Editorials

St. Clair County proves justice is blind, to anything but big state union’s demands

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien resigned and sought election as a Democrat rather than seek retention. His first big case since the election? He took on a fight between the largest state employee union and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fight with no reason to be heard in St. Clair County. No reason, except that the union found a friendly ear.
St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien resigned and sought election as a Democrat rather than seek retention. His first big case since the election? He took on a fight between the largest state employee union and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, a fight with no reason to be heard in St. Clair County. No reason, except that the union found a friendly ear. Photo illustration

The largest state employee union was handed a serious defeat by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, declaring an impasse that would allow Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to impose his final, best offer of bonus pay for showing up to work and overtime after working 40 hours like most of us. The savings to Illinois taxpayers was estimated at more than $2 million a day.

The rallying cry across the state was “Negotiate. Don’t dictate.”

So the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees next move was to file suit and ask a judge to dictate. Where would they find such a judge? In Springfield where all the parties have offices and lawyers?

Nope. They picked St. Clair County and got the master of the “resignation for re-election” two-step, Circuit Judge Robert LeChien. Last week he issued a temporary restraining order stopping the state’s Department of Management Services from implementing any changes Rauner might make.

Can you say “venue shopping”?

It gets worse.

The union argued that Rauner couldn’t impose the changes because the state labor board initially issued an oral opinion, and a written opinion was required. Well the written order came Dec. 5. LeChien was given a copy by the governor’s office, yet LeChien choose to ignore it and issued a temporary restraining order dated Dec. 5 — even though it surfaced the next day — based on the union’s argument that there was no written opinion.

Papers? What papers?

LeChien also ignored the Rauner argument that the union agreed to abide by the labor board’s decision regardless of whether it was oral or written. He stopped the state from making any changes to AFSCME members’ pay or benefits.

Rauner is appealing LeChien’s order to Mount Vernon. The appellate justices may soon teach LeChien the T.R.O. Turnaround for his next dance move.

Illinois has reached contract agreements with 18 state employee unions. They all understand there is a financial crisis. Only AFSCME is still pending, with demands for greater health insurance at no cost to the state workers and raises, estimated to cost Illinois an additional $3 billion.

Remember, this union’s members already enjoy a median salary of $63,660 — about double what Joe Average makes in Illinois. Their strike threats should end, because if they do strike Illinois may just figure out how many of them it can live without.

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