Rauner, AFSCME appear gridlocked on contract talks

Updated 1/8/2016 6:46 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Ongoing labor talks between Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state's largest public employee union concluded Friday without progress toward an agreement and both sides wondering whether negotiations will continue.

Each side blamed the other for the standstill, casting uncertainty about whether the talks will continue without possibility of a strike or legal action.


It's the latest development in the prolonged negotiations between the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 36,000 state workers, and Rauner, a wealthy businessman who favors restricting union powers. It was one of his main campaign talking points when he defeated Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014.

The Rauner administration contends that AFSCME rejected additional meetings next week. But AFSCME officials said it's Rauner who's refusing to participate in more bargaining sessions while they're willing to continue talks.

Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said AFSCME shot down all of the governor's proposals Friday and there was "no meaningful progress."

"We must now evaluate the benefit of future sessions given AFSCME's intransigence," Trover said in a statement.

AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall said it's not true that union negotiators declined additional meetings. He said they couldn't meet next week because of the short notice, but offered to continue negotiating during the following three weeks.

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The two sides have been in contract talks for more than a year and met three times this week. The previous contract expired June 30, but both sides agreed last year to keep negotiating without the possibility of a strike, work slowdown or lockout.

"The Governor's rash action invites confrontation and chaos - it is not the path to a fair agreement," said Roberta Lynch, AFSCME executive director.

No strike has happened during the past 40 years of state government collective bargaining.

"Despite our differences, AFSCME remains committed to finding common ground," Lynch said.

Both sides accused each other of raising the specter of an impasse, a legal determination in this case that would open the door for Rauner to impose his own terms for a labor agreement.

But Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said neither party has filed a request with the labor board to determine whether negotiations have reached an impasse.


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