SB 19: A bill preserving union jobs at all costs

SB 19: A bill preserving union jobs at all costs

A bill sitting on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk is all about preserving union jobs – placing union priorities above the people of Illinois.

Government worker unions in Illinois have tremendous power. And those unions use that power to obtain benefits that outpace anything expected in the private sector.

One example: absolute job security even in the face of Illinois’ financial turmoil.

In fact, a bill currently sitting on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk would force the state to pay for union jobs even if those jobs are no longer necessary.

Senate Bill 19 amends state law related to the Illinois Department of Corrections, or IDOC. The bill includes an incredibly broad provision that prohibits the state from decreasing the number of medical or health services workers in IDOC below the number of those employed as of Jan. 1, 2016. This means the number of medical employees at IDOC cannot go below a certain level even if the prison population declines.

SB 19 bill is all about union power. And the Illinois Nurses Association – the union representing IDOC nurses – hasn’t even tried to hide its priorities. During testimony before the House Labor & Commerce Committee, an INA representative declared, “We want to guarantee these nurses keep their jobs.”

This isn’t the first time INA has pushed a bill that benefits the union over inmates and taxpayers. INA pushed a similar bill last session, but SB 19 goes even farther than its predecessor in preserving union jobs at all costs. But like last session’s bill, SB 19 should meet a similar fate: The bill should be vetoed.

Similar bill, broader application: SB 19 would prohibit any decrease – ever – in medical staffing

In 2016, INA pushed House Bill 5104, which prevented the state from subcontracting certain health services if it would result in fewer medical workers in IDOC than were present as of Jan. 1, 2016. It didn’t matter if the prison population dropped; under the bill, the state could not lower the number of IDOC employees if the state subcontracted any of the medical employees’ work.

INA’s priorities in pushing HB 5104 were clear. INA had already tried to push through subcontracting limitations in contract negotiations with the state. When INA did not achieve its goal through negotiations, it made an end run around the bargaining process and went to the General Assembly to get what it wanted through HB 5104.

Once again, INA is pushing a bill with the intent to preserve union jobs, this time through SB 19.

But while SB 19 includes similar language prohibiting any subcontracting of services if the result would be lowering the number of IDOC employees, it also includes the following additional language:

Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the Department shall not reduce the number of Department employees whose employment is related to the provision of medical or mental health services lower than the number of Department employees on January 1, 2016 whose employment is related to the provision of medical or mental health services.

There is no language qualifying or limiting that prohibition. It is not tied to subcontracting. It completely prohibits the state from ever lowering the number of medical employees below that employed Jan. 1, 2016, for any reason.

So even aside from subcontracting, the state could never lower the number of IDOC employees providing medical services – even if the prison population drops dramatically.

History should repeat itself: Rauner should veto SB 19

Like HB 5014, SB 19 is bad for both inmates and taxpayers. It prevents the state from providing inmates with the best health care at the most affordable cost to the state’s taxpayers – all for the sake of maintaining existing state-worker payrolls, even if those jobs are no longer needed.

In 2016, Rauner vetoed HB 5104, and the House of Representatives was unable to override the veto.

Now SB 19 sits on Rauner’s desk. He has until approximately June 6 to sign or veto the bill. As he did with HB 5104, Rauner should veto SB 19. And the General Assembly should let that veto stand.

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