MOUNT VERNON – Counsel to Gov. Bruce Rauner indicates the state may have been misled by St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert LeChien when he preserved the status quo for state workers last month, according to a chronology that Rauner’s lawyer prepared.
LeChien invited briefs in response to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees’ request for a temporary restraining order at close to 6 p.m. on Dec. 5, according to Rauner attorney Thomas Bradley, yet the state learned the next day that the judge had already signed off on the TRO in favor of workers.
“There was no explanation why, if the temporary restraining order had already been entered on Dec. 5, Judge LeChien was inviting the parties at 5:58 p.m. that day to submit courtesy copies of briefs in support of the temporary restraining order and advising that he might schedule another hearing on the temporary restraining order, if needed,” Bradley wrote.
Bradley submitted the chronology as an addendum on a single page in a brief submitted to the Fifth District Appellate Court on Dec. 15.
Appellate judges overturned LeChien’s decision on Dec. 16.
LeChien had ordered Rauner to abide by a contract that the AFSCME and Gov. Pat Quinn signed in 2012.
The contract expired on June 30, 2015, but remained effective pending execution of a new contract or declaration of an impasse.
Rauner declared an impasse last January, but the union disagreed.
Last summer, an administrative law judge at the state Labor Relations Board held a trial on this dispute and others.
The judge found that the state and the union had reached an impasse in January, over the critical issue of subcontracting.
On Nov. 15, the Labor Relations Board adopted the judge’s recommendations.
The board didn’t formally declare an impasse, but Rauner took the initiative.
On Nov. 16, he told state employees they would earn $1,000 bonuses for attendance above 95 percent.
He told them they would qualify for merit bonuses, in consultation with the union.
On Nov. 30, he announced alcohol and drug testing on reasonable suspicion.
On that date, in LeChien’s court, the union moved to amend a complaint it filed last April but never pursued.
The union argued that the old contract remained effective because the labor board hadn’t declared an impasse.
LeChien granted the amendment.
The union moved for a temporary restraining order on Dec. 1.
LeChien set a hearing for the next day, without public notice.
At the hearing, he ordered Rauner to rescind any changes he had made.
LeChien didn’t immediately put the order on paper.
On the morning of Dec. 5, the labor board issued an order declaring an impasse.
At 11:52 a.m., according to Bradley’s chronology, the state sent the impasse order to LeChien with a brief opposing a restraining order.
Bradley wrote that at about the same time, the union petitioned the First District appellate court for review of the impasse order.
At 12:31 p.m., he wrote, the union requested an opportunity to respond to the state’s brief in LeChien’s court.
He wrote that at 3:13 p.m., the union indicated it would shortly file a response.
He wrote that at 5:58 p.m., LeChien indicated that he would schedule another hearing on an expedited basis.
“There was no mention of any action on AFSCME’s temporary restraining order request, and the judge’s email led the state to conclude that the temporary restraining order had not yet been resolved,” Bradley wrote.
On Dec. 6, he wrote, the union served on him a reply brief dated Dec. 5.
“In a subsequent email to Judge LeChien, AFSCME stated that the reply brief had been filed ‘late last night,’” he wrote.
That afternoon, he wrote, LeChien sent him a restraining order order dated Dec. 5.
He wrote that LeChien indicated he would consider briefs on Jan. 13.
“There was no explanation as to why the temporary restraining order was dated and filed on Dec. 5, 2016,” Bradley wrote.
Also on Dec. 6, in Cook County court, the union challenged the labor board’s impasse order as a violation of the Open Meetings Act.
On Dec. 7, Bradley petitioned the Fifth District for review of LeChien’s order.
Bradley wrote that the Labor Act provides no jurisdiction for circuit courts over public sector labor disputes.
He wrote that the harm the state would suffer from the order far outweighed any harm the union might suffer if it wasn’t reversed.
He wrote that Rauner had a right to implement his best offer to address the worst fiscal crisis in the nation.
Union counsel Stephen Yokich responded to the petition on Dec. 12, writing that LeChien noted the severe impact of the state’s health insurance approval.
Yokich wrote that the proposal would require families to pay $3,000 more in premiums or enroll in plans with high out of pocket costs.
On Dec. 13, labor board members erased any doubt about the impasse order by approving it at a regular public meeting.
Bradley sent the order to the Fifth District on Dec. 15, arguing that LeChien no longer had jurisdiction.
He wrote that on Dec. 11, “Judge LeChien acknowledged that the consensus of the parties was that he no longer had jurisdiction.”
Bradley attached his chronology as an addendum on a single page.
A day later, Fifth District judges advised LeChien that circumstances changed.
They didn’t deny his jurisdiction, but they ruled that he must determine whether to dissolve the order in light of facts as they currently exist.