SPRINGFIELD (AP) – Thousands of state employees that have recently gained union membership could be stripped of it under a law signed Friday by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.
He approved a measure that allows the governor to deny collective bargaining rights for up to 3,580 managers and supervisors.
The traditionally pro-labor Quinn has supported the idea, sponsored by fellow Democrats, since it got House approval in 2011 – while at the same time excoriating his Wisconsin Republican counterpart for pushing through a law that rolled back union bargaining rights.
The law applies to “managerial or supervisory” positions under the governor and other statewide offices – such as the secretary of state and attorney general – that are not currently represented by a union or those who have gained representation since December 2008.
Supporters of the measure argue that state executives can’t effectively run the government with so few managers loyal only to them. They say that 97 percent of the state workforce now wears the union label.
In Illinois, union membership has steadily and swiftly climbed upward in the past decade. An Associated Press analysis in 2011 showed 10,000 state workers had joined unions from 2003 to 2011 – four times the number of the previous eight years. Including petitions pending at the time, it showed there were only 1,700 managers left among a payroll of 50,000.
The ball got rolling in 2011 after employees, known as legislative liaisons, gained union membership. Liaisons act as intermediaries between the executive branch and the General Assembly, laying out for lawmakers the governor’s legislative agenda and working on his behalf to get it approved, while also participating in strategy sessions to meet the goals. Therefore, liaisons need to be loyal to the boss, and no one else, such as a union fighting for their wages and working conditions, the thinking goes.
At the time the measure was gaining steam, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker was leading the charge for restricting collective bargaining rights for government employees, leading to a contentious weekslong sit-in of the Capitol in Madison by union members and other supporters.
Walker, Quinn said then, “should be ashamed of himself.”
Quinn signed the law Friday in Mexico, where he’s been on a trade mission since Wednesday.
The bill is SB1556.
Contact AP Political Writer John O’Connor at https://www/twitter.com/apoconnor