Gov. Rauner vetoes ‘recycled’ version of union arbitration bill

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Gov. Bruce Rauner at a news conference in February. File Photo. Brian Jackson/ for the Sun-Times

Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday once again vetoed a bill that would have sent unresolved labor negotiations between the state and its largest state employee union to arbitration — calling it a recycled version of a bill he deemed a “dangerous and unprecedented attack” on taxpayers.

Lawmakers passed a similar bill last year. Rauner vetoed it, and the Illinois House failed to override the veto by just three votes.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union — which represents 38,000 state workers — on Monday said Rauner doesn’t like the bill because it would require him to “be moderate and seek compromise.”

“He wants his way or no way at all,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said in a statement.

It’s the latest step in contentious talks between AFSCME and Rauner, who in January asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board to step in and decide if talks with the union were at an impasse. The union has said Rauner wasn’t negotiating in good faith by walking away from the bargaining table. A decision by an administrative law judge is expected in July and could signal a strike should the judge side with the governor.

In his veto, Rauner said the House bill, and a nearly identical Senate bill he vetoed last year, was promoted by AFSCME to remove him from bargaining and replace him with an “unelected, labor-friendly arbitrator who can single-handedly impose the union’s $3 billion demand on the taxpayers.”

“A single union, AFSCME, made unaffordable and unsustainable salary and benefits demands during its collective bargaining negotiations, and then refused to meaningfully compromise,” Rauner wrote in his veto, detailing those demands as a 29 percent salary bump over four years, a “platinum” health care plan; and “lavish overtime benefits.”

Rauner wrote that taxpayers cannot afford AFSCME’s “unreasonable demands.” Rauner said he offered solutions that were fair to both taxpayers and AFSCME employees, which included performance bonuses of up to 8 percent of salary, a larger choice of health care plans and changes in work rules. AFSCME rejected those proposals.

“One person would have the ability to determine over 25 percent of our annual budget for the next 3 years, forcing increased taxes and cuts to other vital state services to pay for it all,” Rauner wrote.

But Lynch called the bill one that sought compromise and avoided a strike, by allowing an independent third party to settle the difference between workers and management.

“Beneath Governor Bruce Rauner’s false claims and wild exaggerations about the bill is this reality: The governor walked away from negotiations with our union in January and is seeking total power to unilaterally impose his demands, including forcing state and university employees to pay double their current costs for health care,” Lynch said. “Given that power, the governor could impose his demands and leave state employees no choice but to strike. That’s exactly what Rauner as a candidate vowed to do.”

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