Friday, July 1, 2022

Judge grants union request

By Isaac Smith

Alexander County First Circuit Judge Charles C. Cavaness again sided with the unions Tuesday morning in Cairo when he granted the temporary restraining order the group had requested.

Tuesday’s hearing was scheduled after Steven Bierig, the arbitrator handling the grievances filed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees against the state, deemed that the state had violated its original agreement to cease the transfer of inmates.

The transfers came after the arbitrator granted an award following the completion of scheduled arbitration hearings between the state and union.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the state argued that because the arbitrator granted the award, the arbitration process was over and they were in the right by making the transfers. However, the representatives for AFSCME argued that because the arbitrator’s award did not specifically mention the health and safety concerns listed in the original set of grievances filed, the issue was still live and thusly the state was still bound to its original agreement.

The union said recent transfers from a youth facility in Joliet to Harrisburg resulted in the worst violence the Harrisburg facility has seen in 15 years. They said this validated their argument that the state transfer of inmates is a legitimate safety concern.

Cavaness said he did not believe AFSCME’s request for injunction to aid arbitration infringes on the governor’s constitutional powers as the state had argued. He ruled that the temporary restraining order pertained to the cease of transfers related to facility closures.

A status call is scheduled for Thursday to schedule for a preliminary injunction hearing.

According to an AFSCME news release issued Friday, the closures were halted for up to 30 days after arbitrator Bierig found the state had violated the contract.

“After a complete and thorough review of all the evidence and arguments presented in this case, I find that the state has violated the [Memorandum of Understanding] regarding Closure of Facilities,” Bierig wrote, according to the release. “I am remanding the matter to parties to conclude negotiations within a period of 30 days unless agreed upon otherwise.”

Last week the Goreville Gazette reported on an Aug. 23 communications between the state and the employees of Tamms instructing them to continue reporting to work until further notice due to the ongoing suit filed against the state.   The union said the decision was another step in stopping the closures.

“[Friday’s] decision is another important step forward,” Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said in the release. “Gov. Quinn’s reckless rush to close prisons despite the consequences has been halted for now, but our work to protect the public safety continues. There is no rationale for closing these facilities. They were fully funded by the legislature, which recognizes that closing them would destabilize the entire prison system, worsen dangerous overcrowding and put the safety of employees, inmates, youth and the public at risk. We urge Governor Quinn to drop his push to close needed prisons, undermine communities and destroy good jobs.”

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