State Senate Overrides Rauner Veto of Contract Arbitration Bill

August 19, 2015

The Illinois Senate has rebuked Governor Bruce Rauner in his labor negotiations with the state's biggest government-employee union.

After months of negotiations have failed to reach an agreement, unions want legislation (Senate Bill 1229) that would let an arbitrator resolve intractable disputes. (One of the bill's House co-sponsors is St. Rep. Carol Ammons (D-Urbana).

Rauner vetoed it, saying it would tie his hands.

He also promised not to lock workers out. But Sen. Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), says the real fear is that Rauner will demand workers accept "completely unreasonable" terms.

"He will force a strike with no alternative, and then he will fire every state employee”, said Harmon, “just like Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers."

Democrats and one Republican — Sen. Sam McCann of Carlinville — voted to override the governor.

"We oftentimes tend to treat the state employees not only as a ping-pong ball, but we also treat them as children in the other room at Thanksgiving”, said McCann, “and we think about what we might allow them to have this season, or not."

McCann's district includes parts of Springfield, and his constituents include thousands of state employees.

In a statement, Governor Rauner called on the Illinois House to uphold his veto, and said "every Senator who voted to overturn our veto chose special interests over the taxpayers".

And a news release from a coalition of labor unions quoted American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch as saying, "public service workers want to be treated fairly, they don’t want to be forced out on strike, and today’s vote is a strong step in the right direction.”

It remains to be seen whether Democrats in the Illinois House — and possibly a few Republicans — will vote to override the governor's veto. Democrats have a smaller majority in the House than in the Senate.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio