A day before the Illinois Senate will discuss whether to override a bill that would allow for labor arbitration, Gov. Bruce Rauner is urging lawmakers to let him do his “job.”
On Tuesday, Rauner sent a memo to lawmakers, asking them not to overturn his veto of the union arbitration bill that would allow an arbitrator to decide labor talks between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, its largest employee union.
Rauner vetoed the bill in late July and later called it the “worst bill” he had ever seen. He has also dubbed it an assault on Illinois taxpayers. Rauner argues that the arbitrators to be used are pro-labor and would result in a bad deal for taxpayers.
Senate President John Cullerton plans to discuss a possible override during a caucus on Wednesday, the deadline to override Rauner’s veto. If the Senate passes the override with 36 votes, the bill will go to the House. But if it doesn’t clear the Senate, the bill will die.
In a rare visit to the press room, Rauner told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday that the potential override of the labor union bill is one of the most important issues facing the state.
It was part of Rauner’s publicity blitz on Tuesday, as he gave media interviews on the topic.
“I don’t know of a more important challenge going on right now,” Rauner said, adding that stripping away the ability to negotiate with AFSCME is going to cost taxpayers “billions” in Illinois.
In issuing the veto, Rauner called the bill unconstitutional because it retroactively impairs contractual obligations. On Tuesday, Rauner said he didn’t plan to sue if the override is approved.
“We’ve reached out to legislators. We’re asking them, ‘Just let me do my job.’ This is unprecedented,” he said. “I don’t think AFSCME has ever tried to end-run a negotiation anywhere in America before.”
Rauner said he has told AFSCME there would be no pay cuts and no lockout. He said he doesn’t want a strike, but that the state will be prepared should the state worker union strike.
“We’re going to make sure the government runs. But I don’t want a strike. I have no interest in a lockdown. I just want to negotiate in good faith,” Rauner said.
The state’s contract with AFSCME expired on June 30. The union represents about 38,000 state employees. Its supports the override of the veto.
Later Tuesday, AFSCME fired back, calling Rauner’s language about the bill “hyperbole” and “misinformation” in a letter sent to lawmakers.
In the letter, AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch
wrote that arbitration is not dangerous and it could help to avoid a strike if negotiations fail. She said the union hopes to strike a settlement in negotiations to avoid arbitration. And she questioned Rauner’s motives.
“Why the over-the-top rhetoric, habitual falsehoods and political pressure tactics? The only plausible explanation is that the bill would provide stability where the governor wants conflict,” Lynch wrote. “The bill would prevent a strike when the governor has vowed to force one. And if negotiations fail to produce an agreement, the bill could allow
independent arbitrators to craft a fair settlement instead of giving
the governor free rein to impose his extreme demands.”