Governor to try again to exclude some state workers from unions
SPRINGFIELD -- Nearly 2,000 state employees could be ejected from unions representing them and another 1,700 would be prevented from joining collective bargaining units under a bill that could be called in the Illinois Senate next week.
Tensions between Gov. Pat Quinn and his traditional labor allies have flared up over the legislation. The administration said it needs fewer employees in unions so it can effectively manage state government, but union officials say the bill is an attack on unions.
Senate Bill 1556, which passed the House 62-52 in the wee hours of the legislative session on May 31, will need a supermajority of 36 votes to clear the Senate and head to Quinn’s desk. Legislation considered by a chamber after May 31 needs the support of three-fifths of lawmakers in order to become law immediately.
The Senate is returning on Wednesday to consider a construction spending bill. A spokesman for Senate President John Cullerton, D-Chicago, said the union measure will be discussed by Senate Democrats next week.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and other AFL-CIO unions “couldn’t be more strongly opposed to this assault on workers’ right to bargain collectively,” said AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall.
National labor leaders, including the national AFSCME president, Gerald McEntee, have called Quinn to express their displeasure with the bill.
Quinn spokeswoman Brie Callahan rejected the notion that the governor is anti-union.
“Collective bargaining only works if you have workers and managers,” she said. “You can’t run any enterprise, let alone a state government, in a situation in which there is no one in charge.”
The state workforce currently is 95.5 percent unionized. The bill would reduce that proportion to 92 percent, according to the administration. Petitions pending before the state Labor Relations Board would bring collective bargaining-eligible employees up to 99 percent, leaving all but 760 of those workers in a union, Callahan said.
Under the bill, Quinn could designate up to 1,900 employees currently eligible for collective bargaining and prevent another 1,680 from entering into collective bargaining. No employee who joined a union before Dec. 2, 2008 could be decertified. Just over 4,000 employees have joined collective bargaining units since then.
It’s unclear which specific employees the administration aims to remove from union representation.
“There’s no list of positions that will be affected at the moment – the governor has a year to make those selections,” Callahan said.
The inclusion of public service administrators in the bill’s language is of particular concern to AFSCME – 1,900 of its members have that title, which can be vague, Lindall said.
“It doesn’t tell you much about what they do,” Lindall said. “They work in nearly every agency of state government. … They’ve already filed petitions and (been) adjudicated by the labor board that they are not supervisors or managers under current law.”
House Democrats and the Quinn administration pointed to several examples where there would be a management vacuum if the trend toward union membership were allowed to continue. Several wardens and assistant wardens at state prisons have petitioned for union membership, according to a fact sheet handed out to House members. The administration said the Department of Aging has only one person who isn’t in collective bargaining or petitioned to be in it.
“Lawyers, auditors, legislative liaisons are paid to get their jobs done no matter how much time it takes,” the fact sheet handed out to House members says.
Lindall said that the administration has never provided specific examples of where the delivery of state services has been impeded by an employee’s membership in a union.
“There’s been a clear rhetorical strategy to make this the legislative liaison bill,” Lindall said. “There’s not 4,000-plus legislative liaisons. If that is the situation, then sit down and talk about a way to address your perceived operational problem with that specific title.”
State Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, plans to vote against the bill if it is called. Bomke said many non-union employees sought to join a union because under Gov. Rod Blagojevich, they were not given raises while union employees were.
“Many of the merit comp employees that became organized never gave it a thought up until 2002. Governor Blagojevich never gave them a raise,” Bomke said. “The only recourse was to organize.”
Chris Wetterich can be reached at (217) 788-1523.
Who would be barred from unions
Senate Bill 1556 would exclude the following state employees from unionizing in the future:
*Employees in the governor’s office, the governor’s budget office, the Illinois Finance Authority, the lieutenant governor’s office, the State Board of Elections and legislative liaisons for the attorney general, secretary of state, comptroller and treasurer.
*Employees in agencies with the titles or duties similar to those of legislative liaison, general counsel, chief of staff, executive director, deputy director, chief fiscal officer, human resources director, public information officer and chief information officer.
*Certain term-appointed state employees who aren’t already in bargaining units or petitioning to be in one, including appointees who have policy-making or major administrative responsibilities. The legislation broadens the definition of managerial employees.
*If the bill becomes law, the governor could designate union-represented employees in those positions today as being exempt from collective bargaining -- ejecting them from the union they have already joined.
*The governor could also designate current, union-represented employees exempt from both the Rutan anti-patronage Supreme Court decision and state civil service laws and senior public service administrators as being ineligible for collective bargaining.
Employees designated by the governor would have the right to a hearing before the labor relations board, which would have to review whether the employee should be decertified as a union member under the new law.
Percentages of state government workers in collective bargaining units
Illinois, 95.5 percent
Connecticut, 90.8 percent
Wisconsin, 87.7 percent
Minnesota, 85 percent
Pennsylvania, 81 percent
New York, 83.6 percent
Iowa, 82.1 percent
Source: Gov. Pat Quinn’s office