AFSCME H R op edPublished in the Decatur Herald & Review on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2015:

State workers and the governor have been entangled in a contract negotiation stalemate for months. So far, the two sides have agreed only to push back their deadline from the end of June to the end of August. And as the stalemate festers, away from the bargaining table, the governor’s public words result in a deeper divide between his administration and the employees whose daily work makes the government function—the same government that Governor Rauner was elected to lead.  

Last week, I voted on a plan that would stabilize these negotiations and bring Governor Rauner and public service unions together for a compromise.  

The Herald & Review published an editorial attacking that plan, and among other things stated: “State workers deserve a fair contract. But fair means it is balanced between the needs of state union workers and the taxpayers.”

That is exactly what the legislation they criticize does.

First and foremost, the legislation protects both taxpayers and workers from the potentially disastrous effects of a statewide lockout or strike.

This legislation eliminates one of the greatest barriers to compromise by removing the most radical option either side has: a lockout or a strike. These same prohibitions have existed for years for thousands of public employees, including state police, prison guards, local police and firefighters.

In short, it brings balance and stability to a process that has failed to produce a good result because of fear, distrust and exaggeration.

The Herald & Review repeated one of the governor’s talking points – that the independent arbitrators are somehow biased toward workers. This is demonstrably false.

In the past 11 years, employers won 48 percent of the disputes and workers won 43 percent. Even last year, these arbitrators favored management 73 times, workers 64 times and had 25 cases with a neutral outcome.

More importantly, the governor—who as the editorial pointed out is elected to make this type of decision—can reject the arbitrator’s decision. The governor has this option. The employees do not.

I can certainly agree with the Herald and Review editorial on one thing – it is time to stop playing political games. It’s time for the governor and his allies in the legislature to stop trying to force-feed taxpayers the so-called “turnaround agenda,” which is pure partisan politics. It’s time to get serious about actually protecting the taxpayers of the state.

Legislation like this is necessary given the circumstances we face today in Illinois. It preserves the governor’s authority and ability to negotiate contracts—rightfully so. It removes the ability of state employees to strike and in the same manner it removes the governor’s ability to lock out those same employees. It is a simple, balanced, non-political way to move both parties to a compromise.  It protects taxpayers and workers alike.

-Andy Manar

State Senator, 48th District

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