Anderson crosses aisle to back arbitration bill protecting AFSCME
Sen. Neil Anderson (R-East Moline) joined Democrats in the Senate to send Gov. Bruce Rauner a bill that could steer contract negotiations between the state and employee unions to binding arbitration.
House Bill 580, which passed the Senate with a 38-17 vote in the spring, would allow a panel of arbitrators to negotiate contract offers with unions that contract with the state of Illinois — the largest being the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Democrats say the bill is designed to prevent strikes by state employees, and keep the government functioning efficiently and providing services.
Anderson and Sam McCann, of Plainview, were the only two Republican senators who backed Democrats and voted in favor of the bill.
Other Republicans, however, say the measure aims to remove Rauner from the bargaining table and strip him of his authority to negotiate on behalf of voters who elected him. The move would also grant $3 billion in taxpayer dollars to large unions over the next several years from a state in financial devastation.
“Gov. Rauner certainly has reason to be concerned, mainly because of the way binding arbitration has worked in the past, which basically usually resolves in gains for the union,” Ivan Osorio, editorial director for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, told Rock Island Today. “Even though it might result in everything the union leaders have asked for but, as I note in my piece, an arbitrator is unlikely to settle on anything other than management’s final offer.”
An article penned by Osorio for the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s blog described binding arbitration as a “favorite structural tool of government unions” state and local governments must focus on, particularly when government finances are not in good shape.
“So even if the unions don’t get huge gains, they still come out ahead so it does have that upward ratchet effect in pay and benefits which is very problematic when a state with large budget shortfalls is trying to get its budget in order,” Osorio said.
Talks between Rauner and AFSCME were said to have reached an impasse last year, prompting both sides to agree to ask the Illinois Labor Relations Board to intervene in order to continue AFSCME’s contract while negotiations continued.
Enacting the bill may be worthwhile, Osorio said, depending on the alternatives. But if not enacting it provides an incentive for both sides to continue negotiations, it would probably be best not to enact the bill.
Osorio said he can understand why such a bill would appeal to some lawmakers because it is designed to prevent strikes, but was quick to add that such measures don’t always work in favor of the government.
“I can understand its attraction from a government operations perspective, but when it comes to citing costs, it actually makes that harder,” he said. “In San Luis Obispo (California), such an agreement resulted in 20 percent raises. That was an egregious example, but it does illustrate costs undermining arbitration and labor costs just tend to go up.”
Last year, Rauner vetoed Senate Bill 1229, which was nearly identical. The governor’s veto stood after an attempt to override the veto fell three votes shy in the House. Many speculate Rauner will also veto HB 580.
The best way to move forward is for Rauner’s administration and the union to continue negotiations, Osorio said.
“From what I do know, the best option would be just to keep on negotiating until you come to an agreement, especially if you have actual state policy makers involved that can take the state’s budget situation into account — something which an arbitrator may or may not do,” Osorio said. “You have to have the budget considerations in mind through the whole process.”