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AFSCME wins another appellate case against Rauner administration

Thursday, Nov 9, 2017

* A unanimous decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court

The petitioner, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (AFSCME), appeals a decision of the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) dismissing its unfair labor charge against the State of Illinois Department of Central Management Services (CMS). The charge challenged a policy requiring employees to pay the entire cost of their health insurance premiums for any pay period during which they go on strike, even if they are not on strike for the entire pay period. The charge was dismissed without a hearing. AFSCME argues that the ILRB abused its discretion because AFSCME presented sufficient evidence to warrant a hearing on its claims that (1) the policy was a unilateral change to a term of employment instituted at a time when the parties were in negotiations for a new contract and (2) the policy improperly threatened to penalize employees for lawfully exercising their right to strike. […]

In June 2015, while the parties were in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, CMS posted a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on its website. One of the questions concerned the payment of health insurance premiums for employees who go on strike. […]

Q. Will striking employees still receive health insurance?
A. Yes, but striking employees will be responsible for the full cost of their health insurance, including the amount normally contributed by the State on behalf of the employee. If striking employees miss any day during the pay period due to being on strike, they will be sent a bill for the full cost of their coverage. […]

AFSCME argued that the policy discriminates against employees for going on strike, an activity protected under the Labor Relations Act, because it treats striking employees differently from other employees who go on unpaid leave. […]

CMS noted that an employer is not required to subsidize a strike… CMS argued that the policy concerning health insurance premiums was no different from the policy concerning wages. Finally, CMS argued that the policy expressed in the FAQ was not a new policy and therefore did not change a term or condition of employment during contract negotiations. […]

In this case, there is no dispute that health insurance is a term of employment that is covered under the parties’ collective bargaining agreements. The question is whether the policy described in the FAQ represents a change in policy that occurred during contract negotiations… (T)he documentary evidence available does not conclusively answer the salient question. […]

We next consider AFSCME’s argument that the policy acts as a threat to dissuade employees from striking. AFSCME argues that the ILRB ignored recognized principles of law in concluding that the policy was not coercive and dismissing the claim. We agree. […]

The issue in this case is the denial of a benefit before and after a strike. […]

In short, the ILRB overlooked the distinction between informing employees that a benefit will be lawfully withheld during a strike and threatening to unlawfully withhold a benefit from employees before and after a strike. We find that by ignoring this distinction, the ILRB ignored a recognized principle of law. […]

(W)e reverse the order of the ILRB dismissing the unfair labor charge without a hearing, and we remand for further proceedings

* From AFSCME…

We’ve always said that state workers shouldn’t have to strike in order to achieve a fair contract. But this ruling makes clear that in that eventuality, the Rauner administration can’t violate the law and intimidate employees from freely exercising their rights.

I’ve asked the Rauner administration for a response.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

39 Comments »
  1. - Fake Bruce R - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    From : Bruce
    To: Roberta, Rich Miller et.al
    Subj: Response to Court Ruling

    …..because Madigan…


  2. - Ron - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:32 am:

    Not a single raise needs to be the end all of any future negotiation until we ween public employees off pensions.


  3. - wordslinger - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:34 am:

    –A. Yes, but striking employees will be responsible for the full cost of their health insurance, including the amount normally contributed by the State on behalf of the employee.–

    I guess that would make the first 2.5 years of the Rauner Era “abnormal,” as those contributions weren’t made by the state.

    Works for me.


  4. - Illdoc - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:35 am:

    One more time, no changes to pensions can be made for existing employees……….


  5. - RNUG - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:36 am:

    AFSCME has had a couple of good weeks in the courts.


  6. - jim - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    5th district very hospitable environment for the unions.


  7. - California Guy - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:37 am:

    Can some one explain this? Are AFSCME members now allowed to strike while receiving full-boat health insurance? If that’s the case, why wouldn’t they also get full-boat salary benefits?


  8. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:38 am:

    “One more time, no changes to pensions can be made for existing employees……….”

    Ron believes if he says it long enough that will change. Kind of like Rauner.


  9. - Perrid - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    Seems like a pretty small distinction (though necessary). I bet they try to prorate it for the month the strike starts (if they can; I’m not sure the state’s computers could actually do that) and then it should be on the employee after.


  10. - ANon - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:54 am:

    Rauner spokesperson: “today Mike Madigan and the corrupt Illinois 5th District Appellate Court he controls dealt another blow to the taxpayers and upheld the status quo…. what, I’m fired? Okay.”


  11. - RNUG - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:58 am:

    == Seems like a pretty small distinction ==

    Big legal cases rest on small distinctions like that.

    Plus courts tend to take a dim view of actions that could be perceived as threats creating a hostile work environment.


  12. - Fixer - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 11:58 am:

    If I’m wrong, please someone correct me. If an employee is in no pay status for 30 days, that is when they would need to begin picking up the full cost of those premiums. The Rauner administration’s argument was that cost should be incurred from the first day the employees are in no pay status.

