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Question of the day

Thursday, Mar 1, 2012

* The setup

llinois lawmakers would have a big role in labor negotiations with public employee unions if legislation sponsored by state Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, becomes law.

Senate Bill 3777 would require legislative approval of any contract or labor agreement reached between the state and a union. If the legislature rejects the agreement, the agency and the union would go back to the negotiating table.

Brady said Illinois has been burned by unilateral negotiations between the governor and labor unions.

“We need to bring transparency in an agreement so the General Assembly knows what it’s being bound to,” Brady said.

The law would sunset after Gov. Pat Quinn’s term ends. House Speaker Michael Madigan has introduced a resolution to cap state employee wage hikes.

* The Question: Do you support the concept of giving the General Assembly veto power over public employee labor contracts? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please. Thanks.


- Posted by Rich Miller        


56 Comments
  1. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:32 am:

    Yes, but with certain limits. The legislature should not be micromanaging day to day union affairs, but should approve the final contract agreement when it involves wages and benefits over a period of years. Since the legislature ultimately has to come up with the money to pay for the agreement, it should have some say so in the negotiations.


  2. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    No, this seems like a separation of powers issue. If the Governor signs too large of a labor agreement, he has to live with the consequences in his budget and find savings elsewhere to make up the difference. That’s what executives do.

    This is a labor-management issue and the Governor, as executive, is the management. Why add a third layer to what is already a difficult negotiation process?


  3. - Pot calling kettle - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:33 am:

    I voted no. I think the GA needs to be involved in setting some of the parameters, but the negotiations are the role of the executive. Do they want a seat at the table with all contracts? That could be justified by citing Rod’s malfeasance.

    Snarky aside: The GA has trouble agreeing on how much their own pay should be, why on earth would we want them negotiating contracts with state workers?


  4. - Ncomprendo - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:35 am:

    Legislative =/= Executive

    Sorry, Bill, you lost.


  5. - lollinois - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:42 am:

    I’m conflicted because I wish the law wasn’t targeted at unions in particular. I also think there should be a supermajority required to undo
    a state contract, so that the power can’t be used for purely political reasons. And I think the law should be worded such that the legislature has to act to disapprove of a contract, rather than have to act to approve of it (in other words a contract doesn’t require approval, it stands unless the legislature strikes it down.)

    Ultimately I voted yes because of the way the question was worded but I’m not sure I’d support the specific bill under consideration.


  6. - DeKalb Dragon - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:42 am:

    The legislature is not equipped to micromanage every contract negotiated between the union and the state. It seems it would also make it more difficult for negotiators who would have to factor in getting a contract past the legislature.


  7. - walter sobchak - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:42 am:

    Seems to make far too much sense to actually be enacted.


  8. - Northsider - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:43 am:

    Every labor contract held hostage to political chicanery and malfeasance? No thanks.


  9. - zatoichi - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:52 am:

    I can drift to both sides of this, but I come back to the serious state of finances. The GA and Gov’s office need to work together to solve the problem since actions by both groups sure helped create the problem. The usual solution of pointing fingers and kicking the can just do not work. If they continue to work with minimal cooperation, nothing will get solved. Schnorf’s pain analogy applies to the GA and Gov too. Work together and figure it out or get someone else in who can.


  10. - cassandra - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:52 am:

    It sounds like a good idea, because it often seems as if Illinois residents collectively are not well represented in these negotiations, although the governor and the state bureaucrats who deal with labor negotiations are supposed to be representing us.

    Nevertheless, do we want the legislature involved when we know that labor unions contribute large sums not only to the governor but also to select legislators in order to advance their interests. Seems like a frying pan to fire option.

    We need a tougher governor, tougher negotiators at CMS, and we need to pay a lot more attention to what is going on way before we are presented with a fait accompli-a signed labor contract locking us in for four years.

    Speaking of which, this spring AFSCME and the state will be negotiating the next 4-yr contract which is supposed to start July 1. What’s happening with that. Will the no-layoff agreement be extended another four years? What kind of raises is the state looking at. What kind of work rule changes. What kind of benefit enhancements. Our legislators should be informing themselves and keeping us informed. Are they?


  11. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:53 am:

    I agree with every reason given above by everyone else who voted no.


