Illinois’ Labor Relations Board will hold a hearing to decide if Governor Bruce Rauner and the state’s largest public employees union have reached an impasse.
In January, Rauner filed an unfair labor practice charge saying there was no point in further contract negotiations. He says the parties are at a standstill.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 union, or AFSCME, later filed a separate charge saying there is no impasse, and talks should continue.
Tuesday, the labor board’s director announced the initial phase of the investigation into those charges is complete. Director Melissa Mlynski found grounds to proceed with both charges.
“The investigation stage is just a first step. It’s a preliminary process where we’re really just looking to see whether the parties have alleged a question of law or fact that warrants further hearing,"Mlynski says. "We're not passing judgment on the legitimacy of the complaints or the allegations, or the merits even of the allegation. it's just that we felt that the parties presented enough evidence and enough argument that it warranted a further hearing."
That means there has been no ruling on the merits of either accusation.
That’ll come next, after both sides argue their case before an administrative law judge.
Mlynski also decided that (though coming from opposite points of view) as Rauner and AFSCME's charges each cover the same set of facts and issues, they will be combined and heard jointly by administrative law judge Sarah Kerley.
Kerley will issue a recommendation, which appointees to the labor board could overturn.
The date for the hearing has not yet been set.
Should Rauner ultimately prevail, the union could have to accept his last contract offer, or its members could decide to strike.
AFSCME contends Rauner's demands are extreme. Its President, Roberta Lynch, in January called Rauner's attempt to declare an impasse a "rash action invites confrontation and chaos -- it is not the path to a fair agreement."
The governor says AFSCME's contract demands would cost the state $3 billion and would lead to a tax hike.