* AFSCME Council 31 press release…
The Illinois State Labor Relations Board was “clearly erroneous” on several points when it backed Governor Bruce Rauner’s January 2016 claim of an impasse in negotiations between the Rauner administration and AFSCME Council 31—the largest union representing frontline state employees—a unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth District Appellate Court ruled today.
The appellate court vacated the labor board’s finding of impasse and remanded the case to the board.
“Refusing to negotiate in good faith and trying to impose his extreme demands are part of a pattern of behavior for Bruce Rauner. Instead of doing his job as governor, his overriding goal has been to weaken unions, especially those in the public service,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said. “Today the court backs up what we’ve said all along, there never was an impasse. The Rauner administration should immediately come back to the bargaining table with our union instead of wasting more taxpayer money on losing litigation.”
The labor board was wrong to depart from its usual practice in determining the question of impasse and to do so without offering any explanation, the appellate panel found.
If the labor board had followed precedent of the past 30 years, “the parties would not be at overall impasse”, the judges wrote. Thus, “the ILRB’s conclusion … was in error.”
The court also found that the Rauner administration violated labor law by failing to provide AFSCME with information it requested pertaining to subjects of bargaining. “[P]arties may not claim a lawful impasse if they have failed to provide information considered relevant to those issues upon which they disagree because this effectively frustrates the bargaining process,” the judges wrote.
The case stems from contract negotiations between the Rauner administration and the union in which Rauner made an array of extreme demands, including no pay increase for state workers for four years, a 100% hike in employee costs for health care that would cost the average worker thousands of dollars a year, and a free hand to privatize public services without oversight.
The Rauner administration walked away from negotiations on Jan. 8, 2016, declaring that the two parties were at impasse and asking the labor board—whose members Rauner appoints—to give it the power to unilaterally impose the terms of its final offer.
AFSCME strongly disputed that the parties were at impasse and repeatedly sought to restart good-faith negotiations.
The union appealed the board decision to the appellate court, which ruled for AFSCME today.
Today’s ruling follows a unanimous November 2017 decision from the Fifth District Appellate Court which found that Rauner broke the law by blocking pay plan progression for the newest-hired state workers since July 2015. The Rauner administration has still not complied with that ruling.
* From the ruling…
When CMS declared impasse, AFSCME representatives disagreed and reiterated many times the parties were not at an impasse. The Union was described in both sets of notes as aying it was “shocked and appalled” and had, or was working on, counters in those areas of alleged impasse. The Union went on to say that, earlier that day, it had accepted the State’s $1000 bonus proposal in the “Wages and Steps” package. In both sets of notes, the Union stated at least three times it did not believe the parties were at impasse and it was not done bargaining. This is of particular significance since in most instances where the NLRB has chosen to utilize the “single critical issue impasse test,” both parties have acknowledged their belief they were truly at impasse. Such is not the case here. Moreover, at no point in the negotiations, prior to declaring impasse, did CMS state it was near its bottom line. “The failure of a party to communicate to the other party the paramount importance of the proposals presented at the bargaining table or to explain that a failure to achieve concessions would result in a bargaining deadlock evidences the absence of a valid impasse.” Virginia Holding Corp., 293 N.L.R.B. 182, 183 (1989). For these and other reasons expressed herein, we do not believe the record adequately supports a finding of impasse.