* One cannot simply snap one’s fingers and reopen a union contract…
Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno today called on Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn to renegotiate the state’s contract with its largest employee union, saying workers should give up scheduled pay raises in the face of an ongoing budget mess.
Radogno’s comments came after a speech hosted by the City Club of Chicago in which she said unions, particularly the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, must make sacrifices to help get Illinois out of the red.
“I don’t want to be anti-union, hostile or whatever, but when you add up what these raises have been… that’s a problem,” Radogno told reporters. “Particularly when you stack that up against the average person, who is struggling and thankful they have a job and haven’t had raises.” […]
“It has to be a function of the executive branch, they are in control of that contract,” Radogno said. “But I would stand with Pat Quinn and try to support him in doing that. He needs to do that. We need to do that for the people of the state.”
You can apply public pressure all you want, but the union has to agree to reopen the contract. They did it last year, when Quinn threatened facility closures and layoffs, but they got a no-layoff and no-closure deal out of him in exchange for helping him find millions in budget cuts. The governor claims that he’s been able to get $200 million in concessions, etc. so far, but his ammo is pretty much gone unless they try something new. What else do they have? Pensions? Yeah, but state employee unions cannot by law negotiate on that topic.
In other words, the state is likely stuck with that contract until it expires next year unless AFSCME decides otherwise.
* The big Sun-Times front page headline today was all about how Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel had issued a threat to unions. The threat is actually old news. He’s been saying the same thing for months, mainly that he wants a longer school day. But, guess what? The CTU agrees a longer day is needed, although you have to skip way down in the piece to find it…
[Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis] agreed with the mayor-elect that Chicago needs a longer school day. The only question is, how schools would use the extra time.
“One of the things we want to make sure is that we have professional development built into the day and that we also have a full, rich curriculum that includes art, music, recess, p.e., history and science for all students,” Lewis said.
Pressed on what the union wants in return, Lewis said, “We’re not having that discussion yet. We don’t make backroom deals. We have a different way of doing it. The conversation we need to have is what that [longer day] will look like.”
As for Emanuel’s threat to ask Springfield to mandate a longer day if the CTU won’t agree to it at the bargaining table, she said, “I guess my question is, why do we need to threaten one another? Can we start by having a conversation without threats? We’re reasonable people.”
I guess it’s news that the mayor-elect is being Mr. Tough Guy, but getting the CTU to agree to a longer school day has been sought for years. An opening like this is pretty significant. The question now becomes if Emanuel can take advantage of it.
* In other news, Gov. Pat Quinn and Caterpillar’s CEO have scheduled a press conference for this morning. I’ll post something when I know something.
* McCormick Place will operate under labor changes, at least for now
* CS-T: Share the pain in workers comp plan
* Legislator: UI appropriation likely less than Quinn’s budget: Following the more than 4-hour-long hearing, Hogan said the university could survive another budget cut next year.
* Illinois lawmakers debate rights for pregnant workers: But in a state where Republicans argue the business climate is already among the worst in the nation, the proposed law could add more potential for unwarranted court battles for businesses.
* FutureGen still has hurdles to clear
* Illinois House reduces pension benefits for judges, lawmakers
* Lawmaker Wants Illinois to Bail Out Prepaid Tuition Program: A West Suburban Republican legislator says College Illinois’s prepaid tuition program mislead tens of thousands of families. Now that it faces a shortfall of more than $300 million, he says the General Assembly should bail out investors. About 55,000 current or future college students count on the funds.
* Mental health community asks legislators to halt cuts
* Bellwood digs $40 million hole for taxpayers, has no new Metra station to show for it - All-in plans for a redefining Metra station leave Bellwood in a lurch