Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner said expediting the outcome of the ongoing labor dispute with the state’s largest public-employee union could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in high employee-benefit costs.
It has been a year since Illinois had a contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.
In January, Rauner asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board to determine whether contract negotiations are at an impasse and whether the administration’s final offer can be imposed. Hearings in the case wrapped up in June. The labor board is expected to decide on the governor’s request July 7 to bypass the administrative law judge who heard the case.
Rauner said speeding up the process is in the taxpayers' best interest.
“We’re spending more than $35 million extra every month to preserve the existing structure compensation package including benefits, whereas if we could get our proposal in place, we could save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few months,” Rauner said.
AFSCME said it wants the labor board to require Rauner’s administration to return to the bargaining table.
Rauner said the union should let its members decide on the administration’s final offer.
“Put that to a vote for the members. It would pass," Rauner said. "Right now we’re wasting taxpayer money, we’re delaying, and we want to move this along to protect the taxpayers of the state."
The union said if the board grants the governor’s motion, a final board decision could come in early August. Either side could appeal that decision to the appellate court.
Rauner said the state can’t afford the generous terms the union is demanding. AFSCME said if Rauner’s terms are allowed to be imposed, members would either have to work under those terms or go on strike.
AFSCME’s contract with the state expired June 30, 2015.