Madison - St. Clair Record

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Jurisdiction must be settled before showdown between Rauner and unions can begin; Unfunded pension liability at $111 billion, governor says

By The Madison County Record | Apr 9, 2015


SPRINGFIELD – Before the great contest between Gov. Bruce Rauner and state employee unions can begin, judges must settle a great contest over jurisdiction.

A suit Rauner filed against the unions remains active in federal court at Chicago, and a suit the unions filed against Rauner remains active in St. Clair County circuit court.

Both suits pertain to an executive order that would prohibit unions from deducting payments from checks of state employees who do not belong to the unions.

Senior District Judge Robert Gettleman of the Northern District of Illinois presides over the federal suit.

As of April 7, no one presided over the St. Clair County suit. Circuit Judge Robert LeChien recused himself on that date, after Rauner moved for substitution.

In Illinois, any party can exercise a right of substitution once, if the judge has not made a substantive ruling.

Under current collective bargaining agreements, a state employee who chooses not to belong to a union must pay a “fair share” of union dues.

According to Rauner, 6,582 of 46,573 state employees choose fair share payments. That roughly equals one of every seven. Rauner also claims that deductions for some fair share employees amount to 99 percent of what regular union dues are.

While Rauner and the unions litigate in public view, they separately negotiate bargaining agreements that all expire on June 30.

Former Democrat governor Pat Quinn and the unions reached those agreements in 2012, when the prospect of Quinn losing to a Republican may have appeared remote.

Rauner defeated Quinn last November, after promising voters he would improve the state’s perilous financial condition.

He signed the order relieving state employees of fair share payments on Feb. 9, and petitioned the federal court in Chicago to declare the payments unconstitutional.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan opposed Rauner’s order, so Dennis Murashko of the governor’s office filed the suit.

He wrote that according to the U.S. Supreme Court, compelling support for a union impinged on First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

Murashko wrote that the unions must certify that fair share deductions do not exceed membership dues.

“The unions do not, however, provide an accounting of how these fees are calculated,” Murashko wrote.

Since 2004, the unions have negotiated wage increases of 80 percent, Murashko wrote. Over the same period of time, he added, inflation was 26 percent, and private sector wages increased 31 percent,

"[T]he compensation packages secured by unions have contributed to a staggering structural budget deficit," he wrote.

An employee earning an average annual salary of $38,979 over 26 years contributes $40,359 to the pension system but is entitled to receive $821,588 over a 20 year retirement, he wrote.

He wrote that pension costs in the current fiscal year exceed $7.5 billion, or 24 percent of state source general fund revenues.

He wrote that the unfunded pension liability exceeds $111 billion.

On March 5, the unions sued Rauner in St. Clair County.

“The order is patently illegal,” Joel D’Alba of Chicago wrote. “It is outside the governor’s authority under the Illinois Constitution.”

D'Alba wrote that more than 1,200 state employees work or live in St. Clair County.

He wrote that Rauner asked state comptroller Leslie Munger to create an escrow account for fair share payments, and she refused.

“Rauner then announced that the agencies in the executive branch would take action without the comptroller to implement the executive order,” D'Alba wrote.

“The express purpose of the executive order is to deprive the plaintiff unions of resources that they need for effective collective bargaining.”

Chief Judge John Baricevic assigned the suit to Circuit Judge Stephen McGlynn, but the unions moved for substitution and McGlynn granted it.

On March 10, Rauner removed the suit to federal court in East St. Louis.

Chief Judge Michael Reagan assigned it to District Judge Phil Gilbert, but Gilbert recused himself on March 16.

The suit bounced to District Judge Nancy Rosenstengel by random draw.

On March 17, the unions moved to remand the suit to St. Clair County. They also moved to accelerate the briefing schedule.

Rauner counsel Matthew Ford of Chicago opposed acceleration on March 20, asking for the normal 30 days to respond to the motion for remand.

Ford wrote that Rauner intended to move for transfer.

Rosenstengel recused herself on March 23, and the suit bounced to District Judge Staci Yandle by random draw.

Yandle didn’t accelerate the briefing. She ended it.

On the day she took the case, without giving Rauner a chance to respond to the motion for remand, she remanded the suit to St. Clair County.

Baricevic assigned LeChien. Rauner moved for substitution on March 31, and LeChien granted it a week later.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Madigan intervened on the side of the unions and moved to dismiss Rauner’s suit.

She wrote that federal court lacked jurisdiction and Rauner lacked standing.

Rauner did not oppose her intervention, and Gettleman granted it at a hearing on March 10.

Gettleman asked for briefs on jurisdiction and standing. He set a hearing May 14.

Union involvement

The roster of defendants in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s suit at federal court in Chicago captures the breadth and depth of union involvement in Illinois government:

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31
Teamsters Downstate Illinois State Employee Negotiating Committee
Teamsters Local 700, Cook County
Teamsters Local 705, Fox Valley
Teamsters Local 916, Springfield
International Union of Bakery, Confectionery, and Tobacco Workers, Lyons
International Brotherhood of Boiler Makers, Iron Shipbuilders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers, Chicago
Illinois State Brickworkers and Allied Craftworkers, Belleville
United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Chicago
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Darien
Service Employees International Union, Local 1, Firemen and Oilers, Chicago
International Union of United Food and Commercial Workers, Rosemont
Laborer’s International Union of North America, Chicago
International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, Burr Ridge
International Union of Operating Engineers, Chicago
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, Hanover, Maryland
United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of U. S. A. and Canada, Chicago
Metropolitan Alliance of Police, Chapter 294, Bolingbrook
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers, Hillside
Illinois Nurses Association, Chicago
Service Employees International Union, Local 73, Chicago
Southern and Central Illinois Laborers District Council, Springfield
Illinois Federation of Teachers, Local 4408, Springfield
Illinois Federation of Teachers, Local 919, Springfield
Conservation Police Lodge, Springfield
Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, Springfield
Troopers Lodge No. 41, Fraternal Order of Police, Springfield

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Organizations in this Story

Governor Pat QuinnIllinois Nurses AssociationInternational Brotherhood of Electrical WorkersIllinois Fraternal Order of Police