Mandatory Collective-Bargaining Law For School Employees Advances in Ill.
Springfield, Ill--A comprehensive, mandatory collective-bargaining bill that sanctions teacher strikes has won overwhelming approval by the Illinois House of Representatives and is now being considered by a special--and friendly--Senate committee.
The legislation, backed by both the Illinois Federation of Teachers (ift) and the Illinois Education Association (iea), is being reviewed by a panel of senators headed by State Senator Terry Bruce, an assistant Democratic leader and brother of the iea's chief lobbyist.
Senate President Philip J. Rock named the special committee, which observers have noted is composed of senators friendly to organized labor in general and to teachers' unions in particular, to combine various collective-bargaining proposals for teachers into a single, comprehensive measure.
Should such legislation pass the General Assembly as expected, it would probably receive a warm welcome from Gov. James R. Thompson, who has indicated support for collective bargaining in the past.
The bill passed by the House is the most far-reaching bargaining legislation approved so far this session. It would:
Apply to all school-district personnel, except supervisors, including teachers and other professionals, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and maintenance employees;
Require recognition by school districts of bargaining units either voluntarily or after an election;
Create an Educational Labor Relations Board to maintain a roster of impartial arbitrators and to oversee the bargaining process in local school districts;
Impose "service fees" on employees who refuse to join a union. The fees could not exceed the amount of union dues and would cover the cost of bargaining, contract administration, and carrying out grievance procedures; and
Permit strikes if mediation has failed, a contract has expired, proper notice of intent to strike has been given, and the parties have not mutually submitted unresolved is-sues to binding arbitration.
Either side could petition the proposed labor-relations board to begin mediation if an impasse existed within 45 days of the beginning of school. If no agreement was reached within 15 days of school, the labor board would be required to invoke and pay for mediation to try to settle the dispute.
The legislation cleared the House by a vote of 81 to 31.
Opponents argued that it would lead to more strikes but not promote high-quality education.
Curtail Teacher Walkouts
However, supporters--led by Majority Leader James McPike--said statewide guidelines for bargaining would curtail teacher walkouts.
"I don't think teachers are asking anything different than the steel workers in Poland are asking," Mr. McPike said. "We ask for our teachers the same thing we're praying the Polish government gives to their workers."
Meanwhile, the Illinois State Board of Education is set to act on some broad principles that it would like to see incorporated into a bargaining statute. The board is considering recommendations to:
Provide a statewide, central administration for union recognition, conciliation of disputes, and adjudication of unfair labor practices;
Encourage voluntary mediation; and
Permit strikes only under specified conditions, including the failure of mediation or fact-finding to resolve an impasse. In any case, local boards and unions would share the expense of mediation.
A comprehensive bargaining law has been a longtime goal of the teachers' unions here. They have previously found the House willing but the Senate unable to pass bargaining legislation.
However, special circumstances have brought a renewed effort this year. Both the iea and the ift view the election of Democratic majorities in the General Assembly and the re-election of a governor supportive of collective bargaining as making this session the right moment for passage of a bargaining measure.