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Monday, September 23, 2019

Appellate judges contemplating life of AFSCME contract, as troopers litigate similar claims in LeChien’s court

By Record News | Jan 10, 2017

Illinois judges continue to prolong the life of the contract that covers about 38,000 state employees in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

A week after Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon honored an Illinois Labor Relations Board order that would have terminated the contract, First District appellate judges in Chicago temporarily stayed the labor board’s order.

The First District will consider imposing a stay that would remain effective until they have reviewed the labor board’s order.

In the meantime, while the primary union of state employees litigates its contract in St. Clair County, so does the state troopers union.

Lodge 41 of the Fraternal Order of Police sued Gov. Bruce Rauner on Dec. 21, over a freeze he aims to impose on regular raises that the troopers call step increases.

Like the larger union, the troopers aim to preserve the status quo by enforcing a contract that expired on June 30, 2015.

The troopers add an argument that lower pay impairs their pensions in violation of the Illinois Constitution.

Their complaint asks for an order expediting arbitration of their grievance.

Attorney Joel D’Alba of Chicago, representing the troopers, wrote that an arbitration panel held 12 days of hearings from December 2015 to last April.

D’Alba wrote that the panel issued an award on Dec. 2, and that on Dec. 13, the state rejected terms that favored the troopers.

He wrote that the matter would now return to the arbitration panel.

“Injunctive relief is necessary to preserve the status quo during the pendency of the parties’ grievance arbitration,” he wrote.

He wrote that the state’s conduct harmed Lodge 41, “by undermining the Lodge’s member support, the single most vital asset to any labor organization.”

D’Alba filed the complaint along with Chicago colleague Ryan Hagerty and local counsel David Cates.

Circuit Judge Robert LeChien set a hearing on Jan. 13, the same date as a hearing on Rauner’s dispute with AFSCME.

In the AFSCME matter, it took the labor board most of last year to reach a decision, and Rauner estimates the daily cost of the old contract at $2 million.

The state’s contract with AFSCME expired on June 30, 2015.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and the union agreed to abide by it until they signed a new contract or reached an impasse.

Rauner declared an impasse last January, and an administrative law judge for the labor board reached the same conclusion in September.

The labor board generally adopted recommendations of the judge at a meeting on Nov. 15, but did not specifically declare an impasse.

On Nov. 16, Rauner announced that he would implement his last and best offer.

He said employees could earn merit bonuses in consultation with the union, and that everyone with attendance above 95 percent would receive $1,000.

In days that followed, he said he would adopt union proposals on health, safety and bereavement leave:

- On Nov. 30, Rauner announced drug and alcohol testing on reasonable suspicion. Also on that date, in St. Clair County circuit court, the union moved to amend a complaint it filed against Rauner last April but never pursued.

- On Dec. 1, the union moved for a temporary restraining order.

- On Dec. 2, LeChien held a hearing and ordered Rauner to rescind any changes he had made to the contract.

- On Dec. 5 LeChien signed an order, and sent it to Rauner on Dec. 6.

- On Dec. 7, Rauner petitioned the Fifth District for review of LeChien’s order.

- On Dec. 13, the labor board formally declared an impasse at a regular meeting.

- On Dec. 16, Fifth District judges found that LeChien’s order lacked any basis because the labor board’s action changed the circumstances. They left it to LeChien to decide whether to dissolve the order.

- On Dec. 22, at the labor board, Rauner filed an unfair labor practice charge seeking damages of more than $2 million a day.

- On Dec. 23, in LeChien’s court, Rauner moved to dissolve the restraining order.  

Rauner counsel Thomas Bradley of Chicago wrote that the union filed motions to stay the labor board’s order at the labor board and at the First District.

He wrote that the union disregarded procedures for resolving disputes.

He wrote that the action in LeChien’s court constituted the unfair labor practice charge that the state asked the labor board to resolve.

Also on Dec. 23, the First District stayed the labor board’s order for as long as it takes to receive and review a motion for a stay pending appeal.

LeChien dissolved his order on Dec. 28, but noted the First District’s action. He set a hearing on Friday, Jan. 13.

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Organizations in this Story

American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner