This week, the Illinois Labor Relations Board began a hearing on whether contract negotiations are at a standstill between Governor Rauner and one of the state’s largest employee unions.
Having failed to negotiate a compromise agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Governor referred the dispute to the state labor board in January in accordance with law. Now the Illinois Labor Relations Board will decide whether the parties have truly reached an “impasse.”
If the labor board determines the parties are unable to reach an agreement, Governor Rauner could move forward with his last and best offer. Union members could either accept the Governor’s terms or go on strike. However, if the board decides that the two parties have not yet reached an impasse, the negotiations will continue.
Rauner and AFSCME had been negotiating for more than a year before the Governor went to the labor board in January. During negotiations AFSCME, which represents roughly 38,000 state workers, refused several contract offers presented by the Governor. These contracts were similar to ones agreed on by over a dozen other union locals.
At the heart of the dispute, are changes to worker raises, overtime hours, and health insurance costs. Rauner has said that their contract demands would cost more than $3 billion at a time when the state faces serious fiscal challenges.
The hearing began on April 25 and is expected to last through May before an administrative law judge issues a decision. Additionally, either party can appeal the decision, beginning a process that could add weeks or months to the impasse.