AFSCME skirts legal requirements to file lawsuit against Illinois in union-friendly court

December 1, 2016
By Ted Dabrowski

AFSCME’s most recent ploy is a clear demonstration of its discard for the labor process. The union isn’t interested in fair negotiations and outcomes – it is only interested in skewing the process to serve its own goals.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees filed a lawsuit Nov. 30 against the state of Illinois in an effort to further obstruct progress on a new contract for state employees. AFSCME officials lobbed their suit to a judge known for union-friendly outcomes.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board determined on Nov. 15 that AFSCME and the state are at impasse in negotiations for a new contract for state employees. That decision meant the state could start implementing its last, best and final offer to the union.

Under Illinois law, AFSCME is allowed to file an appeal of the labor board’s decision with a state appellate court. But that didn’t fit with AFSCME’s legal schemes.

Instead of following legal requirements, AFSCME chose to run to Judge Robert LeChien in St. Clair County Circuit Court – which is a lower trial court and not an appellate court. The reason: LeChien has a history of rubberstamping the union’s legal requests.

And instead of appealing the labor board’s decision, AFSCME is suing the state to keep it from implementing portions of its last offer to AFSCME – including the bonus pay that many state employees are expecting to receive.

AFSCME’s legal game is easy to see through. The union keeps a “shell” case in front of LeChien – a case against the state that has nothing to do with the contract negotiations or the impasse.

Then AFSCME runs to LeChien and asks him to “amend” the case to include additional issues. In this instance, the additional issues involve the impasse and the state’s implementation of the AFSCME contract. AFSCME is asking LeChien to issue an injunction to keep the state from implementing the contract.

If LeChien grants AFSCME’s request, he is asserting jurisdiction over issues that should not be before him in the first place.

AFSCME’s most recent ploy is a clear demonstration of its discard for the labor process. The union isn’t interested in fair negotiations and outcomes – it is only interested in skewing the process to serve its own goals.

What’s more, those goals are detrimental to state taxpayers. Throughout contract negotiations, AFSCME leadership made contract demands the Rauner administration estimated would cost the state an additional $3 billion in pay and benefits for state workers. Those demands included wage increases of 11.5 to 29 percent by 2019, continued platinum-level health insurance at little cost to workers, and a workweek with overtime for workers after just 37.5 hours. In a letter to state employees, Rauner explained that the wage-increase demands alone would cost the state nearly $1 billion.

Illinois state workers already are the highest-paid state workers in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. When the most recent AFSCME contract expired in 2015, the median AFSCME salary was $63,660 – compared with just under $32,000 for an Illinois worker in the private sector. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for an individual AFSCME worker is higher than the median income for an entire Illinois household in the private sector (just under $58,000 in 2014).

Most AFSCME employees also receive free health insurance at retirement, simply by working 20 or more years. This benefit alone costs taxpayers $200,000 to $500,000 per employee.

In addition, state retirees with 30 years or more service on average receive $1.6 million in pension benefits, in addition to Social Security.

But that isn’t enough for AFSCME leadership. It wants more. And clearly, AFSCME will undermine labor law and use the courts in its effort to further burden state taxpayers with its unreasonable contract demands.

TAGS: AFSCME: American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees