(From the Chicago Sun-Times…)
State Supreme Court denies Rauner request to bypass AFSCME appeal
The Illinois Supreme Court has denied Gov. Bruce Rauner’s request to bypass an appellate court regarding whether his administration can impose contract terms on the state’s largest employee union.
It’s the latest chapter in a contentious feud between the Rauner administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — which represents 38,000 Illinois state government workers.
Rauner on March 17 asked the Illinois Supreme Court to bypass the appeal process — arguing the delay is costing the state money. In early March, the 4th District Appellate Court granted AFSCME Council 31’s request to put on hold the impasse that was declared by the state’s labor board.
The Illinois Supreme Court issued its denial on Tuesday.
“AFSCME members are public service workers who do their jobs every day protecting kids, keeping us safe, helping veterans and the disabled and much more,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “Gov. Rauner should stop wasting time and money on costly court fights and instead do his own job, working constructively to find common ground.”
Rauner’s general counsel Dennis Murashko on Tuesday called AFSCME’s efforts to fight the contract “regrettable.”
“We have gone as far as we can go in negotiations — and our last, best and final offer is all that our taxpayers can afford,” Murashko said in a statement. “It is therefore regrettable that AFSCME is continuously resisting every attempt for a quick resolution and wants to continue dragging this out in the courts. Every day of delay costs taxpayers over $2 million.”
In requesting the case go to the Supreme Court last month, Murashko warned that “after 67 days of negotiation” with the union, “this is as far as we can go and it is time to implement it.”
The state’s labor relations board in November declared an impasse between the union and the Rauner administration. The union immediately vowed to appeal the ruling.
The union’s contract expired on July 1, 2015.
The governator has started running re-election commercials already! He should use his duct tape on his mouth, bind his hands and tape himself to a chair at the negotiation table and settle this contract! 2 Million a day? Pocket change for Bruce! GET IT DONE!
The U.S. House of Representatives pulled their Bill to repeal Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act as it is officially known, because they did not have enough Republican votes to do so.
Trying to follow the Democrats lead from 2007 where the Bill was passed with only Democratic votes, the Republicans fell short.
While Obamacare may not be the greatest insurance, at least it IS insurance and many more people are covered. The time has come for both sides of the aisle to sit down, and negotiate changes to Obamacare which will lower costs, make more health care choices available, keep all necessary provisions of the Bill and make prescription drug prices competitive.
Congress, Get to Work! And work for ALL People, not just the 1%!
(From the Chicago Sun-Times…)
Aldermen go to bat for AFSCME in contract clash with Rauner
Chicago aldermen went to bat for the state’s largest public employee union Thursday in a confrontation with Gov. Bruce Rauner that threatens to culminate in a strike.
The resolution co-signed by 46 aldermen and advanced by the City Council’s Workforce Development Committee urges Rauner to return to the bargaining table to resolve his confrontation with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
Aldermen openly acknowledged that the resolution does not carry the weight of law.
Nor is it likely to influence a Republican governor who has asked the Illinois Supreme Court for permission to impose his preferred contract conditions on AFSCME’s 38,000 members who work for state government.
“We are not blind to the fact that we have no power to compel Gov. Rauner to act to do the right thing,” said Ald. Ray Lopez (15th).
“But that doesn’t mean that we, as a city, as a collective, can’t continue to fight against the winds that he tries to bring — the winds of disorder and chaos and forced crises that are impacting . . . communities that are most vulnerable.”
By taking their case to the court of public opinion — during a City Hall news conference and a hearing that followed — aldermen whose past campaigns have been bankrolled by AFSCME hope to pressure the governor.
Their goal is to avert a strike that South Side Ald. Howard Brookins (21st) warned would have a devastating impact on African-American neighborhoods like his own where residents have used government jobs at all levels as a “ticket to the middle class.”
Samia Miles, a three-year veteran of the state’s Department of Human Services, complained about the governor’s demand that AFSCME members pay double for medical coverage.
“For me, that’s alarming because I tend to my own chronic medical condition that already consumes a majority of my income. So, the idea of paying thousands more for my health coverage is devastating. But, it doesn’t matter to a [billionaire] governor,” Miles said.
“Having to spend thousands of dollars for my health care is not the only issue. . . . The governor wants to wipe out standards in our contract that prevent reckless privatization of public service. He wants a blank check to privatize anything at any time without any accountability.”
Unless Rauner is willing to compromise, Miles said AFSCME members will have no other option but to go on strike. A strike has already been approved by union members, with 81 percent voting to authorize one.