  12. - Wensicia - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:57 am:

    Next, they’ll want to put public labor contracts on the ballot. No, adding more people to the process is not better.


  13. - lincoln's beard - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    No. If the legislature has ideas about how negotiations between the Governor and the labor unions representing public employees should go, it should pass a bill enacting its requirements and conditions into law, instructing the Governor to apply those principles and to stay within the limits set by the legislature in advance. Subjecting state contracts to a legislative veto is not consonant with the separation of powers in the Illinois Constitution, and is likely to draw a court challenge, further complicating things.

    As a policy matter, it’s also a bad idea (most of the time), since neither side will be able to have any confidence in an agreement reached between the two parties. Either party can and likely will attempt to have negotiated provisions changed or blocked by the legislature.


  14. - muon - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 10:58 am:

    Cities require the council to approve contracts over a certain amount. The mayor (or city manager) can act on smaller contracts. If changed slightly I could see the suggested law mirroring the legislative oversight of executive branch contracts that exists in smaller units of government.


  15. - honest - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:01 am:

    I simply don’t trust any of the legislators’ standards or ability any more than the governor. Therefore having a greater number of incompetents involved just makes it worse.


  16. - SAP - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    Just tie merit comp and union raises to recommendations of Compensation Review Board. Whatever GA gets, public employees get.


  17. - TwoFeetThick - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    This is a terrible idea, unless the goal is to decimate civil service. What legislator is ever going to vote to give raises to all those lazy, bloated and parasitic guvment employees? This would fully politicize all aspects of public service, and would cripple the State’s ability to attract and retain quality employees. Total fail.


  18. - Bluefish - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:15 am:

    In other public bodies the union contracts usually require board approval since they are responsible for funding. This should be no different.


  19. - Kerfuffle - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:22 am:

    Where is the separation of power? The legislative branch has the power of the purse. The executive branch has the power to negotiate contracts. It seems to me that this legislation is overly intrusive on the powers of the executive branch and I question whether it would withstand a court challenge.


  20. - mark walker - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:34 am:

    A really stupid idea to have the Legislature get involved in all the choices in a labor agreement. Do we really want our legislators to argue, speechify, and make deals over each contract’s grievance procedures, promotions, firing and hiring, training, safety rules, what’s covered by health insurance for whom, etc, etc?

    There are already enough general regulations covering all labor contracts. The Legislature already has the power of the purse, which limits overall what the Executive can spend.

    That’s enough intrusion into the Executive sphere.


  21. - ah HA! - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:35 am:

    If this happens, the state employees will never get a contract. I see potential dead lock. Then I see the unfortunate potential of strikes, lockouts, etc. Bad idea.

    The contract is between the Union and Management–hence–The Governor–NOT assembly).


  22. - CircularFiringSquad - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:40 am:

    Generally we find the safest place to be is opposite any NoTaxBill position.
    AND no one believes the legis is capable of such negotiations…perhaps NTB should amend his bill to allow unions to organize the Senate GOPie staff and see how those contract talks go.


  23. - Irish - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 11:51 am:

    I voted no. The last thing we need is for the GA to get involved in something else they cannot handle.

    Speaker: ” Today we bring to the floor a bill that would agree to the terms of the contract with state employees.”

    Rep X: “Mr. speaker before we get into that I would like to move on my bill to establish the proper ratio of peanut butter to jelly in the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we offer in our school cafeterias.”

    Rep Y: “Mr. Speaker with deference to my esteemed collegue I feel it is more important to debate my bill that would make it unlawful to have white wall tires on any car in Cook County.”


  24. - AC - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:02 pm:

    State employees work for the governor, so it doesn’t make any sense for a third party to approve the contracts. Plus, excluding vendor contracts from this requirement seems odd. It sounds like Brady has an axe to grind, otherwise this proposed legislation wouldn’t have singled out a specific type of contract.


  25. - reformer - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:14 pm:

    It’s called checks and balances.

    Our governor already has wider powers than most of his counterparts. Sharing the power over contracts strikes me as a good idea regardless of the party of the governor.


  26. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:16 pm:

    For starters, while the Governor may be the “manager” of the state’s public employees, he is hardly the one-man embodiment of the “management.” These people work for all of us – the people of Illinois.

