Evanston, AFSCME begin contract talks

Nora Shelly, City Editor

The city is beginning its negotiations with the local AFSCME Council amid uncertainties surrounding negotiations at the state level.

Last week, a commission appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner declared an impasse in the talks last week, meaning that Rauner could impose his stipulations for the AFSCME union contracts. The developments hold little direct impact for negotiations at the city level, city manager Wally Bobkiewicz said.

“Our municipal employees are represented through separate bargaining units,” he said. “Clearly if contract negotiations come to a breaking point with the state employees, certainly that will have a chilling effect on our negotiations with our employees.”

Dan Kwiecinski, the president of AFSCME Local 1891, the union that represents some Evanston city employees, said he was worried about a potential “trickle-down effect” from the state-level negotiations on their negotiations.

“If it happens to the state works, there’s the possibility of it happening to us,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s going to, but it could.”

The impasse in the contract negotiations have sparked outrage among AFSCME members and supporters.

“Our union strongly disagrees with this ruling,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said in a news release. “We have consistently made clear that we are prepared to continue negotiating, while the Rauner Administration’s refusal to meet has sabotaged the collective bargaining process.”

The decision allows Rauner to implement the contracts his administration had pushed. Rauner said in a statement that the decision was good for the state.

“The contract, mirroring agreements we have already reached with eighteen other unions, includes merit pay for the vast majority of AFSCME employees and the same forty-hour work week requirement that applies to most employees outside state government,” he said in a statement.

Although Kwiecinski said he anticipated the negotiations may be “fight,” there was little to say about them yet. Bobkiewicz said on Thursday that although the contracts were set to run out at the end of the year, it was unlikely an agreement would be reached before then.

Bobkiewicz said the talks have been amiable so far, and it is unusual to have agreements before the previous contracts timed out.

“We have very good relations with all of our bargaining units, and certainly AFSCME is among them,” he said. “I think the questions of what will happen with the state of Illinois — and will there be budget impacts — certainly will play a role in our discussion.”

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