Illinois Policy 10/10/2010
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees has used stall tactics in labor negotiations, in an apparent attempt to wait out the state till more union-friendly lawmakers could be elected and hand AFSCME its demands outside the contract negotiating process.
The state’s contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, expired June 30, 2015, but negotiations for a new contract began months before.
Illinois state workers are already the highest-paid state workers in the nation when adjusted for cost of living. But AFSCME wants more – including automatic four-year raises that would hike payroll 21 percent by 2019, overtime pay after just 37.5 hours a week and even more expensive luxury insurance while employees pay little for premiums.
Throughout the negotiations, AFSCME has used stall tactics to burden the process and made it harder for the state to reach an agreement with the government-worker union.
And now, data from the Illinois State Board of Elections reveal a possible strategy behind the union’s stall tactics: As of late September, AFSCME had contributed over $1.4 million to Illinois-based political campaigns in 2016 alone.
If AFSCME can help union-friendly lawmakers achieve a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, it can then push through legislation to undermine the labor negotiations process laid out in state law.
In 2015 and 2016, AFSCME backed two bills that would have undermined state labor laws to taxpayers’ detriment. Senate Bill 1229 and House Bill 580 would have stripped the state of its bargaining power by allowing a panel of unelected arbitrators to step in and draft a binding contract between the state and AFSCME. With research demonstrating that arbitrators usually side with unions, the legislation would clearly benefit the union at the expense of state taxpayers, who would have to foot the bill for the expensive contract arbitration would have handed AFSCME. And both bills were carefully crafted to hamstring only Gov. Bruce Rauner’s negotiating team: They both would have expired at the end of Rauner’s term.
In short, AFSCME wanted to remove Rauner from negotiations in order to obtain a beneficial (and costly) contract. Rauner ultimately vetoed both bills, and, although the Democrats have supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly, lawmakers were unable to muster the votes to override those vetoes.
If AFSCME’s 2016 political contributions are any indication, AFSCME is working to create a veto-proof majority the next time around.
And AFSCME’s conduct during negotiations and the subsequent impasse proceedingsdemonstrate that it has been playing a stalling game in order to get to the point where a potential legislative victory becomes a reality.
First, AFSCME’s actions during negotiations did not demonstrate a true desire to reach an agreement with the state. The parties engaged in 24 bargaining sessions over 67 days – thelongest negotiations in the history of bargaining between AFSCME and the state.
An administrative law judge, or ALJ, recently recommended that the state’s labor board determine that the parties are at partial impasse. In that recommendation, the ALJ repeatedly noted her conclusion that the state had come to the negotiating table in good faith to reach an agreement. On the other hand, the ALJ stated that the union’s conduct during negotiations “calls into question its commitment to reaching an agreement through bargaining.” The ALJ noted in particular that AFSCME’s effort to push through SB 1229 and HB 580 seemed “inconsistent with a mindset of good faith bargaining.”
Second, AFSCME’s conduct during the impasse proceedings demonstrated its clear intent to stall a final determination of whether the parties are at impasse. The state encouraged the ALJ to adopt a schedule to help speed things along; AFSCME objected. The state requested the parties pre-file their evidence, to speed the process; AFSCME objected. The state began and wrapped its case in five days; AFSCME took more than three times that long.
The ALJ summed up the differences in the parties’ approaches:
The parties proceeded very differently with respect to putting on evidence about these negotiations. The State presented evidence in an overview fashion, focusing on the packages on which the parties had not reached agreement as of January 8, 2016…. The Union proceeded to elicit evidence in a day-by-day, proposal-by-proposal, chronological fashion.
With more than 300 proposals and 67 days of negotiations, AFSCME was clearly not trying to move the impasse proceedings along.
The dragged-out proceedings caused the state to request the parties bypass the ALJ’s recommendation and go straight to the labor board for its final determination. And again, AFSCME objected.
Now with more than $1.4 million invested in political campaigns – and over a month to go before the election – AFSCME’s ultimate goal is coming into view.
If AFSCME can delay the negotiations and impasse proceedings past the election, a new legislature may be able to push through another version of SB 1229 or HB 580 before an impasse determination is issued. That would force the state into arbitration and place Illinois’ tax dollars in the hands of an unaccountable third party with a likely union bent.
From stall tactics to apparent bad faith in negotiations, AFSCME’s actions demonstrate it is not interested in reaching an agreement. As such, AFSCME is not only failing the taxpayers who must pay for AFSCME’s contract, but also state workers. While AFSCME plays political games, its own members are left without the stability of a contract.