CHICAGO – State lawmakers with Chicago Teachers Union cash jammed in their campaign boxes continue to push for bills in Springfield to provide union bosses with more bargaining power and a lower threshold for membership support required for a strike .
Meanwhile, legislative proposals to deal with police union contracts, including provisions that continue to pose obstacles to criminal justice reform, have been pushed into the dark corners of the legislature.
When I asked House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch why there was so much emphasis on CTU’s negotiating rights while cop contract legislation went nowhere, she said the speaker was “moving bills based on members’ priorities” .
When you look at politics, the perspective of the new speaker of parliament makes sense.
The election season is just around the corner. It takes money to win elections.
CTU is not afraid to write checks to democratic machine-affiliated lawmakers who are counting on the support of the 28,000-strong union on election day.
Take, for example, Senator Bill Cunningham, who represents a district with a large number of police officers and teachers.
The Southwest Side Democrat received two US $ 2,500 donations from CTU’s Political Action Committee on March 31 and April 1 – a total of US $ 5,000 – the days prior to the signing of a Senate bill advocating Cunningham on behalf of the union had, were packed in his campaign box.
And on Thursday a State House amendment was passed on to a Welch co-sponsored bill that last month accepted a CTU donation of $ 59,900, the maximum allowed under campaign funding laws. This means that 75 percent of teachers no longer have to approve work.
The change, introduced by Rep. Angelica Guerrero-Cuellar, former Speaker Michael Madigan’s second choice for his own replacement in the Southwest Side district, also currently includes a provision under Chicago public school officials about the length of the School days and need to negotiate the school year.
CTU has donated more than $ 500,000 to campaign money controlled by Madigan, who remains a Democratic Party committee member after stepping down from the House of Representatives after being embroiled (but not charged) in a federal corruption investigation.
Exchanging cash between publicly funded unions and elected officials campaigning for favorable legislation is not illegal. It is worth noting, however, that politicians cashing union donation checks are driving the pro-Labor bills that affect ordinary people.
And teachers’ strikes affect parents in Chicago. Just ask anyone who sent a child to Chicago Public Schools in the 1980s when there were regular teacher strikes – before the state handed control of the school district to the Mayor of Chicago in 1995 and limited the problems over which the CTU could argue. The move was followed by improved graduation rates and 25 years of labor peace.
Guerrero-Cuellar’s proposed amendment to state labor laws was in second reading just weeks after a state law went into effect that preserved CPS’s ability to keep working hours and the school year calendar off the negotiating table.
What does not appear to be a legislative priority in Springfield is addressing provisions in state law that allow police union contracts to take precedence over state laws, executive orders, and administrative regulations, such as those relating to police misconduct investigations.
The Black Caucus lawmaker’s Criminal Justice Reform Act, recently enacted by Pritzker, no longer contained provisions that would no longer allow police unions to bargain collectively on how police officers are investigated and punished for misconduct.
It happened during the early hours of the lame ducks veto session in January.
Some reforms of the new criminal law are not applicable in cities with police union contracts protecting the police from certain investigations into wrongdoing. Thanks to the little-known provision in state law that allows police union terms and conditions to exceed state laws.
The “law takes precedence” provision in state law states that when a collective agreement conflicts with state law, the union agreement “prevails and controls”.
During this term, Rep. Justin Slaughter (D-Chicago) introduced a bill to remove the provision that allows police union contracts to go beyond state law.
The legislation was put on the same committee that forwarded the latest bill to strengthen CTU’s negotiation, only to be forwarded to the regulatory committee – where bills historically die. State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) submitted a similar bill to the Senate, which was quickly passed on to a committee without debate.
Across the country – after a year of civil unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of murder last week – efforts have been made to redress police union contracts through wrongdoing, evading investigation and punishment, instead treating officials charged with wrongdoing like other public employees.
In Washington, DC, a federal judge denied an FOP motion on the grounds of law preventing the union from negotiating police discipline matters.
Alexander Colvin, a professor of labor law at Cornell University, told Bloomberg Law that court rulings like one in DC suggest that state lawmakers are “in a strong position” to follow suit “if they choose to to go in that direction “.
In Illinois, however, it is still not as important to fix the terms and conditions of the police force, which have stood in the way of police accountability for generations, than to facilitate the strike for teachers in Chicago.
It is, as the Speaker of Parliament said, the state legislature has priorities.
There is no pipeline of campaign money flowing from lobbyists who are promoting union treaty reform.
And the campaign season is coming.
Recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting, Mark Konkol wrote and produced the Peabody Award-winning series “Time: The Kalief Browder Story”. He was the producer, writer and narrator of the documentary series “Chicagoland” on CNN and the consulting producer of the Showtime documentary “16 Shots”.
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