Labor Board judge delivers split decision on AFSCME impasse case

A state labor board judge has ruled that Illinois’ largest public union and the governor’s office aren’t at impasse but looks to allow the state to impose its last offer on a few things in which they cannot agree on.

State’s Administrative Law Judge Sarah Kerley released her ruling Friday afternoon that the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration have not reached a full impasse. This means the governor cannot give his final offer to the union to be accepted or refused, something that could trigger to a statewide strike.

The ruling did, however, say the state could impose its final offer on a number of separate facets of their contract negotiations meaning that the two sides are so far apart that the judge had no hope of a deal being made.

Illinois Policy Institute labor attorney Mailee Smith says the partial ruling could mean savings for taxpayers. “Fortunately, for Illinois taxpayers the news today is a partial victory. The judge agreed that a stalemate exists on the issues of subcontracting, vacation, holiday scheduling, leaves of absence and other issues – which means there is a potential that the state’s contract proposal on these fronts will make their way into the final contract,” she said

The two sides have been fighting over contract demands since July of last year. Rauner’s office requested the labor board declare impasse in January after months of negotiations on a new contract. He has said a quick resolution to the negotiations would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over several months.

AFSCME has requested, among other enhanced benefits, $3 billion in automatic raises over a four-year period, something the governor has refused. Rauner has offered incentives for state workers to increase their pay based on merit and initiatives that would save money.

With an average salary of nearly $60,000, Illinois’ public employees are some of the highest paid in the country.

Both sides have the ability to appeal the ruling to the full labor board.