Union Holdout Still Grandstanding Against Struggling Illinois

Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner reached anotherlabor agreement Wednesday with a major union despite still facinghis most stubborn holdout.

The agreement is a huge victory for Rauner. The union inquestion, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), is oneof the biggest in the country, and its Illinois chapter has a lotof influence in the state. The contract is the latest in a seriesof labor agreements made between the state and public sectorunions. Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County andMunicipal Employees (AFSCME), still remains the most significantholdout.

“Altogether, the Governor has now successfully negotiatednew collective bargaining agreements with 17 different bargainingunits representing more than 5,000 state employees,” thegovernor’s office detailed in a press release. “Thesedevelopments stand in stark contrast to the ongoingnegotiations with AFSCME Council 31. Despite being offeredsubstantially the same material terms as the Teamsters and theTrades, AFSCME has to date rejected theGovernor’s chief proposals.”

AFSCME has been highly critical of Rauner and remains one of hisbiggest obstacles. It is one of the most powerful unions in thecountry, representing both public sectoremployees and retirees. It’s been known foraggressive activity during political campaigns, usuallyin support of Democrats.

Rauner has tried to limit public sector unions, arging thatunion power limits willhelp the state economy. According to The Illinois PolicyInstitute, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital toeconomic growth and stability.

Though the last public sector labor agreement expired in June,Rauner has stood firm while negotiating with AFSCME.There has even been concerns state workers could end up striking.Thus far, state workers have not yet gone on strike.

According to a memo sent out by thegovernor’s office in July, AFSCME and Raunerhave been unable to reach consensus on several key issues. Theunion has demanded a 11.5 to 29 percent pay increase for stateemployees, a 37.5 hour work week, and five weeks of fully paidvacation, among other concessions.

In contrast, the contract reached with the SEIU includes manybenefits, none of which go as far as whatAFSCME  wants. The SEIU agreement expands healthinsurance benefits, includes new performance based bonus, andboosts reward programs and increased training opportunities. Unlikewhat AFSCME is demanding, a full week of work is still thestandard, including overtime benefits for those workerswho go beyond 40 hours.

Additionally, Rauner has advocated for outlawing mandatory uniondues or fees. The policy, known as right-to-work, is very muchopposed by most unions. In May, Democratic Illinois Speaker of theHouse Michael Madigan gave Rauner a week to submit a bill if he wanted a vote on thepolicy. Rauner, though, failed to meet the deadline.

His reforms have made Rauner a target of more union-friendlystate lawmakers as well. Democrats introduced a bill in Februarythat would have allowed unionsto override the governor during troubled labornegotiations. The Democratic majority in both houses ofthe state legislature passed the bill, but Rauner vetoed it inJuly.

Tensions through the labor talks even led to concerns Rauner would use the national guard. Thenational guard could be used as a last ditch effort to keep thegovernment functional if state workers decided to strike. Raunerwas able to reach a labor agreement in June with the Teamsters.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois has come out against the new agreement.In addition to AFSCME, it has also resisted compromise with Rauner.The union noted it is happy for the other SEIU chapter but thinksRauner has been pushing extreme demands.

AFSCME represents more than 30,000 employees and the SEIUHealthcare represents 52,000 state workers. AFSCME did not respondto requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

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