Unions 2, Quinn 0.
Back in September, Gov. Pat Quinn announced he would attack the state’s budget deficit by closing three psychiatric hospitals, two developmental centers, a prison and a juvenile detention center, costing 1,900 state employees their jobs. Not so fast, arbitrator Edwin Benn said Monday.
Benn ruled that the layoffs violated the terms of a collective bargaining agreement with AFSCME Council 31:
“In 2010, the State of Illinois and AFSCME Council 31 entered into a series of concession-granting agreements in which the union agreed to reduce the state’s financial obligations under the parties’ 2008-2012 collective bargaining agreement by approximately $400,000,000. In return for those concessions agreed to by the union and the employees, the state guaranteed that no employees represented by the union would be laid off through June 30, 2012 and … there would be no closures of state facilities prior to July 1, 2012. …no employees represented by the union can be laid off through June 30, 2012; the seven … facilities targeted for closure cannot be closed prior to July 1, 2012; and if any employees represented by the union are laid off, bumped or transferred as a result of layoffs and facility closures involved in this matter prior to July 1, 2012, those employees shall be reinstated and returned to their former positions and made whole in all respects for their losses flowing from the state’s violation of its contractual promises."
Citing the “unforgiving economy” and the unlikelihood that employees could find new jobs that paid as well as the state of Illinois, Benn also ruled that the state has to pay back wages and medical expenses to laid off employees, and compensate those who lose cars or houses as a result of losing their jobs.
“This order is unequivocal. Governor Quinn should rescind all threatened layoffs and closures,” said AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer. “Failure to do so will not only harm the vital public services state employees provide, it will expose the state to significant damages for lost wages, benefits and other costs incurred as a result of the governor’s irresponsible actions.”
In June, Benn ruled that Quinn could not cancel state employee’s raises, quoting the Bruce Springsteen song “With Every Wish” in his decision. The Quinn Administration is appealing that decision, and will appeal this one as well, according to a spokesperson:
“The actions taken by the Administration last month are necessary to manage a budget that underfunded the operational and personnel lines in a number of state agencies. This ruling does not change the fact that the money to run all these facilities for the entire year was not appropriated by the General Assembly. You can’t spend money you don’t have.
“Arbitrator Benn concedes that he does not have jurisdiction over the Illinois Constitution and statutes that apply to this issue, and both the Constitution and statutes remain to be addressed by the courts. We will seek to stay and vacate the decision while we continue to manage the budget so that core services the people of Illinois depend upon can be provided for the entire year.”
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