Fight over Prison Closures Heads to Courtrooms
By Brian Mackey
The legal fight between Gov. Pat Quinn and the union that represents prisons workers continues this week, and it will be in courtrooms at opposite ends of the state.
Gov. Quinn had wanted the prisons closed by last Friday. Instead that day an arbitrator said the administration violated its contract with the prison workers' union by moving to close the facilities before they had finished "impact bargaining."
The arbitrator said the Quinn administration should not have rushed to close the Tamms supermax prison and the women's prison at Dwight to save money. He also wants to close two youth detention centers and several other correctional facilities.
Union spokesman Anders Lindall said the rush to close these facilities before bargaining wrapped up meant workers could have been laid off without knowing whether they could transfer to another job, and be forced to move their families or sell a home.
“All of those things had not been decided, and yet the state was rushing forward to try to clear out the facilities and close them,” Lindall said.
The state had argued that the union shouldn’t be able to delay the closures, which the administration said are critical to getting Illinois’ finances in order. However, the arbitrator disagreed, and gave the parties 30 days to keep bargaining.
Both sides immediately went to court: the union to keep the administration from rushing to close the facilities before bargaining is finished; and the administration to try to get the arbitrator’s ruling overturned.