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Madigan Says Dems Didn’t Defect During Rauner Override Vote; No Sign of Impasse Evolving

Madigan Rauner AFSCME

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This month, the Illinois House of Representatives failed to overturn Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill which would have provided arbitration as an alternative to a strike or lockout if an impasse is declared in negotiations between the state and its workers.  Three Democrats appeared to buck the party line, siding with Rauner and all Republicans.  Rauner has stated in the past that he would use his personal fortune to mount primary challenges to any Republican who refused to comply.  During his election bid Rauner promised to break unions if necessary.  

In These Times writer David Moberg notes:

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 had promoted legislation that would have offered the alternative of arbitration in contract negotiations if bargaining reached an impasse and prohibited strikes and lockouts over the next four years in response to Rauner’s overt anti-union strategy. Rauner campaigned as an admirer of neighboring Gov. Scott Walker, who decimated public employee union power in Wisconsin in 2011. “I may have to take a strike and shut down the government a few weeks to redo everybody’s contract,” Rauner has stated.

Union strategists thought Rauner would declare an impasse in bargaining, force a strike by the union, then try to break the union. The governor gave them reason to worry. He has argued that enacting a budget would require stripping some rights of workers to bargain collectively, and his administration has contacted retirees about potential service as strikebreakers and begun preparations for mobilizing the National Guard.

Speaker of the House Michael Madigan provided the following explanation for the Democrats’ defection:

Democratic Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago was absent on a trip to New York, and Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood said he never committed to a “yes” vote and voted against the measure.

Democratic Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo voted present. Madigan needed 71 votes to override Rauner, but only 68 House Democrats voted for it, so the governor’s veto of the labor bill stood.

After the defeat, Madigan contended that if all 71 Democratic members had shown up for the vote, they would have overcome Rauner’s veto. Madigan restated that Tuesday night.

“Over the last several weeks, I worked with various interested stakeholders to gather support in the House to override the governor’s veto. During that time, every Democratic member of the House gave a commitment either to me or to these various groups that they would vote in favor of the override,” Madigan said.

“Leading up to the vote, Reps. Dunkin and Drury, who had both previously voted for the bill, told members and representatives of labor that they would support the override motion. Even with Rep. Dunkin’s absence, we called the bill for a vote at the request of the bill’s sponsor and AFSCME Council 31,” Madigan said.

No matter the motive, the failure to override the veto sets up a potentially game-changing situation for AFSCME and its more than 37,000 members in state government.  Rauner wants changes to employee health care that would equate to a five percent pay cut. The pay cut, however, is not the major issue. Rauner has taken steps to dismantle the entire institution of unions in a style similar to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (who is making anti-union headlines all over again in his pursuit of the presidency).  Negotiators for Rauner want to expand the management rights clause, restrict the filing of grievances, eliminate all restrictions on subcontracting and privatization, eliminate union dues check-off, eliminate seniority rights during layoffs, and eliminate the requirement to bargain about changes in working conditions.  

Labor Day weekend was a vocal moment for AFSCME members. AFSCME Council 31 President Lori Gladson argued that the governor’s rationale for vetoing the arbitration legislation was flawed:

“The Governor still had all his power and rights to bargain faithfully with us. They made it out to be a Republican and Democrat thing and it’s not supposed to be that way.”


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