• Illinois Dems Fail To Gag Gov. Rauner During Union Talks

    Democrats in the Illinois legislature failed Wednesday to override a veto blocking a bill critics claim would have undermined the ability of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to negotiate with public unions.

    Rauner and the Illinois chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have struggled since he took office in January to agree on a labor agreement for state employees.

    SB1229 was introduced in February as a way to override the governor during troubled labor negotiations. It was passed by the Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature in May. Rauner vetoed the measure in July. Democratic state Rep. Mike Smiddy promptly filed a motion to override the veto.

    The measure would allow an arbitrator to takeover state labor negotiations if a new agreement is not reached within 30 days. After which point, either the public sector unions or governor can call on the arbitrator. Despite both sides being able to call on the arbitrator, some have said it’s a huge giveaway to state unions.

    Debate over the bill got heated when Smiddy argued it could help the state avoid a shutdown or strike. Republican state Rep. Dwight Kay. Kay immediately slammed Smiddy, accusing him of trying to help unions by undermining Rauner’s authority. Normally the governor has the authority to accept or reject a labor agreement.

    “It’s a politically motivated bill,” Kay declared. “This is pretty embarrassing, we’ve had a governor for eight months and you do this.”

    “The arbitrator can still side with the governor,” Smiddy said. “Wouldn’t it be more harmful to the state if we were to shutdown or go on strike?”

    When challenged Smiddy admitted he was unaware of such a bill ever being imposed on prior governors. It is also set to expire in four years when Rauner’s first term will end. Rauner is the first Republican governor since 2003. Republican state Rep. Tom Demmer said the measure will take power out of the hands an elected official and gives it to people that are not accountable to the public.

    Despite the veto, the state senate was able to get the necessary a 3/5 majority Aug. 19 to override it. The House filed its intent to override the veto the following day. That gave members 15 total days to make a decision on the veto override. The vote failed to get the necessary 3/5 majority with just one day left.

    Since taking office, Rauner has tried to limit the power public sector unions, he has argued limiting their power will help the state economy. According to The Illinois Policy Institute, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital to economic growth and stability.

    Though the last public sector labor agreement expired in June, Rauner has stood by his stance while negotiating with AFSCME. There has even been concerns state workers could end up striking. At the moment the only thing preventing a strike is that each side keeps agreeing to extend the expired contract.

    According to a memo sent out by the governor’s office in July, AFSCME and Rauner have been unable to reach consensus on several key issues. The union has demanded a 11.5 to 29 percent pay increase for state employees, a 37.5 hour work week and five weeks of fully paid vacation, among other privileges.

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