Right-wing GOP Illinois Gov. Rauner plans to force state workers to strike

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (PAI) – With a June 30 contract expiration date looming and the two sides far apart in bargaining, right-wing Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Ill., apparently plans to force state workers to strike.

Besides announcing his intention, he’s even said he’ll veto legislation rushed through the Democratic-run General Assembly to ban a strike or a lockout and mandate arbitration.

Rauner’s tactic is the latest wrinkle in a nationwide campaign by the right, its business backers and its political puppets to trash workers, cut their wages, destroy their pensions and kill unions, particularly public worker unions. It’s been successful in totally GOP-run states.

But in Illinois, Walker’s been rebuffed in the legislature, in local cities and towns , and at the state Supreme Court. The municipalities are trashing his local right-to-work scheme. The court tossed out a public pension cut law earlier this year. The state House voted down statewide RTW 72-0. That hasn’t stopped former hedge fund honcho Rauner from trying to blame Illinois’ workers for its problems.

His plans include a pay freeze, ending longevity pay and maximum security pay, shifting health care costs to the workers, forcing all workers hired before July 1, 2011, to “voluntarily” cut their pension benefits, cuts in holidays and vacation time, “paycheck deception” to ban unionists’ contributions to politics, and unlimited rights to privatize public jobs.

“Rauner has said that if we don’t agree to his terms, he’ll force a strike and shut down state government until we do,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch told The Labor Paper of Peoria 

“Those kinds of threats don’t serve the bargaining process or the citizens of our state well. That’s why our union is doing everything possible to reach a fair settlement at the bargaining table.”

But if AFSCME, which represents the state workers, is willing to bargain, Rauner isn’t.

“We have pensions that are unaffordable…health care that’s unaffordable, and pay raises based on seniority, not productivity,” he told the Springfield Journal-Register.

Rauner also wants a property tax freeze. His tax freeze bill also would kill collective bargaining for local government workers and the prevailing wage on state-funded construction.

Rauner took his anti-worker campaign to Belleville, just east of St. Louis, in mid-June. The St. Louis Labor Tribune reported more than 150 union workers – most of them from the building trades – protested. “Go home!” was the most-frequent shout. The Belleville rally was one of dozens statewide from June 9-11 against Rauner’s anti-worker agenda.

“All the trades – I mean everybody – was there,” said Plumbers Local 360 Business Manager Don DeGonia. “The Electricians, the Steamfitters, the Laborers, the Plumbers, the Painters, the Carpenters. They were all there….He only spoke about 10 minutes.”

Rauner isn’t the only Illinois official trying to cut government workers’ pay and pensions. Cook County (Chicago) Board President Toni Preckwinkle (D), asked state lawmakers for authority to cut pensions there, too. They turned her down in early June, AFSCME said.

Photo: The Labor Paper, Facebook.




Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.