Rauner prevails in major union showdown
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.
Suburban Democrats who were seen by many as critical votes on the controversial issue largely voted to override. Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo voted "present," and Rep. Scott Drury of Highwood voted against it.
No Republicans voted to override the governor.
Rauner said he hopes the vote "marks the beginning of serious negotiations" in a summerlong 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.
The debate was often heated, and state Rep. Peter Breen, a Lombard Republican, said the legislation was "so corrupt it would make Rod Blagojevich blush."
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.
After the vote, Madigan pointed to the absence Democratic state Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago. Without him at the Capitol, House Democrats didn't have enough people to override Rauner without Republican help.
House Speaker Michael Madigan said if Dunkin had attended, Democrats who didn't vote to override Rauner would have lined up.
"They knew what the result would be," Madigan said of dissents in his party.
• Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell contributed to this report.