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Unions and reality

Tuesday, Apr 5, 2011

* 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.

* Related…

* 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

- Posted by Rich Miller        


19 Comments
  1. - Plutocrat03 - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 9:56 am:

    So sad that Bellwood’s officials decided that they can be developers as well as politicians. What were they thinking? $40 mil for a Metra Station complex for a town of 16K? Parking structures, condos, stores…. These folks should be held personally liable for playing developer with the public’s money.

    Repeat after me. When government tries to muscle into areas well served by private enterprise, they will fail big time. If a project look too good to be true and private developers are not working on it, you have been sold a bill of goods.


  2. - Fed up - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:03 am:

    Rich what Quinn got for the no lay off pledge was a union endorsement and needed campaign cash. It was pure pay to play.

    The city schools need a longer school day and a longer school year I expect a small increase in class time nothing significant but Rahm and the teachers will claim it’s a huge
    step forward.


  3. - cassandra - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:11 am:

    It isn’t that long until 2012 so maybe this is opening rhetoric on Radogno’s part. Good for her.

    It would be nice to see a list of those $200 million in savings though. Governor Pat tends to fib about fiscal matters so some documentation would be useful. Otherwise, I’d assume a lot less than $200 million. $20 million maybe? Ah, we Illinoisians. We’ll believe anything.

    I assume the negotiations for the 2012 contract start fairly soon? Or maybe Jan 2012. In any case, that’s where we really need sunlight. Governor Pat is heavily, heavily indebted to AFSCME. The new contract will be his opportunity to reward them with goodies like big raises, more generous health benefits, and, of course, an extended no-layoff agreement.Lifetime jobs for state workers is a huge benefit in the competitive global economy, far more valuable than pre-recession-. Negotiations will occur during a presidential campaign in which the Dems nationally are seeking labor’s support. This is not good news for Illinois taxpayers and very bad news for keeping the income tax increase temporary.


  4. - Small Town Liberal - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:13 am:

    - It was pure pay to play. -

    Yes Fed up, you’re obviously a better journalist than Rich. I expect the feds to beat down Quinn’s door any moment.


  5. - Steve Bartin - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:41 am:

    A contract is a contract. Rahm Emanuel has to deal with the hand he’s dealt. Chicago is a union town. However, with a declining population Rahm could talk about closing dozens of schools. Sure, many parents will be upset. But, many people paying property taxes in Chicago don’t have kids in the CPS system. Chicago has less children than 10 years ago. School closures are coming: with or without union help.


  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:51 am:

    Radogno’s tone and argument are more reasonable than the Tea Party stuff coming from the august Civic Committee.

    I heard a second radio spot today that just flatly states that in Illinois “classrooms are overcrowded and businesses are leaving” because of public employee pensions and that “95% of us pay higher taxes to support the other 5%.”

    Pretty Foxy, simple-minded stuff from Illinois business and academic establishments.


  7. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:54 am:

    The unions have worked to help the situation with the $200 million savings, they didn’t create the problem, it was Radogno and her cohorts that created it over their inability to govern.
    What has the Legislators done to help out? Lets see……
    They set their furlough days based on a 365 day work year (not bad for a part time job) while union and mc were based on a 240 day. OH they got thier raises last year too.


  8. - phocion - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 10:59 am:

    How exactly did the unions “save” the state $200 million? Seriously, I’d like the details.


  9. - Bill - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:00 am:

    I don’t think that the union was ever against a longer school day. They just wanted to be paid for the extra work. Their salaries lag behind most suburbs in the area now. The new leaders of the CTU are trying to take a positive approach. If Rahm tries the tough guy approach he is famous for and tries to negotiate in the press he will be in for a very unpleasant lesson in humility. It is up him to set the tone. Nobody in the union is scared of Rahmbo.


  10. - the Patriot - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:07 am:

    You cannot reopen the contracts but you can elimiate the positions. The legislature has the power to cut the budget and force the governor to get the concessions or make layoffs. If the Gov chooses layoffs he has to choose between union workers or the high paid adminstrative cronies he and Blago have hired.

    The problem is, it is not the Gov’s call. It is Madigans. He will give Quinn the money because he wants to keep his pockets full of union money. He does not have to balance the budget because he knows the AG won’t enforce the constitution.

    When this state chose to re-elect Pat Quinn and support legislators that will line up behind a dictator in Mike Madigan they sealed our fate.


  11. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:08 am:

    ===because he wants to keep his pockets full of union money.===

    AFSCME didn’t give him a dime last year. What planet do you live on?


  12. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    Isn’t the City Club of Chicago made up of a bunch of CEO’s of big companies? Nothing like someone making multimillion dollars per year trying to institute cuts against people making under $100K/year.


  13. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:17 am:

    The US school system ranks 53 among industrialized nations, our kids rank in the 20 percentile range in math and science, and the Chicago Teacher’s Union states that “a longer school day could have a full, rich curriculum that includes art, music, recess, p.e., history and science for all students.” Hello School Union - get your priorities straight. At least you said science but come on - focus!


  14. - 32nd Ward Roscoe Village - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:17 am:

    Well, the short school day in Chicago is why my kids go to a private school that has two hours more a day of instruction but I know many people cannot afford that. I would love not to pay that tuition.


  15. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:21 am:

    Pluto, like some other near West suburban governments, Bellwood has a rather colorful, storied history. They’re not Big Government types as a political philosophy, if you catch my meaning.

    Some friends of theirs made out quite well on the project, so it hasn’t been a total loss in some minds.


  16. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 11:28 am:

    –The US school system ranks 53 among industrialized nations,–

    Where’s that come from? I don’t think there are 53 industrialized nations. Most lists you see contain a max of about 30.


  17. - steve schnorf - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 12:48 pm:

    AFSCME doesn’t make many concessions, mid-contract or not. Go back, look, and give me a list of ones where they came out net-minus.

    I don’t necessarily agree with their approach. They have in the past been willing to sacrifice a smaller number of their members to preserve raises, etc for the greater number. I never thought that was really brotherhood/sisterhood. But. I’m not them, and most important of all, remember their leadership runs for election, so the numbers count big time.


  18. - Walter Mitty - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 4:27 pm:

    Bill 100% correct. And how does Rhamie plan to pay for this?

    Rahmie is going to learn that being an executive is much harder than being a legislator (or being the advisor to an executive for that matter).


  19. - Demoralized - Tuesday, Apr 5, 11 @ 4:39 pm:

    @the Patriot:

    Unfortunately, your logic is completely flawed. The General Assembly can choose not to fully fund positions but the Governor still cannot get rid of anybody in the union. There is an agreement not to. Given the state’s record in court I will guarantee you that everyone will be on the payroll and get their paycheck, regardless. A court can order a state to do a lot of things. Given than there are barely any non-union staff left you are not going to get any savings in personnel until the contract expires.

    Also, it’s not up to the Attorney General to “enforce” anything in this instance. Somebody would have to sue the state for violationg the Constitution and the Attorney General would be responsible for defending the state. That is the Attorney General’s job.


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