AFSCME promised to negotiate in ‘good faith,’ backs bill to take taxpayers out of contract talks

AFSCME promised to negotiate in ‘good faith,’ backs bill to take taxpayers out of contract talks

AFSCME promised to play nice at the negotiating table with Gov. Rauner, but it never intended to keep that promise. The union is doing everything it can to muscle the state’s taxpayers into an outside arbitration process that will practically guarantee that AFSCME’s unreasonable demands are met.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is engaging in a bait-and-switch with the state’s taxpayers. While AFSCME promised – three times – to negotiate with the state in good faith, it is also supporting legislation that would undermine fair and honest contract negotiations.

AFSCME represents approximately 35,000 state workers in Illinois, and its most recent contract with the state expired June 30, 2015. Despite the state’s efforts to mitigate Illinois’ looming financial disaster, AFSCME continues to demand more in negotiations with the governor – including four-year pay increases of 11.5 to 29 percent, platinum-level health care at little to no cost to union members, and a workweek that includes overtime for workers after 37.5 hours.

Those are demands the state’s taxpayers simply cannot afford.

In early July, the state and AFSCME entered into the first of three tolling agreements, which are signed contracts binding the parties to continue negotiating in good faith until either a contract is reached or impasse occurs. The union agreed not to strike, while the state agreed not to lock out workers.

The first tolling agreement expired at the end of July 2015, but the state and AFSCME entered into a second agreement that covered Aug. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015. Then on Sept. 9, the state and AFSCME entered into a third tolling agreement with no ending date.

But AFSCME’s support of House Bill 580 – which is simply a reincarnation of Senate Bill 1229 – undercuts the tolling agreements and the promise to “negotiate in good faith.”

HB 580 would strip the state of its bargaining power by allowing a panel of unelected arbitrators to step in and draft a binding contract between the state and AFSCME. Contrary to what is required under the tolling agreements, HB 580 would allow AFSCME to leave the bargaining table and place all issues before a third party – that is not accountable to Illinois voters.

AFSCME is actively backing the bill, telling its members “it is critical that we turn up the heat on state representatives who have not agreed to support this important legislation,” and also urging members to use its “click-to-call tool” to “take action.” AFSCME leadership has officially registered its support for the bill with the General Assembly.

HB 580 has already passed the Illinois House and Senate, and Gov. Bruce Rauner has until May 17 to veto the bill. The bill would then go back to the House and Senate for a potential legislative override of that veto.

AFSCME’s support of HB 580 is clearly out of step with what it promised in the tolling agreements. For example, in the third tolling agreement, which is still in effect, AFSCME promised to “negotiate in good faith to reach agreement,” to “continue meeting and negotiating in good faith,” and to “adhere to [its] statutory obligations regarding good faith negotiations.” AFSCME also agreed that it would abide by all of its legal obligations, “including the obligation to negotiate in good faith for a successor collective bargaining agreement.” In all, the phrase “good faith” appears four times in a document that is not even one full page.

So on the one hand, AFSCME has promised to stay at the table and negotiate in good faith; but on the other hand, the union is actively lobbying for a bill that would allow it to circumvent those negotiations by leaving the table to run to outside arbitrators.

With research demonstrating that arbitrators usually side with unions, AFSCME’s game is clear. The union promised to play nice at the negotiating table, but it never intended to keep that promise. Instead, it is doing everything it can to muscle the state’s taxpayers into an outside arbitration process that will practically guarantee that AFSCME’s unreasonable demands are met.

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