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posted: 8/13/2016 2:00 PM

Editorial: McSweeney bill would increase transparency in collective bargaining

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  • Republican state Rep. David McSweeney has introduced a new attempt to improve transparency in public bargaining agreements.

    Republican state Rep. David McSweeney has introduced a new attempt to improve transparency in public bargaining agreements.
    Associated Press File Photo

  • Palatine Township Elementary District 15

      Palatine Township Elementary District 15
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
The Daily Herald Editorial Board

Two years ago, State Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton introduced legislation to require school boards and other local governments to give the public a minimum of two weeks to review details of labor contracts before taking action on them.

It was a sound proposal to curb the current secrecy of collective bargaining of public contracts.

At least it would have given the public the opportunity to see these agreements in time to respond to them.

This is the kind of action we have called for in response to the secret 10-year agreement that was reached earlier this year in Palatine Elementary District 15 in a classic disrespect of the public's right to know.

To a great extent, you could say that Ives' bill would have placed the taxpayers on a footing somewhat closer to the employees themselves.

After all, the employees have representatives who negotiate on their behalf and then get a chance to vote on whether they agree with the result of that negotiation. It would be impractical to expect the taxpayers to be offered a similar vote, but they should be offered a chance to influence the outcome by letting their voices be heard.

Instead, in too many school districts, the only time the taxpayers get a chance to hear the results of the school board's collective bargaining on their behalf is after the board has ratified the agreement.

Ives' bill, as we said, made a lot of common sense. Unfortunately, as with a lot of things in Springfield, common sense wasn't good enough to get it out of committee.

Among the bills co-sponsors was State Rep. David McSweeney of Barrington Hills.

Not one to give up easily, McSweeney is back with a bill that would provide at least some transparency to a process that now lacks any light to speak of.

While a supporter of the advance-notice concept, McSweeney isn't pushing that far in HB 6598.

But his legislation, if successful, would represent progress. It would stop school boards and other local governments from bringing a labor contract up for a vote until it is substantially complete.

Under that legislation, a school board couldn't do what District 15's board did -- pass what essentially was a concept and then refuse to show it to anyone until the lawyers spent weeks writing it.

We support the legislation and call on area legislators to get behind it. And in the meantime, we call on area school boards to do the right thing even before there is a state law requiring them to do it.

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