State managers targeted in collective bargaining bill


SPRINGFIELD -- A week after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a sweeping bill limiting collective bargaining rights for public employees, Illinois state worker unions are worrying that something similar may happen in Springfield.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s staff hopes to revive a proposal to strip collective bargaining rights from state workers in management positions.

The bill was expected to be introduced in the General Assembly last week, but it was delayed while negotiations continue with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan.

In addition to management positions, the top staffs of constitutional officers staff and legislative liaisons -- representatives of state agencies who lobby the legislature on behalf of executive branch officials – also could not join unions, under a draft of the measure.

Callahan said it is hard for any enterprise, much less a state government, to function without non-union managerial personnel.

Currently, 96 percent of the state’s more than 45,000 employees are unionized, but that number could climb to 99 percent because of requests to join unions pending before the State Board of Labor Relations, according to House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, D-Chicago, who sponsored the bill in the House during the lame-duck session.

“If you want to run the ship of state, you have to have people who are able to stay past 5 o’clock, who are committed to working overtime and who, if privy to information that is important, have a clear allegiance and loyalty to the government, not to their union local,” Currie said.

“We’re trying to get to something that is a little more manageable than 99 or 96 percent, and that’s all that this effort is about.”

However, AFSCME sees the bill as “shades of (the) Wisconsin battle,” according to a news release.

“What’s happening in Wisconsin is orders of magnitude more severe … but the principle is the same,” AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said. “It’s incongruous and disingenuous for any politician … who professes support for the fundamental right of workers to come together for a better life to back a bill that would strip those basic rights.”

The new draft would affect almost 4,000 state employees, Lindall said.

A more expansive proposal -- which would have affected up to 20,000 employees – was unsuccessfully proposed during the lame-duck legislative session following last year’s elections.

“We’ve been meeting since that time,” Lindall said.

The union is willing to address operational issues though negotiations, he said.

Currie balked at the suggestion that Illinois has any intentions of following Wisconsin’s lead on collective bargaining for state employees.

“Of course there ought to be rights collectively to bargain. I strongly believe that, it’s sacrosanct in this country - it’s God, motherhood and apple pie. But that doesn’t mean that everybody ought to be part of the union,” she said.

Andy Brownfield can be reached at (217) 782-3095.