Rep. Unes issues response on SB 1229

Thank you to those who reached out to me on SB1229.  I appreciated the many points of contact and am thankful to be able to better understand the concerns, on both sides of this issue.  Please read the letter that will be mailed to all who contacted me by clicking on the link below.  After reading my letter, please also read about my behind the scenes efforts to try and help alleviate the main concerns by reading the other posted letter.  Again, I heard a lot of feedback from all sides of this debate.  I especially want to say “thanks” to so many of you that, together, we were able to have professional and productive conversations.

Text from Rep. Unes’ letter:

Thank you for contacting me regarding SB 1229; a bill that would amend the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act to allow binding interest arbitration in the collective bargaining process.
I received a great deal of feedback on this bill from all sides of the issue. Please know that your feedback is helpful and greatly appreciated. When it comes to forming my decision, I do not do so lightly. I keep an open mind and seriously weigh both sides. I have always stated that, while we may not agree on every issue, you will always get an open mind from me.
There has been a lot of information on this bill put out by many different parties. I want to explain the reasoning behind my vote to not support SB 1229 and how I came to my decision.
To begin, I am proud of my voting record on bills supported by state employees. I have fully supported legislation that would make back-pay payments to all state workers that are owed these funds. Back-pay for state workers is the State’s oldest bill and must be paid. State workers deserve this pay for the services they have already provided and I will continue working to solve this issue.  I have also voted with public employee unions against Senate Bill 1313 (Retiree Healthcare Premiums) and against Senate Bill 1, the unconstitutional pension reform proposal.
I am a supporter of the collective bargaining process. I have real concerns that SB 1229 will have long-term implications on the ability of public employee unions to defend against future attacks on collective bargaining. This is especially telling as this change to the collective bargaining process was introduced during the current collective bargaining process.
I want negotiations to continue. I believe both parties when they say they want negotiations to continue. There should be no disruption in state provided services due to a strike or lockout. However, SB 1229 would not prevent a strike — making a disruption to services provided to the citizens of Illinois by our state workers still possible.
Handing off negotiations to an arbitrator would shift responsibility of contract negotiations to unelected persons who are not accountable to the taxpayers of Illinois and may not have taxpayer interest at heart. SB 1229 would force an unelected panel of three to choose a winning side and a losing side. There is little realistic room for a common sense, middle-ground solution. Both sides should work to find common ground. The citizens of Illinois and state workers deserve a fair and responsible deal.
Unfortunately, the State of Illinois has a history of making promises and not keeping them. I have long said that one of our biggest problems is that there is no trust coming from Springfield.  This is not healthy and impacts our economy.  We saw this most recently at the end of Fiscal Year 2015 when the state ran out of money due to an unconstitutional budget that spent more than we had available in revenues and could not meet its financial obligations. This forced an emergency budget solution that could have been prevented. State workers deserve to know that when they make a deal with the State, the money will be there to pay them.  Approval of a contract that we knowingly do not have the money to uphold is not fair to my constituents and state workers across Illinois, as it would have detrimental effects like layoffs.  As I have stated, I do not want a work stoppage of any kind, nor do I want layoffs, but that is a stronger possibility without a fairly negotiated contract.
I want you to know that I read every letter, e-mail, social media post and spoke with countless constituents personally throughout this process.  Both sides say they do not want an impasse, lockout, or strike.  Both sides state that they want fair negotiations to continue.  One of the most consistent concerns I have heard from public employees has been that the Governor will force a strike by issuing a ‘last and best’ offer when the current Tolling Agreement expires on September 30th.  I personally took this concern to the Governor.  I worked very hard behind the scenes to get the attached letter of commitment from the Governor.  In this letter, you will read the commitment he made to continue to negotiate in good faith without presenting a ‘last and best’ offer as long as necessary, so long as good faith negotiations continue to be reciprocated, as they have been.  I am proud to have heard public employees on this issue and through my personal intervention I fought hard to secure this additional commitment from the Administration.  Your concerns and comments did not fall on deaf ears.  I listened and took them to heart.  I believe that with this important letter of commitment, there is a stronger likelihood of an agreement within the current collective bargaining framework.
I hope you can see I have put a lot of thought into my decision. I am not yet convinced that SB 1229 would truly prevent a strike. We all know any interruption to state services would further delay a fair deal for both taxpayers and state workers. I hope this explanation and information has been helpful to you in explaining why I did not support SB 1229.
As I have stated, I keep an open mind while not being beholden to special interests on either side of the debate. I carefully weigh all sides of an issue before arriving to my decision. Know that while we may not agree on every issue, you will always get open and honest dialogue with me.
As always, if I can be of any assistance with this or other state issues, please do not hesitate to contact me. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me on state issues.
Thank you again for reaching out to me about this issue. I look forward to hearing from you again. 
Mike Unes
State Representative, 91st District