Appellate court rejects Rauner claim of “impasse” in AFSCME cont - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Appellate court rejects Rauner claim of “impasse” in AFSCME contract negotiations

Posted: Updated:

UPDATE at 7:45 P.M.:

Governor Rauner's press team responded to News 3's request for a response with the following:

The Appellate Court did not determine whether or not AFSCME and the State are at impasse. Instead, it sent the case back to the ILRB to more fully explain its original impasse decision or, in the alternative, to apply a different legal test for impasse. The State is considering options for appeal of the decision to the Supreme Court. If neither party appeals, the case will return to the ILRB where the parties will likely present additional evidence and argument on these issues, and the ILRB will issue a revised opinion.

On background - see these references :
court remanded to Board without making any ruling on impasse:

"We must remand this case to the ILRB in order to provide them an opportunity either to explain their reasoning for departing from their long-standing practice of using the Taftfactors test as the exclusive means of assessing whether parties have reached an impasse or to use those same factors as they have done previously to reach a decision."  (Page 18)
"As we are remanding this case to the ILRB for proceedings consistent with this opinion, we decline to rule on a particular argument since the answer is dependent on whether the ILRB determines impasse was reached." (Page 36)

ORIGINAL STORY at 6:26 P.M.:

WSIL -- The Illinois Fourth District Appellate Court today vacated the Illinois State Labor Relations Board (ISLRB) fining that there was an impasse in negotiations between Governor Bruce Rauner and the AFSCME Council 31, and remanded the case to the board.

The contract dispute between the union and the state dates back to early 2016

The three-judge panel today said the ISLRB was "clearly erroneous" on several points when it backed Governor Bruce Rauner's January 2016 claim of an impasse in negotiations between the Rauner administration and AFSCME Council 31 -- the largest union representing frontline state employees.

"Refusing to negotiate in good faith and trying to impose his extreme demands are part of a pattern of behavior for Bruce Rauner. Instead of doing his job as governor, his overriding goal has been to weaken unions, especially those in the public service," AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. "Today the court backs up what we've said all along, there never was an impasse. The Rauner administration should immediately come back to the bargaining table with our union instead of wasting more taxpayer money on losing litigation."

The labor board was wrong to depart from its usual practice in determining the question of impasse and to do so without offering any explanation, the appellate panel found.

If the labor board had followed precedent of the past 30 years, "the parties would not be at overall impasse", the judges wrote. Thus, "the ILRB's conclusion … was in error."

The court also found that the Rauner administration violated labor law by failing to provide AFSCME with information it requested pertaining to subjects of bargaining. "Parties may not claim a lawful impasse if they have failed to provide information considered relevant to those issues upon which they disagree because this effectively frustrates the bargaining process," the judges wrote.

The case stems from contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union in which Rauner made an array of extreme demands, including no pay increase for state workers for four years, a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would cost the average worker thousands of dollars a year, and a free hand to privatize public services without oversight.

The Rauner administration walked away from negotiations on Jan. 8, 2016, declaring that the two parties were at impasse and asking the labor board—whose members Rauner appoints—to give it the power to unilaterally impose the terms of its final offer.

AFSCME strongly disputed that the parties were at impasse and repeatedly sought to restart good-faith negotiations.

The union appealed the board decision to the appellate court, which ruled for AFSCME today.

Today's ruling follows a unanimous November 2017 decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court which found that Rauner broke the law by blocking pay plan progression for the newest-hired state workers since July 2015. The Rauner administration has still not complied with that ruling.

We have reached out to Governor Rauner for a response, but have not yet heard back.

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