Labor board declares Illinois contract talks at impasse

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Contract talks between Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration and the state's largest public-employees union are hopelessly deadlocked, a state board ruled Tuesday in a decision that could allow the Republican to impose his terms and the union to go on strike.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board declared Rauner's negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' state council at impasse. Once made official in writing, it allows Rauner to unilaterally execute his terms on the 38,000-member union, including a four-year wage freeze, according to the union.

Rauner's office says his plan saves $3 billion.

AFSCME plans to appeal the decision in court.

The board overturned an administrative law judge's ruling last month that indicated there were some areas where the two sides could continue negotiating.

"The governor is trying to force state workers to accept his unfair terms or go out on strike," AFSCME executive director Roberta Lynch said in a prepared statement. "Rauner's path of conflict and confrontation is unfair to workers and wrong for the people of Illinois."

The union, which has never walked a picket line in its 45-year history, has disputed Rauner's claim of impasse since administration representatives left the bargaining table in January.

The last contract expired in June 2015, about six months after Rauner, a private equity investor whose campaign featured anti-union remarks, took office.

The union says Rauner wants to impose a four-year wage freeze and require employees to pay 100 percent more for health insurance. Highly sensitive to privatization of government work, AFSCME also maintains that Rauner wants to eliminate "standards that prevent unaccountable outsourcing of public service."

Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly called the decision "fair for taxpayers and state employees."

"The state can now implement its contract, saving the taxpayers more than $3 billion over four years," Kelly said, noting it's the same deal the administration has OK'd with 18 smaller state-worker unions. It "includes merit pay for the vast majority of AFSCME employees and the same 40-hour work week requirement that applies to most employees outside state government."

The state panel of the Labor Relations Board is appointed by the governor, but only two members have taken their posts under Rauner. The other three were appointed by Democratic predecessors.


Contact Political Writer John O'Connor at . His work can be found at .