    If you want to think of this in corporate terms (which is problematic, but for the sake of argument….), a CEO is typically only allowed to give out raises within parameters determined by their Board of Directors. So while the GA may not need a seat at the table for every agency’s negotiations, they should have some role in the process.


  27. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:19 pm:

    “State employees work for the governor, so it doesn’t make any sense for a third party to approve the contracts”

    Wrong. State employees work for the people of Illinois. The governor shouldn’t have sole discretion over how they are compensated with OUR money!!


  28. - Left Leaner - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:20 pm:

    What an absolute disaster that would be, regardless of which party controls the legislature.


  29. - Objective Dem - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:34 pm:

    Yes. The legislative branch is equal partners with the executive branch therefore should have veto power when warranted.


  30. - AC - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:37 pm:

    grand old partisan, I’m going to try that argument the next time an order comes down to to my agency from the governors office. How do you think that will work for me? I suspect I could make the argument that some directives that have been given aren’t in the publics best interests.


  31. - Cook County Commoner - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:47 pm:

    No. And the approval of all state and local government employee contracts should be via a vote of the electorate in the government unit acting as employer. And I do accept quid pro quo contributions for my vote.


  32. - Louis G. Atsaves - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 12:55 pm:

    I’m willing to bet based on some of the comments I’m seeing here that if Senator Quinn were to propose such a bill limiting Governor Brady’s powers, or requiring legislative approval, a lot of the”no” votes would suddenly turn “yes.”


  33. - Peggy R/Southern - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:00 pm:

    Yes, with some restrictions. We don’t want the state operations to get bogged down, but we do need the people to have a voice, which is not being represented well. The legislature should vote up or down on a contract presented to it within a specified time frame, or it’s approved. The legislature cannot pass a revised contract. Some ideas, but yes, the legislature should have a say. It could be part of dept budget bills.


  34. - Wensicia - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:12 pm:

    @LGA,

    I don’t agree with your assessment on our comments.


  35. - jake - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:12 pm:

    I voted “no” but have a caveat. I serve on my City Council and our Council does in fact have a role in approving labor contracts. We meet with the Mayor and her staff and our negotiator periodically during negotiations and are regularly asked for input. These are closed door meetings, permitted under the Open Meetings Act because they are personnel matters. Our formal approval comes in an open meeting when we approve whatever budget amendment is necessitated by the agreement. This works well. If you wanted to extend it to the state, the way to do it would be to have a legislative committee meet periodically and closed-door with the Governor and his negotiators to provide input from the legislative side during negotiations. This would provide a legislative perspective, but not invite the chaos and political posturing that would be the result of the Brady bill.


  36. - D.P. Gumby - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:22 pm:

    Makes as much sense as putting everything to a referendum a la California. Each branch of government has its separate jobs and authority for a reason. Chaos made worse when one poaches on the other.


  37. - Lars - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:31 pm:

    This is another example of politicians carrying out the corporate agenda of eroding working people’s power. They destroyed the ability of private sector workers having a decent standard of living. Public employees are the last line of defense before we go back to the 19th century entirely. If public employees lose their bargaining power then all workers are hurt.


  38. - He Makes Ryan Look Like a Saint - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 1:46 pm:

    Only if the Unions can vote on what the pay should be for the elected officials and the legislature!!!


  39. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 2:01 pm:

    Interesting argument, but I suspect unconstitutional (supreme executive power and all). That said, Quinn signed pay raises and a no facility closure / no layoff agreement with AFSCME, if that’s truly enforceable, that ties the legislature’s appropriation power…

    If Quinn can lock the state into a financial deal that ties the legislature’s hands, shouldn’t the legislature get a say?

    Interesting argument, will be interested to see how it plays out.


  40. - Michelle Flaherty - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 2:22 pm:

    Not a big fan of the current gov, but not sure 177 govs is the answer. But I voted “yes” anyway because I’m an Illinois voter and my voting record isn’t supposed to make sense.


  41. - BubbaBilly - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 2:40 pm:

    No. You want people at the bargaining table with authority to bargain. If the Governor isn’t ultimately responsible, who is responsible - some committee head from a safe, union district? No, thank you.


  42. - Irish - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 2:41 pm:

    GOP @ 12:19 - So I should also have a seat at the table if it is “our” money that is paying my slalry then I should be able to negotiate with myself for a raise.

