Rauner Vetoes Arbitration Legislation, Sending Governor vs. Labor Fight To New Round

May 16, 2016

AFSCME Council 31 members
Credit AFSCME Council 31

A dispute involving labor and a majority of lawmakers on one side, and Gov. Bruce Rauner on the other, is playing on repeat. On Monday, Rauner vetoed legislation backed by AFSCME for the second time in a year.

The legislation may sound innocuous to those not directly impacted.

It would send contract disputes (like one that's going on now) between the Illinois's largest public employees union and the state, to a binding arbitrator, who is supposed to be neutral.

But to Rauner it's "stunning, its atrocious legislation."

Rauner says it takes away his ability to negotiate on taxpayers' behalf, and puts AFSCME members on a path to costing the state an extra $3 billion.

"I've been fairly clear that is a terrible piece of legislation, basically takes away my ability to do my job as governor, to represent and negotiation on behalf of taxpayers of the state," he said last week."

But AFSCME's leader says Rauner is making "false claims and wild exaggerations" about the bill.

AFSCME Director Roberta Lynch says Rauner is against the bill because it "would require him to be moderate and seek compromise. He wants his way or no way at all."

She says Rauner wants AFSCME members to agree to paying double the current cost for healthcare.

A state labor judge is currently deciding whether Rauner and AFSCME are so far apart in contract talks there is no point in further negotiating.

Should Rauner win and an impasse is declared, Lynch writes that "the governor could impose his demands and leave state employees no choice but to strike. That’s exactly what Rauner as a candidate vowed to do."

Legislators in March failed to override Rauner's last veto of a nearly identical arbitration bill, and a try this time could be even closer.

The bill's not only a big deal to the unions; it's become viewed as a sort of political loyalty test. Two Republican lawmakers - including Sen. Sam McCann, who later faced a well-funded primary challenge after also having voted for the initial version - helped Democrats to pass it.