Illinois Supreme Court’s denial of quicker AFSCME appeal means taxpayers still on the hook for millions each month

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
April 4, 2017

Illinois Supreme Court’s denial of quicker AFSCME appeal means taxpayers still on the hook for millions each month

AFSCME obstructed progress for months on a new contract for state workers. Whether AFSCME and the state are at impasse in negotiations now sits with the Illinois courts – and the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision not to take a direct appeal of the case means taxpayers must continue to pay an additional $35 million to $40 million each month in health care costs alone.

A recent Illinois Supreme Court order allows the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to continue to stall implementation of a contract for state workers, and it will cost state taxpayers millions. For each month the contract is not in effect, taxpayers pay an additional $35 million to $40 million in health care cost alone.

Those burdensome costs led Gov. Bruce Rauner to file a motion asking the Illinois Supreme Court to more quickly determine whether the state and AFSCME are at impasse in their negotiations over a new contract.

The state labor board determined in November 2016 that contract negotiations between the state and AFSCME were at impasse, or deadlock. That meant the governor could implement his last, best offer to the union.

But instead, AFSCME ran to multiple state courts, seeking a decision to overturn the labor board’s impasse determination. The case currently sits before the Fourth District Appellate Court, and it could be months before that court decides whether the parties are at impasse.

In the meantime, the court has stayed the labor board’s decision, meaning the governor cannot implement his contract offer. This means the state is forced to continue paying AFSCME workers under the terms of the expired contract, which includes monthly health care costs $35 million to $40 million higher than under the state’s proposed contract.

Seeking a more timely resolution, Rauner filed a motion requesting a direct appeal to the state Supreme Court. Instead of waiting for the Fourth District to issue an opinion, the case would be transferred immediately to the state’s highest court.

A quicker resolution of the appeals process potentially would have saved the state millions of dollars and put an end to the union’s stall tactics. But despite the fact both parties know the state Supreme Court will ultimately decide the case, AFSCME opposed Rauner’s motion for a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

Obstructionist tactics were the theme of the union’s “negotiating” strategy. According to an administrative law judge with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, AFSCME’s approach to negotiations was “atypical.” She added, “… the [u]nion’s conduct calls into question its commitment to reaching an agreement through bargaining.”

Throughout negotiations, Rauner attempted to bring union costs more in line with what Illinoisans can afford. But AFSCME refused to compromise and instead continued to demand wage and benefit increases that would cost the state an additional $3 billion.

The longer it takes for the impasse decision to move through the courts, the longer Illinois taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars the state simply does not have.

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