House fails to override veto after unprecedented threats to legislators

Following an intense barrage of false claims about the fair arbitration bill by the Rauner Administration, naked threats of political retaliation by the Republican leadership and paid attacks by right-wing super-PACs, the Illinois House of Representatives today fell three votes shy of the 71 needed to override the gov
ernor’s veto and enact Senate Bill 1229.

Although the bill did nothing more than extend to child protection workers, nurses, caregivers, emergency responders and other state employees the same independent arbitration process provided to police, fire and other public safety personnel in Illinois for more than 30 years, the Rauner Administration justified its veto with an array of false claims about the bill’s provisions, constitutionality and potential cost, as well as unsubstantiated ad hominem attacks on the independence and fair-mindedness of arbitration professionals.

Multi-million-dollar super PACs allied with the governor — including Turnaround Illinois and the Koch Brothers-funded Americans For Prosperity — flooded legislative districts with robocalls and attack ads that repeated many of the same false claims, confusing voters about the bill’s true intent.

In reality, public service workers and their unions supported SB 1229 to help avert the potential conflict, hardship and disruption of a statewide strike or lockout by offering arbitration as an alternative means of resolving contract disputes between state employees’ unions and the Rauner Administration if ongoing negotiations fail to produce agreements.

Finally today, House Republican leadership publicly threatened rank-and-file lawmakers with political retaliation if they voted to enact the bill–a threat that longtime statehouse watchers called unprecedented in its brazenness.

“The governor’s ferocious and false attacks on this moderate and responsible bill clearly show he wants conflict, not compromise,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said. “The governor’s assault on this bill may have won the day but poisoned the well for legislators of both parties who want to work together responsibly to solve problems and serve the people of Illinois. It is clear that Governor Rauner will stop at nothing to carry out his scorched-earth agenda against working people, their rights and well-being.”

“Day in and day out, public service workers in state government keep us safe, care for veterans, protect kids and much more,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of the largest union of state employees, AFSCME Council 31. “State employees don’t want to be forced out on strike, but we’re determined not to let Governor Rauner undercut workers’ rights, jeopardize workplace safety or threaten the economic security of working families.”

As a candidate, Governor Rauner repeatedly vowed to “take a strike and shut down state government for a few weeks” in order to force workers to accept his extreme demands. More recently, the governor has made stripping the rights of workers to bargain collectively a precondition of enacting a state budget. And in a possible signal that he is preparing to provoke a work stoppage, the Rauner Administration has solicited retirees to serve as strike breakers and reportedly considered mobilizing the National Guard.

The governor’s assault on the arbitration provisions of SB 1229 has now derailed the best hope of amicably settling union contracts that are fair to all.

“The Illinois labor movement will remain united,” Carrigan said. “Even though today’s outcome is deeply disappointing, we appreciate that the vast majority of legislators stood with working people and did the right thing. Our fight to protect the middle class from the governor’s extreme agenda is only just beginning.”

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