Earlier this week, Governor Rauner and AFSCME Council 31, the union representing almost 40,000 state workers, agreed to temporarily extend the terms of the 2012-2015 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and prohibit a strike or lockout until September 30, 2015. At the same time, Governor Rauner vetoed SB 1229, a union-backed bill which would have prohibited the Governor from locking out state employees, instead requiring the parties to proceed to arbitration after impasse. Despite the extension, a successor CBA remains elusive.
The CBA between AFSCME Council 31 and the State of Illinois expired on June 30, 2015, as required by statute. Both sides entered into an extension agreement in early July, extending the terms of the agreement until July 31, 2015. The latest agreement effectively extends that agreement until the end of September, or until the parties reach impasse—whichever comes first. State employees are prohibited from striking, and the Governor is prohibited from locking out employees under the new extension agreement. Additionally, the agreement states that AFSCME and the State disagree over whether salary step and longevity increases must be paid while negotiations continue. The State is not currently paying those increases.
The Governor’s statement vetoing SB 1229 was critical of AFSCME, noting his administration’s concessions and AFSCME’s refusal to accept his proposals. The Governor pointed to the recent agreement reached between the State and Teamsters Joint Council 25, which represents state employees in Chicago and Cook County, as proof that his administration continues to negotiate in good faith with labor unions, and as proof that AFSCME—not the Governor—is being unreasonable.
Not surprisingly, AFSCME disagrees and has been critical of the Governor. AFSCME has denounced the Governor’s efforts to recruit retired state employees to break a possible strike, and has denounced his reported consideration of utilizing the Illinois National Guard to provide essential services if state workers strike. AFSCME has said the Governor is intentionally provoking the first strike by state employees since collective bargaining began over 40 years ago.
AFSCME’s statement makes clear the sides remain “very far apart.” The union is seeking an 11.5% wage increase over four years and more generous health insurance benefits. The Governor has proposed a wage freeze and wants to reduce health care costs for the State through a mix of benefit reductions and increases in employee premium contributions.