As contract deadline passes, AFSCME gets month-long extension, SEIU expires

As contract deadline passes, AFSCME gets month-long extension, SEIU expires

Heated contract negotiations between AFSCME and the state will continue.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which represents the majority of about 40,000 state workers, and the state of Illinois have agreed to a one-month contract extension to continue talks after the July 1 deadline. Contracts with Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Healthcare Illinois, which represents about 50,000 child care and home health-care providers, were not extended and did expire.

According to a June 25 joint statement from Mike Newman, deputy director of AFSCME Council 31, and Jason Barclay, general counsel to the governor:

“AFSCME Council 31 and the Governor’s Office reached an agreement that precludes the possibility of a strike or lockout for a one-month period after the state’s collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Council 31 expires on June 30.”

Nothing will change for at least a month for AFSCME workers, as the contract will continue during that time. If the extension expires without a new contract, a work stoppage is possible.

AFSCME workers, except for some public-safety employees, could go on strike. However, according to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, any strike that poses “a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the public [which] is about to occur or is in progress” could be limited by a court. It’s also possible that the state could lock workers out of their jobs.

Other possibilities include both sides entering arbitration to help resolve the dispute, another contract extension or state employees working without a contract.

A June 17 memo from the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, or CMS, shows that the agency is preparing for this contingency. CMS advised government agencies that in the event of contract expirations, many provisions would still be valid. The memo stated: “the State will operate as if the terms and conditions of employment set forth in the current collective bargaining agreements … still apply,” with the caveat that employees would still retain their current wages but not be given any raises and some grievance procedures would still be limited.

However, unlike AFSCME, those represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois are not full state employees. Many of the options outlined above are extremely unlikely.

A strike by home health-care workers and child care providers is much less probable, because many of those workers who are “represented” by SEIU Healthcare Illinois are not working for the state, but rather are providing care to relatives or consider themselves small-business owners.

Through a 2005 deal with former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the SEIU was able to unionize these groups despite not having a majority of support – only 28 percent of the child care providers voted to be part of SEIU.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the case of Harris v. Quinn stated that the home health-care workers were not government employees and SEIU could not force them to pay dues or fees. The ruling was later applied to child care providers.

The amount of money the SEIU was taking from child care providers was cut in half when these providers were no longer forced to pay. The massive drop in revenue shows how little value providers felt the SEIU provided.

As of July 1, AFSCME and the state were still in negotiations. After all the posturing, eventually both sides will come to a compromise. If the compromise does not happen before the end of July there will either be another contract extension, AFSCME workers will work without a contract under the guidelines put forth by CMS, the sides will go to arbitration or there will be a work stoppage to force a deal.

The situation for SEIU is different. It’s difficult to imagine the contractual changes that would affect the providers represented by SEIU, since they do not work for the state and the union’s organizing drive was more of a scheme for dues than a traditional worker demand for collective representation.

The providers may be affected by the budget but will not likely see much of a difference in their daily activities, with or without an SEIU contract.

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