After a week of denial, Rauner admits impasse in labor negotiations

SPRINGFIELD — Gov. Bruce Rauner has responded to a request made Thursday from the state’s largest public employee union to flatly state whether he believes contract talks are at a legal standstill.

Rauner’s response this morning is that further negotiations are no longer worthwhile and that the parties are indeed an an impasse.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Gov. Bruce Rauner

A letter to Rauner Thursday from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims that during a session last Friday, the union made concessions on wages and health care, but Rauner’s team responded by declaring the year-old talks at impasse.

Administration officials later denied they had mentioned impasse, but no further talks have been scheduled. A Rauner spokeswoman did not immediately respond for comment on AFSCME’s letter.

But on Friday Rauner sent a four-page letter [view HERE]to state employees, telling them of the impasse and saying that work will continue as usual while legal issues proceed through the process established by the Labor Board.

He notes the administration agreed to never lock out employees and AFSCME agreed to not strike during this period.

But he says labor unrest in violation of the Tolling Agreement, or another attempt to circumvent the Board process that AFSCME voluntarily agreed to on three separate occasions, will not be tolerated.

Rauner says the state will respect the decision of the Labor Board, and he asks the workforce and AFSCME to do the same.

AFSCME responded by saying they have worked hard to reach a fair agreement with the Rauner Administration, and they’re prepared to continue to do so.

A statement from the union says they reject Rauner’s claim that the bargaining process is at an impasse. You can read AFSCME’s full response HERE.

In response to Rauner’s move to declare impasse in negotiations with workers represented by AFSCME, Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) President Dan Montgomery called Rauner a deceptive and irresponsible Governor willing to use middle-class families, the most vulnerable, and our students as a wager in his fanatical game.”

“Make no mistake: this isn’t in service of financial savings for the state. This is an ideological obsession unfit for a state leader forcing chaos to enact a reckless and unpopular agenda,” Montgomery says in a press release.

AFSCME represents 36,000 state workers and is going head-to-head with a first-term conservative who has pressed his agenda to curb union power.

The last contract between the state and AFSCME expired June 30.