by David Patterson | April 30, 2015
More than 500 residents and union members of Jefferson County in southern Illinois turned up at their county board meeting April 26 to slam the door on Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-worker “turnaround resolution,” aimed at reducing wages for working-class families by passing local “right-to-work” laws.
Made up of AFSCME members and families, and hundreds more union supporters, activists numbered so many the board was obliged to move its meeting out of its chambers and into the lobby. Rauner’s resolution failed to gain any traction when no board member even considered making a motion to support it.
In Adams County, the resolution was tabled after dozens of union members who wanted to speak against the law challenged the board’s one-week-early sign-up. The northern Illinois village of Dixon, Ronald Reagan’s boyhood home, did approve its own resolution on a 4-to-1 vote. However, it wasn’t the resolution Rauner was looking for. The resolution read that “the real agenda of the right-to-work concept is to undercut wages and benefits.”
In all, some 27 local governments across Illinois either defeated or tabled the resolution.
Rauner, who made $61 million last year, has a long list of ills he says are caused by working people joining unions. He claims in Illinois, where only 14 percent of workers are organized, unions are the cause of the state’s pension debt, municipal bankruptcies, Chicago’s public school debt, high property taxes and lack of business investment. But his anti-union rhetoric is wearing thin, according to recent polls.
The governor’s approval rating stood at 36.5 percent, according to a recent poll released by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. A new Public Policy Polling survey also shows that 55 percent of Illinois voters are at odds with Rauner on the right-to-work scam.
“Union members from all walks of life are coming together to ensure that working people continue to have a voice on the job and in the political arena,” said Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31 and an AFSCME International vice president.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan already issued an opinion that local right-to-work zones are not allowed under current law. Kent Redfield, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois-Springfield, said seeking to establish them is "not smart politics" on a number of levels.
“Legally there's probably a problem with federal law. With right-to-work, either a state is or a state isn't,” said Redfield.
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