    And Ron, if you want that change, get the constitution changed or offer a truly voluntary option for the change. Otherwise it’s just more wasted money on court cases.


  13. - NoGifts - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:03 pm:

    It was intended to punish strikers by charging them an entire month of insurance cost (employee+employer contribution) even if they only went on strike one day! “If striking employees miss any day during the pay period due to being on strike, they will be sent a bill for the full cost of their coverage. “


  14. - Da Big Bad Wolf - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:04 pm:

    ==Not a single raise needs to be the end all of any future negotiation until we ween public employees off pensions.==
    Good luck hiring future employees.


  15. - DeseDemDose - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:13 pm:

    Could Ron be Rauner


  16. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:14 pm:

    Rauner is fighting a useless, needless and harmful war against thousands of state employees, and he’s losing in key areas. This is what is called good management and governance worthy of reelection? No way.

    But then again, state government is less important to Rauner than national RtW and dealing the entire left wing in America a “mortal blow.”


  17. - Shake - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:20 pm:

    AFSCME 5. Rauner-0.


  18. - SaulGoodman - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:33 pm:

    **Not a single raise needs to be the end all of any future negotiation until we ween public employees off pensions.**

    Not sure what this word garble means… but it appears that you believe in magic beans.


  19. - Iggy - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:34 pm:

    its a good thing that the general public is on AFSCME’s side and they will see this as a positive thing for the fiscal state of Illinois… oh wait.


  20. - Illdoc - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:43 pm:

    What’s being discussed is the legal aspect. “The Public” wants as much as possible for as little as possible. But of course if it effects them then……


  21. - Hmmm - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 12:59 pm:

    Looks like AFSCME will also win getting this negotiation to arbitration as governor has clearly been negotiating in bad faith.


  22. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Iggy:

    The law doesn’t care what the general public thinks.


  23. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:29 pm:

    ==until we ween public employees off pensions==

    At least you’ve admitted your goal. No public pensions. You really need to get a life.


  24. - Ron - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    “Good luck hiring future employees.”

    That will save quite a bit of money. That’s the goal.


  25. - Ron - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    Demoralized, I have never hid from the fact that public employee pensions are an abomination in IL.


  26. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:43 pm:

    === I have never hid===

    lol


  27. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    There’s something wrong with people who hold such a hateful opinion of their neighbors who serve through government that they believe public employees didn’t pay their required amount for their pensions.


  28. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    Yeah, I know. Hence the get a life comment.

    Your irrational hatred of public employees is just sad.


  29. - Cubs in '16 - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:44 pm:

    ===5th district very hospitable environment for the unions.===

    5th district very hospitable environment for insuring existing labor laws are upheld. The law is the law.


  30. - Ron - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:47 pm:

    I don’t hate anyone. I hate that horrible deals can be made that can’t be changed. Illinois is an economic basket case that ever increasing taxes will destroy.


  31. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:51 pm:

    It’s kind of fun to listen to your juvenile temper tantrums, though I think I’d like a refund for the circus act that only has a one trick pony in it.


  32. - Demoralized - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 1:56 pm:

    This ruling doesn’t surprise me. The tact that the administration took couldn’t be viewed as anything else besides a threat.


  33. - A State Employee Guy - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 2:07 pm:

    Just a reminder that the court did not say that it WAS against the law for CMS to do this, but simply that the labor board needs to give the union a hearing.


  34. - Ghost - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 3:11 pm:

    Rauner fight with labor has little actual state benefit; more of a vendetta. It’s generating a lot of bad blow back and is becoming a self inflicted wound.


  35. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    Freedom shmeedom. Rauner and other super-rich don’t care about employee freedom to join a union. They want to bleed unions of money so they don’t have the resources to fight back in court and win.

    “Your irrational hatred of public employees is just sad.”

    Not only that, but the refusal to blame Rauner, who’s profited from public employee pensions for decades. It’s about blaming the people who live paycheck to paycheck, not the multimillionaire who trashes collectivism and is supposed to be a conservative savior but has had a huge position at the public trough. Rauner said in 2011, sitting next to Pritzker, that the private equity business is “relatively flush” with public employee pension funds.


  36. - Anonymous - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 3:23 pm:

    A state employee guy, who I suspect is a mgmt. plant, obviously isn’t a lawyer. Well, I am, and yes, the court is saying what CMS did was illegal and that ILRB needs to find it so in a hearing.


  37. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 3:49 pm:

    The trick here is to get and keep the Administration anti-AFSCME and keep it fresh so all members are constantly reminded how Rauner needs a Quinn lesson… because as bad as Quinn was… and even Madigan was… Rauner wants labor wholly eliminated.

    These type of events should be things to easily remind


  38. - Generic Drone - Thursday, Nov 9, 17 @ 4:20 pm:

    And the state wonders why it has a teacher shortage. Its these types of issue with the administration that shows how Rauner feels about state employees and teachers.


  39. - A State Employee Guy - Monday, Nov 13, 17 @ 12:47 pm:

    If anyone in this comment thread has Anon as their lawyer, I would advise firing him/her/they immediately.


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