“The governor doesn’t seem to care about the harm this will cause. He’s seeking confrontation. But, we don’t want to have to strike. . . . We are very concerned — especially for those in the Chicago area. A strike would hit our communities the hardest,” Miles said.
Aracely Tirado has spent nearly four years at the state’s Department of Children and Family Services assigned to the reception desk at Juvenile Court. She provides information to caseworkers, attorneys, parents and children. She loves her job because she believes she can make a difference when families need it most.
“I’m so frustrated that the governor refuses to bargain. He walked out of negotiations more than a year ago and has repeatedly rejected any call for negotiations. He just wants to impose his terms without any understanding of what impact it would have on state employees and on our families. Or perhaps, he just doesn’t care,” she said.
“He is demanding that we pay 100 percent more in health costs, but not get a penny more in wages for four years. My husband and I are raising four children. And even now on our salaries, we need to be very careful about our household budget. I know how the governor wants everyone to believe that state employees all make the big bucks, but it’s just not true. We don’t. Let’s get real. The pay cut would hurt me and my family.”
The governor’s general counsel, Dennis Murashko, responded to the City Council pressure by noting that the Rauner administration “negotiated with AFSCME leadership for 67 days while it was clear they had no plans of compromise on their agenda.”
“Our proposals — like overtime kicking in after 40 hours, the use of volunteers and a merit pay system — are nothing out of the ordinary, and have been agreed upon by 20 other public employee unions,” Murashko wrote in an emailed statement.
“We continue to invite AFSCME to put aside its unaffordable demands, remember the taxpayers who have to pay state employee salaries and benefits, and work with us to implement common-sense proposals.”
It’s clear that the Governator thinks that 67 hours of negotiations is enough to reach a three or four year contract agreement that covers working conditions, wages and benefits? We’ve gone 72 hours straight to reach a final agreement!
The ONLY union that would agree to such nonsense is SEIU, who signs anything that’s put before them with a threat attached to it! You honestly think the electricians or plumbers unions would allow “volunteers” and a merit pay system to do their jobs?!?!?? Really?!?!
(From the Crains Chicago Business…)
Rauner vetoes Emanuel’s pension bill
In an expected but still provocative action, Gov. Bruce Rauner today vetoed legislation strongly pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to refinance cash-short pension funds that cover city laborers and white-collar workers.
The state needs comprehensive pension changes, not fund-by-fund ones, Rauner said in a veto message, noting that the city separately is pushing for $215 million to shore up Chicago Public Schools’ pension fund.
“It’s like trying to fix a drought with a drop of rain. We see pension funding challenges throughout the state—one-off, short-sighted approaches won’t really fix the problem,” Rauner said. “We must have comprehensive, long-term pension reform. Let’s get it done.”
Rauner specifically wants approval of a pending bill that, if upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court, would force state workers and teachers outside of Chicago to choose between keeping their guaranteed 3 percent compounded cost-of-living hike in pension benefits, or including pay hikes in their pension base. That measure has been caught in wrangling over the wider state budget.
Emanuel had no immediate response, but is likely to be quite sharp when he does.
Both of the funds—the municipal and laborers retirement systems—are in danger of becoming insolvent in a few years. Emanuel’s bill would require taxpayers to pay more, stretch out payments, and require new but not current workers to make additional contributions.
The latter is the best the city says it can do under Supreme Court rulings.
Emanuel already has pushed though major hikes in the city’s water and sewer fee (a sort of property tax) to pay for the bill.
Rauner had mentioned that in previous threats to veto the bill, but did not include it in today’s veto message.
Expecting the veto, the Senate already has approved and sent identical legislation to the House. The bill Rauner vetoed cannot be overridden because it was passed by a prior General Assembly whose tenure has ended.
Rauner last year similarly vetoed legislation to shore up the city’s police and fire retirement funds, but lawmakers over-rode him and the measure became law.
Update— Emanuel is out with a statement, and it indeed is on the bitter side, with spokesman Adam Collins terming the veto “irresponsible and irrational.”
More from the statement: ‘This bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support because it improves our fiscal stability for taxpayers and shores up pensions for thousands of retirees who earned them. Instead of helping secure the future of our taxpayers and middle-class retirees, the governor chose to hold them hostage – just as he has done to social service providers, schoolchildren and universities across the state . . . The people of Illinois deserve better.”
Doesn’t sound like the mayor is endorsing the governor for-reelection next year, does it?
If this goes through, Madame Prez will be next in line with her hand out for a hand out!
