Seven Illinois House Republicans – including three from the Springfield area — are asking Gov. Bruce Rauner to return to the bargaining table with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Their letter, dated Thursday, was addressed to both Rauner and AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch.
“It is abundantly clear that the continuation of this stalemate will continue to hurt all interested parties,” the letter begins. “State employees are particularly jeopardized when considering the impact on their health care costs; and taxpayers lose with continued uncertainty that would be fixed in a new collective bargaining agreement.”
After several months of talks, negotiators for the state in January said they believed talks had reached an impasse and asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board to make a ruling. AFSCME has argued talks had not reached an impasse. The labor board has held several weeks of hearings on the issue, but is still believed to be weeks from issuing a decision.
“We are writing to urge both parties to resume negotiations, with the governor and AFSCME convened together at the negotiating table with the goal of reaching an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that balanced respect for taxpayers with the needs of our hardworking, dedicated state employees,” the letter says. “An agreement between both parties will allow all Illinoisans to move forward together, without anyone’s ability to negotiate being taken away by an unelected arbitrator or by imposing an unwelcome contract.”
The letter is signed by Reps. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez of Leland Grove, Avery Bourne of Raymond, C.D. Davidsmeyer of Jacksonville, Norine Hammond of Macomb, Don Moffitt of Gilson, Terri Bryant of Murphysboro and Adam Brown of Champaign.
Rauner’s office issued a statement that it does not plan to return to the table until the labor board makes its ruling. Spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the administration is following the procedures laid out in an agreement reached with AFSCME to continue the current contract terms while negotiations continue.
“AFSCME has repeatedly rejected all of the administration’s core proposals that the Illinois Federation of Teachers and 17 other unions have agreed to despite our good faith efforts to address the union’s concerns,” Kelly said in a statement. “Nothing about the Labor Board proceedings prevents AFSCME from proposing a framework similar to those offered by these other 18 unions. AFSCME’s unwillingness to move off their last, best and final offer of more than $3 billion in financial demands is what is causing the impasse.”
Lynch replied that AFSCME stands ready to return to the bargaining table any time the administration is willing.
“I can assure you that our union would much prefer to reach a contract settlement with the Rauner administration at the bargaining table as we have done with every previous administration, whether Republican or Democrat,” Lynch wrote.
However, Lynch also scolded the seven Republicans because they all opposed a bill to send stalled labor talks with public employee unions to binding arbitration. Rauner vetoed the arbitration bill, and this week, all seven Republicans voted against overriding the veto.
After the vote, Jimenez’ Democratic opponent, Tony DelGiorno, issued a statement saying Jimenez “failed to demonstrate leadership by representing her constituents. Instead, she represented a constituency of one – her governor.”
Lynch said that if Rauner rejects a return to the bargaining table, the Republicans should tell Democrats that they’ve changed their minds on the arbitration bill and will now support an override.
“I am confident that with your support, we could secure the 71 votes needed to override the governor’s veto,” Lynch said.