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Arbitrator Rules State Acted Fairly In Prison Closure Fight

By aaroncynic in News on Nov 1, 2012 8:40PM

Photo Credit: Eric Allix Rogers

An arbitrator ruled last week that despite the injunction a judge issued last month to keep several prisons slated for closure open, the state acted reasonably when it began procedures to close them. Progress Illinois reports that though the prisons will remain open for now, it could pave the way to close them later.

In August, Arbitrator Steve Biereg ruled in favor of AFSCME, who alleged the closures would put employees in danger and that Gov. Pat Quinn failed to properly bargain over the issue. Since then, both parties have met six times to try to solve the issue. The ruling also said that the state acted “reasonably to prevent a clear and present danger” over employee safety due to Quinn’s plan to relocate staff.

AFSCME however, disagreed with the ruling. According to the Southern Illinoisan Executive Director Henry Bayer said in a statement on Monday:

“Since we believe this decision clearly violates the state’s public policy that requires the employer to provide a safe work environment, we have asked the judge to vacate the arbitrator’s award and submit the case back to the arbitrator to correct his mistakes with regard to the interpretation of the state’s health and safety law.”

Quinn said the prison closures would save up to $100 million in the state’s budget. The longer the fight drags on however, the more tense the relationship becomes between the governor and organized labor. Kent Redfield, a political science professor at University of Illinois-Springfield told Progress Illinois that without support from unions, Quinn might not get the Democratic party re-nomination in the next election cycle.