State employees who failed to succeed with legislation placing their contract negotiations in the hands of an arbitrator now aim to achieve that objective in St. Clair County.
On Sept. 17, they asked Circuit Judge Robert LeChien to maintain the status quo in litigation pending arbitration of the state’s authority to lay off employees.
The unions pleaded that their collective bargaining agreements require arbitration of grievances they filed for 151 employees subject to layoff on Sept. 30.
Each union with members subject to layoff declared that, “The decision of the arbitrator with respect to the agreement is final and binding.”
They asked LeChien for leave to amend their current complaint of contract impairment so they can add a prayer for injunction in aid of arbitration.
The General Assembly passed a bill that would have required arbitration, but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it.
On Sept. 3, union backers fell two votes short of overriding the veto in the House.
Contracts of all unions expired on June 30, and so did the state budget.
Unions advised members to continue working, and they sought an order directing comptroller Leslie Munger to process a normal payroll.
LeChien granted it over the objection of attorney general Lisa Madigan, who would have applied federal wage law to the dispute.
On Aug. 3, Rauner announced he would lay off 52 employees in natural resources, 33 in conservation police, 24 in the commerce commission, nine in the commerce department, nine in transportation, and 24 in other agencies.
Unions filed grievances with Central Management Services, and then folded those grievances into the St. Clair County suit.
“The stated reason for the vast majority of these layoffs is ‘lack of funds,’” Stephen Yokich of Chicago wrote.
“The stated reason of ‘lack of funds’ is demonstrably false.”
Yokich wrote that there are sufficient funds in the state treasury to continue the employment of those subject to layoff.
He also wrote that:
-The state refuses to pay annual wage increases or increases for those progressing through classification levels;
-A self insurance program covering 146,000 employees, retirees and survivors has stopped reimbursing providers;
-Providers Cigna, Healthlink, OAP, Coventry OAP, and Delta Dental asked union members to pay cash at time of service; and
-Central Management Services posted a notice that the state would release funds for payment to providers once a budget is approved.
Yokich wrote that there is a substantial possibility that state employees would forego needed medical care.
He found it virtually certain that some would become debilitated as a result.
“As of the present date the state has sufficient funds in its treasury to continue to pay the providers in the self insured program,” he wrote.
While LeChien ponders the request for binding arbitration, he must also resolve a dispute between constitutional officers.
Attorney general Lisa Madigan believes the constitution requires her to represent Munger, and Munger believes it requires her to rely on her own counsel.
LeChien allowed Munger’s general counsel, Alissa Camp, to argue at an initial hearing while Madigan’s lawyers fumed.
LeChien later directed Munger to file a motion for intervention.
Camp complied on Aug. 25, and asked for leave to answer the complaint.
“Because the AG has taken positions diametrically opposed to those of the comptroller in this action, the comptroller has demonstrated the inadequacy of her office by the AG,” she wrote.
Deputy solicitor general Brett Legner opposed the motion on Aug. 27, writing that Munger aligned herself with plaintiffs in a case where she is a defendant.
“Particularly here, where the state is the real party in interest, the comptroller should not be allowed to intervene and file a competing answer that would admit allegations that expose the state to a risk of judgment,” Legner wrote.