Paul Kersey, Illinois Policy Institute, explores the consequences of Illinois government union employee bargaining laws and how it will hamstring the government attempting to keep costs reined in. Like an insidious leak, eventually government employee union monopoly bargaining will destroy the government’s ability to govern.
So, the health benefit law allows – indeed calls for – the executive to set contribution levels. Labor law itself is not an obstacle. But there is one more authority in Illinois that can tell the governor not to change retiree contributions. It’s not a statute or a court decision or an elected official, it’s AFSCME, the union that represents state employees. Under state law, Quinn is required to bargain with this union over wages, benefits and working conditions for current employees, and the latest round of negotiations are not going well for the governor. He has yet to sign a new deal, the old contract has been terminated and an unprecedented state employee strike is entirely possible. In prior years – before PA 97-0695 – AFSCME had negotiated extremely costly health benefits for retirees, and it is loathe to give them up. The governor may not be legally required to reach an agreement with AFSCME on retiree health benefits, but he does have to reach an agreement with the union on wages and working conditions for current employees
And that gives AFSCME its opening. It can tell the governor, “Go ahead and change retiree health insurance. We can’t stop you. But wait ‘til you see our wage demands for current employees.”
The law gives unions leverage over the governor, and that leverage can be used to affect almost anything. In the right circumstances, it can even be used to block a state law from being implemented that could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars. In collective bargaining, everything is negotiable; even state law.