Thursday, January 03, 2013

Senate approves legislation
to bar some state workers
from union membership

By Jamey Dunn 

Some state workers would be stripped of their union memberships under a measure approved by the Illinois Senate today, but a hold has been put of the bill for further negotiations before it is sent to Gov. Pat Quinn.

Senate Bill 1556 would bar state employees in managerial positions from being members of a union. Quinn has been pushing the bill for some time because he argues that recent growth in union membership has left few in government who are representing the state’s interests as managers.  “Our state has more [workers] belonging to a union than any other state in the union. I believe in the right to collectively bargain, but you also have to have some people in management,” Quinn said in 2011.

The House has already approved the measure (as well as a similar version in 2011 that the Senate did not take up), and Quinn is expected to sign it, but he will not have the chance to ratify it just yet. Oak Park Democratic Sen. Don Harmon, who has been negotiating with unions over the proposal, put a procedural hold on the bill by filing a motion after it was approved in the Senate. “He has been the chief negotiator on this bill for three years. Even as we passed the bill, he was still identifying ways to work with the unions on a resolution. Filing the motion grants more time to do that,” said Rikeesha Phelon, spokeswoman for Senate President John Cullerton.

Cullerton, who sponsors the bill, said that even after the provisions of the legislation go into effect, Illinois would continue to be “one of the most heavily unionized” states in the nation. “It’s the basic concept of allowing us to have management not be in the union,” Cullerton said during debate on the Senate floor. “It will help the governor manage the executive branch.”

Union officials say the bill is another way for Quinn to circumvent the collective bargaining process. “In November, Pat Quinn became the first Illinois governor to terminate a union contract. His signature on this bill would make Quinn the first to strip collective bargaining rights from thousands of his employees. It is deeply disturbing that the governor refused our union's good-faith efforts to address these matters through negotiations,” Henry Bayer, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said in a written statement. “The only possible reason for Quinn's action is to leave workers without the protections of a union contract in an attempt to intimidate them or replace them with political patronage hires. It is the latest anti-worker, anti-union blow from a governor bent on scapegoating public employees.”


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