Don’t forget the lunch time meeting at Walnut from 11 to noon on the 3rd floor!
(From the Chicago Tribune…)
Rauner asks state Supreme Court to get involved in fight with union
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner tried to jump-start a stalled labor dispute Friday, asking the Illinois Supreme Court to allow him to impose his preferred contract terms on the state’s largest public worker union.
Earlier this month, the 4th District Appellate Court in central Illinois prevented Rauner from trying to implement his last, best and final contract offer until after the court has decided an appeal by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union.
Rauner on Friday asked the state’s highest court to bypass the usual appeal process and take the case on now. In a filing to the Supreme Court, the governor’s lawyers argued that the delay caused by the appeal was costing the state money. They warned that a prolonged legal battle could prevent the Rauner administration from setting up a new health insurance system for state employees — a plan designed to reap savings for the state by passing a greater share of the costs of health insurance onto workers.
Briefs in the appeal in the case aren’t due until June, Rauner’s attorneys said, meaning the case is likely to drag beyond the state’s May 1 deadline to open an enrollment period for state workers’ health insurance.
The union had challenged a ruling by the Illinois Labor Relations Board that found Rauner and the union to be at impasse in their contract talks. That stage in negotiations would allow the governor to press forward with his preferred terms and put the union in the position of having to accept them or go on strike. AFSCME appealed to the court, which temporarily halted implementation of Rauner’s contract. The temporary stop became a permanent one in early March.
Meanwhile, AFSCME announced in February that its members had voted overwhelmingly in favor of going on strike if necessary to resist Rauner’s contract terms. The vote was intended to give the union greater leverage in its battle with Rauner.
Rauner’s lawyers, in their filing to the Supreme Court, alluded to the possibility of a strike as they argued that both sides should be free to use the tools at their disposal to resolve the dispute. Having the issue tied up in court causes a costly delay, they wrote.
“Continuing the current situation in which the parties are precluded from exercising their economic weapons for multiple months while the appeal remains in the Fourth District and then appealed to the Supreme Court is simply not tenable and will only further harm the public,” the filing reads.
The administration asked the high court to lift the stay preventing Rauner from installing his contract terms — particularly the health insurance portion.
“After 67 days of negotiation, the Administration presented AFSCME with a contract that reflects our last, best, and final offer,” Rauner General Counsel Dennis Murashko said in a statement announcing the administration’s request. “This is as far as we can go, and it is time to implement it. Every day we don’t costs our taxpayers more than $2 million, which is why we are asking the Illinois Supreme Court to resolve this case quickly.”
AFSCME Spokesman Anders Lindall argues that the appeals court has already signaled that there was a likelihood the union would prevail in its legal challenge of the impasse ruling.
“Instead of wasting more time and money in the courts, Governor Rauner should simply do his job and negotiate with our union,” Lindall said. “State workers are willing to do their part, but Bruce Rauner is so blinded by his anti-union animosity that he refuses to compromise.”
Hasn’t he learned that the Supreme Court will not be bullied? He’s already lost once before them on pensions, and now he wants to question bargaining in good faith?
Don’t forget the Rally at the Chicago Hilton on Thursday, March 30th!
Union Sisters and Brothers;
There are several things that should be brought to your attention as members of this Local:
1. The Local has been made aware that management may be altering/falsifying members’ time records to avoid any overtime/compensatory time claim by members. According to the media, management can afford to pay one of their own hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensatory time, but they squeal in denial regarding the approval of any compensatory time for members who are actually doing Department work. Members have been working through their lunch break, are being directed to cover the courts until they go down, but they balk at providing even 1 hour of compensatory time if members need to stay past the end of their shift to complete their work. The Local has forwarded the class action grievance regarding Hours of Work/Field Work in relation to the time clocks to arbitration. One of management’s responses in the grievance was that officers could still return radios the next day, but they still have to come in and clock out at the end of their shift. Other Departments have the use of the County provided 800 number to allow employees to call out at the end of their shift when they are in the field; this is also available to the Adult Probation Department, but why would they want to utilize something to benefit the member and comply with the contract? Also, management was completely disingenuous with regard to compensating employees for the additional 1/2 hour when members were forced to clock out after 4 hours, instead of after 3.5 hours as was decided in a grievance settlement. “Everyone affected has received their comp time.” Completely false!
