Illinois Democrats approved legislation Thursday to require arbitration for union contract disputes.

The state's biggest public employee union -- The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME -- supports changing the process.

Contract negotiations between AFSCME and Gov. Bruce Rauner's office have stalled. Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, says the legislation would help both sides get a deal done.

Despite unions getting a small victory yesterday in the Illinois House -- state workers' future salaries, benefits and even a potential strike still remain in limbo.

After hours of debate, labor got its desired result: passage of legislation that would solve collective bargaining disputes by way of arbitration.  

Its supporters say it'd also do something even more important: prevent a government shutdown. The bill says Gov. Bruce Rauner can't lock out workers, and workers can't strike.

Rep. Chris Welch, a Hillside Democrat, is the sponsor.

Rauner Pushes AFSCME To Make Decision On Negotiations

Feb 12, 2016

Illinois lawmakers are once again considering an intervention in state labor negotiations.

Contract talks have stalled between Illinois' biggest government labor union -- AFSCME -- and Governor Bruce Rauner.

Rauner wants the state Labor Relations Board to decide whether negotiations are at an impasse; the union says that’s premature.

Under legislation approved by a House committee yesterday, such failed negotiations would be resolved by an arbitrator on whom both sides agree.

AFSCME says it’s willing to give up its right to strike to get that change.

Director Melissa Mlynski says the board usually must determine whether a public employer and a public employees’ union are legitimately at an impasse, or whether they should work it out.

This time, the contract talks in question cover 36,000 state employees.

“Our process will be as it always is, with all of our cases. Our investigation process and if necessary, our investigative hearing process, will follow the same course that they all do,” Mlynski said.

It’s expected to take weeks. State law doesn't set any deadlines.

Union leaders say Governor Bruce Rauner's move to end negotiations with Illinois' largest state employees union is frustrating and capricious. 

Rauner announced Friday that he was seeking an impasse in talks with AFSCME after roughly a year of talks.

Public school teachers aren't directly affected.

But Dan Montgomery -- who heads the Illinois Federation of Teachers -- says some of its members do work for the state.

Mongtomery says it was a knock to labor, especially given that it happened heading into Martin Luther King weekend.