Illinois Senate overrides veto of labor negotiations bill

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SHARE Illinois Senate overrides veto of labor negotiations bill

SPRINGFIELD — Just hours after Gov. Bruce Rauner roared into the Illinois State Fair on a motorcycle for Governor’s Day, the Senate on Wednesday voted to override his veto of a bill that would allow for labor arbitration.

Despite Rauner’s best efforts to try to persuade lawmakers — claiming the bill would ultimately cost taxpayers — the Illinois Senate voted 38-15 to override his veto. The override must also pass the House.

The union-supported bill would allow an independent arbitrator to come up with an agreement between the state and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. It also would prohibit a strike or lockout once arbitration begins. And it comes at a crucial time in negotiations with AFSCME and their 38,000 state employees. The state’s contract with AFSCME expired on June 30.

A lone Republican vote came from State Sen. Sam McCann, of Plainview, where thousands of state workers live.

On the Senate floor, Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, urged the Senate to “do what’s right for the people we represent” and “not what’s right for the governor’s office.”

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Sen. Matt Murphy, R-Palatine, said union leaders are fighting for pay and benefits, but those employees are making 80 percent more than they did 10 years ago. “Go home any of you and talk to your taxpayers about that,” he said.

“This is wrong to take the people’s one elected person out of the negotiation room and say we’re going to go to this arbitrator,” Murphy said.

“Do not override this veto,” he warned before the Senate voted.

Rauner — who has called the legislation “the worst bill” he’s ever seen — issued a statement after the vote saying every senator who voted to overturn the veto “chose special interests over the taxpayers.”

“They made it abundantly clear that they’d rather raise taxes than stand up to the politically powerful,” Rauner said. “It is now up to House members to take the responsible, pro-taxpayer position and uphold our veto.”

Unions applauded the vote on Wednesday, including AFSCME Council 31 and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, among other unions representing state workers and other public employees.

“The Senate has done right by the citizens of Illinois today,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said in a statement. “Simply put, this legislation will make sure the state keeps working if negotiations fail.”

Carrigan said the legislation will give the same fair arbitration process provided to state and local police, fire and prison personnel in Illinois for more than 30 years.

He said it also will help avert the disruption of a statewide strike or lockout by offering arbitration as an alternative means of resolving contract disputes between AFSCME and the Rauner administration.

Rauner had argued that the chosen arbitrators would favor unions and that would result in a bad deal for taxpayers.

But during debate, Harmon said of 333 cases of arbitration in the state between 2006 and 2015, unions prevailed in 43 percent of cases, with employers prevailing in 48 percent.

“This model is proven. It is fair. If anything it is still tipped in the favor of employers,” Harmon said.

On Tuesday, Rauner sent a memo to some lawmakers, asking them not to overturn his veto and urging them to let him do his “job” during union negotiations.

Earlier at the Illinois State Fair, Rauner called the Senate vote “a test” for Senate President John Cullerton.

“Is he controlled by Speaker Madigan or does he make his own decisions for the benefit of the people of his district in the Senate? Is he controlled by the speaker or is he independent and make his own decisions? Is the Senate under the thumb of the speaker or not?” Rauner asked.

Also on Wednesday, the Illinois Senate approved a federal appropriations bill that would grant the state $4.8 billion, mostly in federal pass-through funds. The House last week passed the bill with amendments that added $125 million for school nutrition programs; $305 million for terrorism and other emergency preparedness; and $167 million for debt service for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority.

Contributing: Becky Schlikerman

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