AFSCME’s battle with Rauner is far from over

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
March 9, 2017

AFSCME’s battle with Rauner is far from over

An Illinois appellate court ruled in favor of AFSCME March 1, but that isn’t the end of the court battle between the state and its largest government-worker union. The court’s order to prevent the governor from implementing his contract offer is temporary, and there is much more to come.

An Illinois appellate court issued an order March 1 that prevents Gov. Bruce Rauner from implementing his contract offer to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents approximately 35,000 state employees. But that court order does not end the ongoing battle between the union and state taxpayers.

The court’s order is temporary. Following the state labor board’s determination in November that AFSCME and the state were at impasse in negotiations for a new contract for state workers, both AFSCME and the state filed appeals in state court.

The Fourth District Appellate Court’s March 1 order simply prevents the labor board’s decision from going into effect while it decides whether the impasse decision was correct. As a result, the governor is prevented from implementing his last, best offer to AFSCME – and the delay is costing state taxpayers millions of dollars each month.

What happens next in court?

The case continues before the Fourth District Appellate Court, where AFSCME and the state will file written arguments in coming weeks. The court will issue its decision following oral argument before a panel of Fourth District judges.

Either or both parties can then appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. That means a final court determination of whether the AFSCME and the state are at impasse could be months away.

Does the March 1 order mean AFSCME won’t strike?

The Fourth District’s March 1 order does not foreclose a future AFSCME strike.

AFSCME Executive Director Roberta Lynch has indicated that a strike is a possibility should a court allow the labor board’s decision to go into effect. If either the Fourth District or the Illinois Supreme Court affirms the labor board’s impasse decision, Rauner could implement his last, best contract offer, and AFSCME could strike.

What impact does the March 1 order have on taxpayers?

For each month AFSCME’s contract with the state is not in effect, Illinois is paying an additional $35 million to $40 million in health coverage alone. Over the course of the more than 20 months the state has been without a contract, that’s $700 million to $800 million.

The appellate court’s March 1 order staying the labor board’s decision means the governor cannot implement his last offer to AFSCME – and taxpayers are paying a hefty price for it.

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