    If the GA gets a seat at the table for contract negotiations then ALL raises, including the ones for the governor’s staffers should go before the GA. Everybody in no one left out.


  43. - wordslinger - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:00 pm:

    Yes. I thought Louis Atsaves said it best right out of the box.

    In regards to separation of powers, I don’t see the issue. The governor as executive is the manager of the employees, but the GA, through the power of appropriation, is the paymaster.

    Interesting to see that Sen. Brady would sunset his proposed law after Quinn’s term — and presumably when Gov. Brady would take the reins.


  44. - John Bambenek - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:06 pm:

    What ever happened to the “subject to appropriation” lawsuit?


  45. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:14 pm:

    == “if it is “our” money that is paying my slalry (sic) then I should be able to negotiate with myself for a raise”

    I don’t understand your point. You are eligible to vote for Gov and GA, aren’t you?? So you’d have the same amount of voice at the table as every other tax-payer. Besides, chances are that your union contributed to the Gov’s re-election campaign. So as it stands, negotiating with just him is negotiating with youself, for all intents and purposes.

    == “I’m going to try that argument [that state employees work for the people, not the Governor]the next time an order comes down to to (sic) my agency from the governors office. How do you think that will work for me?”

    The point still stands. I have to follow the directives of my manager at the office, despite the fact that I may feel his decisions are in the best interests of the shareholders I ultimately work for, and the Board of Directors who set the parameters of my compensation package


  46. - grand old partisan - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:16 pm:

    sorry, that last line should say “I may feel his decisions are NOT…”


  47. - Realist? - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:47 pm:

    I voted yes as I have major issues with how things currently work in this State. Because of public employee union’s strength regarding money and organization in relation to campaigns, Governors are somewhat beholden to those they have to negotiate with. In order for a standing Governor to get a union endorsement, along with all that comes with that endorsement, past Governor’s have negotiated union friendly contracts. The Governor wins, the union wins, the tax payers often lose and the GA and future Governor’s are stuck paying for these contracts for years as every other contract starts with the last one. I don’t know if this bill is the answer, but there needs to be some other layer in the process to ensure the tax payers don’t get the short end of the stick.


  48. - Cal Skinner - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 3:54 pm:

    Why should the Executive Branch be exempt from a real check and balance on union contracts?


  49. - No Name Nick - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 4:21 pm:

    I think Mr brady is trying to set a trap for the Democrats. How is the legislature going to vote on this ? Like everything else: along party lines and then the republicans can start the finger pointing when things don’t go their way? Nice try Bill but a dumb idea.


  50. - JustaJoe - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 4:40 pm:

    I voted yes because I have seen how one way the so-called negotiations are. Agency managers never get even small things back to improve delivery of services and prevent abuses. State employees indeed work for the taxpayers and budgetary checks and balances are warranted.


  51. - Robert0117 - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 4:46 pm:

    We are already seeing legislators interfering with labor negotiations. If a University is taking a hardline on a contract, they can expect calls from Springfield telling them it is in their best interest to give in. The Unions donate millions to political campaigns and get their money’s worth.

    If anyone thinks legislative oversight of labor contracts is going to save the State money they are obviously new to Illinois.


  52. - Shemp - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 4:50 pm:

    City Councils approve local contracts, School Boards vote on teacher contracts, County Boards approve local contracts, why should the legislature not have the same authority?


  53. - Anonymous - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 6:04 pm:

    That’s what negotiations are for the union and the state of Ill. sit at tables and agree to what happens. They shouldn’t agree to anything they can’t stand behind.


  54. - State Worker - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 6:11 pm:

    If we ever have a contract with pictures written in crayon sure they can look at it…but until then let the process that has been working for over 30 years continue.


  55. - wishbone - Thursday, Mar 1, 12 @ 7:20 pm:

    The folks who pay the bills have to be at the table. This is much like the teacher pension issue. Everyone involved needs skin in the game.


  56. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Friday, Mar 2, 12 @ 8:07 am:

    Its a bad idea, but if Brady removes the sunset date i can live with it.

    I like someone else’s suggestion of capping state employee raises at whatever level of raises the GA gets. In fact, make it automatic.


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