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Appeals court: State within rights to exempt certain managers from collective bargaining

By Dana Herra | May 22, 2015

A state appellate panel has rejected a state employees’ union’s claims the governor’s power to remove managers from collective bargaining units is unfair to those employees.

The opinion, issued by a three-justice panel of the Illinois First District Appellate Court, says the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 failed to prove section 6.1 of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act is unconstitutional.

Justice John B. Simon wrote the opinion, in which justices P. Scott Neville and Daniel J. Pierce concurred.

The section, approved by state lawmakers and former Gov. Pat Quinn, has the stated objective of increasing efficiency in state government. The premise is that state business can be hampered when managers are in the same collective bargaining unit with their subordinates, dividing those managers’ loyalties between the best interests of the state and the best interests of the bargaining unit. The statute establishes a process by which the governor can designate certain top-level positions to be excluded from collective bargaining.

In 2013, the Illinois Labor Relations Board approved petitions to strip some positions of their collective bargaining rights under the statute. AFSCME filed its objection on behalf of five individual objectors whose jobs were affected in that move.

AFSCME argued the statute deprived the employees of due process. The court, however, disagreed, saying the loss of collective bargaining poses no threat to their constitutional rights. AFSCME further argued the 10-day period in which employees may object to their designation is too short a time. But the court observed the union was able to file its petition within 10 days.

AFSCME also argued the ILRB should have held an evidentiary hearing in which the employees could prove they are not managers. But if that were so, the court said, the employees could merely file to have their positions reclassified.

“It seems as though AFSCME is simply trying to have it both ways: for the individuals to keep their managerial status and the benefits that come along with that; and also to keep their collective bargaining unit membership and the benefits that come along with that,” the opinion said.

The court also rejected AFSCME’s claim the statute gives legislative authority to the governor’s office.

“The governor was not given a blank check,” the opinion said, noting the governor’s power is limited to a specific number of specific positions that entered collective bargaining units in a specific time frame. “As a practical matter, section 6.1 barely delegated any authority to the Governor that he did not already possess.”

The court said removing managerial positions from collective bargaining units is a reasonable and practical way for the General Assembly to achieve its goal and does not violate equal protections.

“Because we find that the State has a legitimate interest in the efficiency of state government and a rational basis for treating some top-level managers differently than other managerial-type workers, we find that the statute does not violate the individuals' equal protection rights,” the opinion said.

The court also denied AFSCME’s assertion the designation impaired the employees’ contract. The contract, the court said, is between AFSCME and the state, not with the individual employees.

“The designations under section 6.1 simply represent that the employees in certain positions are no longer permitted to be members of collective bargaining units; which changes the composition of the bargaining unit, but has no effect on any bargained-for terms of the contract,” it wrote.

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