2. There are more grievances pending with this administration than any other in the past 28 years. This administration has fostered an anti-union animus through their harassing, retaliatory and bullying tactics toward union officials and representatives. They turned a blind eye when Local officials were targeted with threatening and hostile communication. They refused to provide the Local with a secure space to confidentially speak to members, maintain a confidential fax line or conduct any union business. Management has cultivated an environment of turning members against each other because if they weaken the solidarity among the members, then the stronger they will be in the upcoming bargaining. When the union argued how management had misled and falsified and discriminated against a senior employee with no history of discipline, who is caring for a very sick loved one, management’s response was, “It’s all irrelevant!”
3. There is a Lunch Time Membership Meeting for Weapons Carrying Officers at the Walnut facility on Thursday, March 23, 2017, from 11 am to 12 pm, in the large conference room on the 3rd floor. The Local will be scheduling worksite meetings as we prepare for upcoming job actions and negotiations.
4. There is a union job action on Thursday, March 30th, at the Chicago Hilton, 720 South Michigan, from 5pm to 8pm to support state workers in their fight for a contract. We want to have a strong showing of support because their fight is our fight!
5. We are STILL waiting for the Employer to complete the printing of our current contract. Perhaps we will get the contracts prior to their expiration on November 30, 2017.
6. Don’t forget about the Local website and Facebook page for more information – afscme3486.org; our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Local Union President
(From the Chicago Sun-Times…)
Rauner signs bill to rehabilitate prisoners, expand probation
A wider range of crimes will be eligible for probation, rather than prison terms, and “trauma centers” might be built within state prisons under legislation that Gov. Bruce Rauner signed Friday.
“This will help keep our community safer, help victims of crime recover, and help those who committed a crime get the rehabilitation they need,” Rauner said during a morning news conference in downtown Chicago. “Prison should not just be about punishment [and] locking people away. It needs to be about preventing the individual offender from committing crimes again.”
The changes sparked by the new law include:
• Making some crimes eligible for probationary sentences rather than prison time. Previously, crimes including marijuana trafficking, cocaine possession and other drug-related offenses required prison terms. Now, judges will have the discretion to put offenders on probation for those crimes, thereby keeping them out of the prison system.
• Establishing rehabilitation centers within state prisons that aim to prevent recidivism once inmates are released. There are currently no so-called “trauma recovery centers” in Illinois prisons, though there is federal funding available for them.
• Allowing some prison inmates to get additional time off their sentences — unless they are incarcerated under a “truth-in-sentencing” offense, such as murder. Currently, incarcerated individuals not subject to truth in sentencing receive one day of credit toward their sentences for each day served. The new law expands programs that offer additional days off for “good conduct” if inmates meet certain criteria after undergoing a “risk/needs assessment.”
Maybe if the Gov sat down and negotiated a budget that would fund all the outside agencies that we rely on for services, then this could be good news. Now it means even more plea deals with fewer services to offer. Are we the only county in the State that already gets these cases anyway? Everyone else needs an executive order?
(From Council 31…)
Pension-cutting bill still looms
Senate Bill 16, which would cut the pension benefits of employees in SERS and SURS, failed on the Senate floor on February 28 by a vote of 26-27-2 and was put on postponed consideration. It is likely to be considered again.
SB 16 is a new version of the previous SB 11. It would require employees who participate in the State Employees Retirement System and State University Retirement System to select between two options:
- Option 1: All pay increases going forward do not count in calculating your pension benefit. For purposes of determining your pension, your salary would never be any greater than it is today; however, your pension in retirement would be adjusted to keep up with inflation (COLA).
- Option 2: Your future pay increases would count in calculating your pension benefit; however, your COLA would be cut so your pension would not keep up with inflation in your retirement years.
Regardless of the option employees choose, they would receive a much smaller pension benefit during the course of their retirement compared to benefit they were promised.
TAKE ACTION: CALL YOUR SENATOR!
Call the AFSCME hotline at 888-912-5959 and urge your senator to protect public employee pensions!
IF this goes through, the powers that are here in Cook County and Chicago will try it too!
(From the Chicago Tribune…)
After Tribune reveals probation official’s $200K in comp time, Cook County courts vow action
Cook County’s chief judge has launched a broad review of the adult probation department’s compensation practices after a Tribune investigation found that one of its top leaders had compiled more than $200,000 in compensatory time.
Philippe Loizon, a deputy chief in the Cook County Adult Probation Department, accrued at least 3,674 hours of comp time from 2003 into 2015, the Tribune found.
In addition, the probation department is changing its personnel policies to forbid exempt employees, who include members of the executive staff, from accruing comp time — bringing the department more in line with the policies of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Sheriff Tom Dart and Court Clerk Dorothy Brown.
