Rauner wins labor fight; Illinois House fails override

Photo Sources: Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) / Flickr --- WBEZ / Flickr

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Gov. Bruce Rauner won a victory over a Democratic majority Wednesday when the Illinois House failed to override his veto of legislation designed to prevent a strike or lockout if union contract negotiations break down.

Democrats under House Speaker Michael Madigan of Chicago voted 68-34 to reverse Rauner's rejection of the measure that would give an independent arbitrator power to decide who wins if there's an impasse in negotiations between the administration and the state's largest employee union. To become law, the legislation needed a three-fifths majority of 71 votes.

The vote marked a key showdown between the General Assembly's pro-union majority and the first-year Republican governor they fear wants to smash organized labor. The Senate voted to overturn the veto last month, so a House override would have made it law. 

Rauner said he hopes the vote "marks the beginning of serious negotiations" in a summer-long dispute over the budget, which should have taken effect July 1.

"While House members chose to help us avoid digging a deeper financial hole, we still have a lot of work to do and time is of the essence," Rauner said in a statement after the vote.

Under the proposal, either side would have been able to call for an independent arbitrator and ostensibly prohibit a strike or worker lockout.

Democrats had argued that arbitration offered moderation to tense talks and would prohibit the extremes of picket lines or a government shutdown. The GOP argued it would take away from the taxpayer-elected governor the ability to decide how much the state can afford to pay its employees.

Rauner, who campaigned on and continues to push plans to curb labor's influence, has promised there will be no lockout. But the union can't shake statements the former private equity investor made during his 2014 campaign that he would welcome a government shutdown, if necessary, to get the debt-riddled state back in fiscal shape.

"The governor's ferocious and false attacks on this moderate and responsible bill clearly show he wants conflict, not compromise," Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said in a statement.

During more than 90 minutes of debate, override opponents pointed out that Rauner just this week reached a tentative agreement with 4,600 state employees represented by the Teamsters, whose leader declared Rauner's negotiating team tough but fair. But supporters noted that arbitration is used in contract negotiations among emergency-services workers, such as police and firefighters, who could cripple government service with a strike.

The House overwhelmingly reversed Rauner's partial veto Wednesday of a major initiative to attack heroin abuse. The 105-5 vote sends the measure to the Senate, which with an override could make it law.

Rauner agreed with the bulk of the wide-ranging approach but said the Medicaid health care program for the poor can't afford coverage of key medication for treatment and to reverse overdoses.

Lawmakers also advanced legislation to prevent Rauner from closing the Illinois State Museum in Springfield and its satellite sites to save money approved a measure to keep thousands of families eligible for state-subsidized child care assistance, which Rauner restricted sharply July 1 because there's no state budget agreement.


The bills are SB1229, SB317, HB1, and HB2842.