Saturday, December 8, 2012

At what point does a “principle” become too expensive to be practical

I have known of many government entities that have policies calling for them to automatically negotiate a financial settlement to any lawsuit filed against them – the moment that the settlement becomes a cheaper option that the legal fees that would be incurred in fighting for one’s political principles.
Legal activity on state raises will shift from Daley Ct ...

It seems that Illinois state government is not amongst them.

FOR A COOK County judge on Friday ruled that Illinois state government must live up to the pay raises that about 30,000 state employees were supposed to receive last year under the terms of their contract.

Judge Richard Billik, however, did not authorize a sudden rush in back pay for state employees. He acknowledged that the state budget as it currently exists does not authorize the extra funds that the workers should have got.

He’s not about to force them.

So the end result is that the state is now further in debt – to its workers!

AS AMERICAN FEDERATION of State, County and Municipal Employees officials put it in a statement they issued, “the state must pay what it can now and make employees whole eventually.”
... to Ill. Ct. Photographs by Gregory Tejeda

Of course, state government is taking the attitude that it will appeal Billik’s ruling. They’re going to try to get an Illinois appellate panel to rule that Billik blew it with his court ruling.

Which means the state is going to fight for its principles. It has me wondering if this is going to wind up before the Supreme Court of Illinois someday –with even the nation’s high court being asked to review the legal activity at some point.

It’s all going to be very pricey! All to make a point! Which wouldn’t bother me, except for the fact that the point itself is so morally bankrupt, when you think about it.

THE FACT IS that state government at some point in the past negotiated a labor agreement with AFSCME officials on behalf of state agency employees.

The reason for having such contracts is to keep the employees from continually asking for more and more whenever they please. We throw it in their faces that they agreed to a deal giving them so much, and that they have to accept it until it is time to negotiate a new contract.

But that also means they can throw it in the state’s collective face that they agreed to terms, and they have to live up to them.

The time to ask for serious concessions because of tough financial times is when negotiations toward a new contract take place.

IF UNION OFFICIALS try to get away with giving too little in the way of concessions, it can rightly be used against them that they’re not placing the needs of the state as a whole (their employer, which ultimately is all of us) in the right context.

All that happens when the state tries to back out of its contracts is that it loses respect! It makes itself look like a boorish buffoon, somebody who thinks that the purpose of everybody else is to give to them – and not receive.

And that is the legal principle upon which our state government, headed by one-time goo-goo Pat Quinn, seems prepared to fight to the death to maintain.
QUINN: How many hits will his rep take?

You have to be the hardest-headed ideologue who wants to view labor unions as incredibly venal in order to be able to see any grounds upon which our state government isn’t acting like a bully against its employees – who ultimately are the people who comprise state government.

THE STATE AS a legal entity has managed to embarrass itself far too much on this legal issue. Perhaps it is about time that all the efforts that attorneys will put into trying to appeal the Billik ruling can’t be used to try to find the additional revenue that will allow our government to operate in ways that adequately serve the people.

Who, in the end, are the very reason that government exists to begin with.


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