Evans’ office was first made aware of Loizon’s accumulation of significant hours of compensatory time in 2013, according to internal correspondence, yet apparently did little about it.
Loizon has been a controversial figure in the probation department. In 2014, he was taken off the streets and ordered onto desk duty by Evans following a Tribune investigation that found rogue probation officers had allegedly planted drugs, stolen money and improperly teamed up with Chicago police and FBI agents to conduct warrantless searches.
Evans hired a Chicago law firm to look into what the Tribune uncovered in 2014. He has not said what, if anything, was found.
Loizon, 52, remained on the probation department’s payroll. In August, he went on medical leave and has begun using his comp time, according to county payroll records.
Even with his reassignment, Loizon retained the title of deputy chief — one of the most senior managers in a department with hundreds of employees — and makes more than $115,000 a year. He declined to comment for this article.
Loizon joined the probation department in November 1988 and rose through the ranks, earning a reputation as a tireless worker. The department and its officers work for the court system and monitor about 25,000 convicts sentenced to probation instead of prison. Probation officers’ role, which separates them from police officers, involves helping a convict get drug treatment, a high school diploma and a job.
In June 2003, Loizon was promoted to deputy chief, one of 11 currently in the department. He oversaw several of the department’s armed-officer units, including the Gang Intervention Unit, which monitors high-risk gang members who are serving a sentence of probation.
He soon began accumulating comp time.
Under the probation department’s long-standing policy, exempt employees like Loizon and other senior managers may receive one hour of comp time for each hour of overtime worked. The policy does not limit the number of hours an employee may collect but states that the hours must be used within 60 days unless waived by a supervisor.
From 2004 to June 2015, Loizon was automatically credited every week with four hours of comp time for monitoring a “cellphone dedicated to calls to and from the Chicago Police Department,” Evans spokesman Milhizer said. “He was on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Milhizer said the department’s Gang Intervention Unit shares information with city police about gang members on probation.
“The weekly estimation of four hours acknowledged that there might be more or less than four hours of work, and it compensates the employee for the uncertainty of when work will arise and disrupt life outside of the workplace in addition to time actually worked,” Milhizer said.
Loizon accrued at least 2,080 hours of comp time for answering the phone, or one year’s pay.
Deputy Chief Loizon accumulated additional comp time — some 1,594 hours — for working beyond his 40-hour work weeks, Milhizer said.
Evans’ office learned about Loizon’s significant accumulation of comp time hours in 2013. That’s when Loizon hired Chicago lawyer Jerome Marconi to help resolve issues over his pay.
In a July 11, 2013, letter to Jesus Reyes, then acting chief probation officer, Marconi wrote that Loizon had documents showing he earned comp time hours and wanted a meeting to discuss the matter. Marconi sent a copy of the letter to Evans’ director of human resources.
“I am requesting your assistance in resolving DC Loizon’s compensation issues,” Marconi wrote, referring to Loizon’s title of deputy chief. “DC Loizon desires to resolve these issues internally before filing any official complaints against the County.”
Reyes wrote a memo to Evans’ office dated July 25, 2013, and said he agreed that Loizon should be reimbursed for the hours worked. He attached Loizon’s time sheets for 2012 and 2013, noting that Lavone Haywood, then Loizon’s immediate supervisor, had not disputed that Loizon worked those hours.
Haywood, whom Evans promoted to lead the department in March 2014, had long been one of Loizon’s supervisors and had signed and approved his time sheets, according to records. Haywood did not return messages seeking comment.
Marconi, in an interview, said he did not believe the matter was ever resolved. “It just kind of died,” he said.
Asked what the chief judge’s office knew in 2013 and what it did about it, Milhizer responded that the office is “reviewing the history of this matter.”
It wasn’t until June 2015 that Haywood ended Loizon’s after-hours gang phone responsibilities. Now, calls between Chicago police and the department are handled by on-duty staff.
Milhizer said the chief judge’s office was trying to determine if Loizon was given a 60-day waiver for using his comp time.
The review should be completed in April, Milhizer said. He said the probation department plans to revamp its comp time policy this month.
“The new policy would prohibit the accrual of compensatory time for exempt employees — executive employees, administrative employees and managerial employees,” Milhizer said. “It would also, in most instances, require employees to use compensatory time within one year of accrual.”
Milhizer said exempt employees rarely should be allowed to accrue comp time because they are paid better than rank-and-file workers.
“It is not appropriate — both fiscally and operationally — to allow them to accrue comp time,” Milhizer said. “Their salaries should compensate them for additionally worked hours.”
Good Morning Chief Judge Evans!