Metro-East News

State workers file suit in St. Clair County to block Rauner contract

News-Democrat

State workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union held a rally recently in Caseyville.
State workers who are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union held a rally recently in Caseyville.

A union representing state workers filed suit Wednesday in St. Clair County, seeking to prevent Gov. Bruce Rauner from imposing his final contract terms.

Rauner ended talks last winter with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees state council. A state labor board sided with Rauner this month that talks were at “impasse.” That means the governor can impose his terms.

He did that a second time Wednesday in announcing an employee drug and alcohol testing plan.

Rauner’s office said the governor’s final offer includes $1,000 merit pay for employees, overtime after 40 hours, bereavement leave, workplace safety task forces, the use of volunteers, and drug and alcohol testing of those reasonably suspected of use on the job.

“Overtime after 40 hours of work, workplace safety task forces, drug and alcohol testing for those reasonably suspected of use on the job, and bereavement leave are not unreasonable and simply make sense,” Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said. “We ask that AFSCME work with us on implementing these common-sense changes and ensure that employees’ bonuses are not delayed because of needless, meritless litigation.”

Overtime after 40 hours of work, workplace safety task forces, drug and alcohol testing for those reasonably suspected of use on the job, and bereavement leave are not unreasonable and simply make sense.

Catherine Kelly, spokeswoman for Gov. Bruce Rauner

AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said the union wants to return to the bargaining table.

“The Rauner administration walked out on bargaining in January and has refused to negotiate ever since. In contrast, AFSCME has repeatedly said we are prepared to consider any of the governor’s proposals and to modify our own, but that requires both parties to be at the bargaining table,” Lindall said. “Gov. Rauner should negotiate, not dictate. By forcing confrontation instead of seeking compromise, the governor bears responsibility for this litigation and the threat of a disruptive strike.”

Gov. Rauner should negotiate, not dictate. By forcing confrontation instead of seeking compromise, the governor bears responsibility for this litigation and the threat of a disruptive strike.

Anders Lindall, AFSCME spokesman

Lindall said Rauner entered a binding legal agreement stating that no changes can be implemented unless the Labor Board finds the parties are at impasse. The suit argues that, under Illinois law, there is no such finding until the Labor Board issues a written decision, which it has not yet done. The board has issued only an oral decision, according to the suit.

Lindall said the goal of the suit is “to halt the Rauner administration’s unilateral imposition of its demands on state employees, including a 100 percent increase in health premiums, a four-year pay freeze and a blank check for the governor to outsource public services for private profit.”

Nearly three dozen Illinois legislators of both political stripes held a news conference Wednesday to ask Rauner to resume contract negotiations with AFSCME, the state’s largest public-employee union.

The lawmakers said the issue is crucial to the struggling state.

Rep. Jerry Costello II, D-Smithton, is among legislators calling for a return to the bargaining table.

“With both sides at the bargaining table, I firmly believe that the governor’s administration and AFSCME will be able to come to a fair agreement that will benefit both working families and taxpayers,” Costello said. “I remain firm in my support of Illinois workers and look forward to seeing both sides return to negotiating so that the state can reach a fair contract.”

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