State employees suing Gov. Bruce Rauner found fast relief in the court of St. Clair County circuit judge Robert LeChien.
Last week he granted a temporary restraining order to Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees after holding a hearing without public notice on Dec. 2.
The union disguised its new action as an old action, by amending a complaint it filed in April but never pursued.
LeChien ordered Rauner to rescind any changes he made to a collective bargaining agreement that former Gov. Pat Quinn and state employees executed in 2012.
The agreement expired last year, but Rauner and the union adopted a tolling agreement to honor it until they reached a contract agreement or an impasse.
Now they’ve reached an impasse on whether they’ve reached an impasse.
LeChien found they haven’t, and the Illinois Labor Relations Board found they have.
An administrative law judge for the board conducted 25 days of trial this spring, and issued recommendations in September.
The board adopted the recommendations on Nov. 15, and determined that an impasse on subcontracting caused an overall impasse in negotiations.
The board also held that the state committed unfair labor practices when it failed to disclose relevant information.
The board didn’t issue a written decision.
Rauner appealed to the Fourth District appellate court in Springfield that day.
On Nov. 16, he announced a $1,000 bonus for all employees who missed fewer than five percent of works days in the last fiscal year.
He announced merit bonuses, after consultation with the union.
He announced that the state would decrease overtime pay, and that it would subtract vacation and holiday hours from weekly overtime calculations.
Later that month, he announced he would implement union proposals to adopt a bereavement leave policy and create task forces on health and safety.
On Nov. 30, he announced drug and alcohol testing of state employees on reasonable suspicion.
On that date, in St. Clair County, the union moved to amend its April complaint.
On Dec. 1, the union moved for a temporary restraining order. On Dec. 2, LeChien held a hearing and orally granted the order. And, on Dec. 5, both the labor board and LeChien issued written orders.
“Plaintiff and its members are suffering and will continue to suffer irreparable injury because defendant is changing the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment contrary to the rights protected by the tolling agreement without notice to and the agreement of the union,” LeChien wrote.
On Dec. 6, in Cook County court, the union challenged the board’s decision as a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
On Dec. 7, Rauner petitioned the Fifth District appellate court for interlocutory review of LeChien’s jurisdiction.
Rauner counsel Thomas Bradley wrote, “There is no provision in the Labor Act that gives the circuit courts general jurisdiction over public sector labor disputes.”
He quoted Foley v. AFCSME, a 1990 decision finding that, “Inconsistent judgments and forum shopping will be inevitable if we pronounce a rule whereby breach of the duty of fair representation claims can be maintained in the circuit courts, as well as before the Board.
“The harm that the state will suffer if the temporary restraining order is granted far outweighs any harm that AFSCME might suffer if it is not reversed.”
Bradley wrote that the union had remedies available to it. He wrote that Rauner had a right to implement his last and best offer, to address the worst fiscal crisis in the nation.
He wrote that the union must request a stay from the board and, if the board denies it, request it from the Fourth District.
He argued separately that LeChien lacked constitutional authority to extend his order to health insurance.
“Without an appropriation from the General Assembly to cover the cost of health insurance, no such monies can be expended without triggering a significant violation of separation of powers and Supreme Court precedent,” Bradley wrote.
Union counsel Stephen Yokich responded to the petition on Dec. 12, writing that LeChien noted the severe impact of the state’s health insurance proposal.
“Implementation of that proposal would require families to either pay more than $3,000 more in insurance premiums or to enroll in plans with much higher out of pocket costs,” Yokich wrote.
The labor board planned to meet on Tuesday, Dec. 13, with an agenda that included a question of approving or rejecting the Dec. 5 decision.
LeChien set a conference on a petition for permanent injunctive and declaratory relief on Jan. 13.