, that award has not gone into effect as it tied up in a complex review process instigated by the Rauner Administration.
*No award has yet been issued in the AFSCME RC-6/CU-500 arbitration. In fact, the Rauner Administration has not yet filed its final brief with the arbitrator—perhaps waiting to learn the outcome of the Labor Board’s ruling as to whether health care is a mandatory subject of bargaining. The Administration had previously petitioned the arbitrator to exclude any proposals regarding health care in the AFSCME arbitration, but he refused to do so.
*The Rauner Administration has requested and been granted an extension in submitting its brief in the AFSCME impasse case before the Fourth District Appellate Court. Oral arguments in that case were previously expected to take place in August—and now will not likely occur till later in the fall. The Stay blocking Rauner from imposing his terms will remain in effect until there is a final ruling in this case.
*Oral arguments have concluded and all briefs filed regarding AFSCME’s appeal of the labor board’s ruling that would allow Rauner to refuse to pay the state employee step increases he has withheld since July 1, 2015. The case is in the Fifth District Appellate Court and a ruling is possible at any time.
As you can see from this brief summary, Rauner continues to pursue every possible path to drive down the standard of living of state employees. AFSCME is fighting back in the courts and at the labor board. But we will all need to be prepared to fight on every other front as well. This is a battle that cannot be fully won until Bruce Rauner is no longer the governor of Illinois.
Courtesy of AFSCME Council 31