Chicago Sun Times
By: Mark Brown
And so it begins.
Gov. Bruce Rauner fired his first shot Monday in his campaign to give all Illinois workers the right to choose to work for less money.
Rauner’s legally dubious executive order relieving state employees of the requirement they pay union dues was a loud declaration the new governor aims to restore Illinois to prosperity — by undercutting the organizing power of its work force.
The governor’s initial targeting of public employee unions was no surprise given his election rhetoric, but his use of an executive order to impose his willseemed to catch everyone off guard.
“I did not see him going this far,” admitted Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Illinois Council, who said Rauner “knows this is not legal.”
It took AFSCME Council 31 more than an hour to come up with a response before calling Rauner’s move a “blatantly illegal abuse of power.”
I think a lot of people expected Rauner to move back to the middle after the election so he could govern as a pragmatic and moderate businessman. Now it’s becoming plain he’s an ideologue who could end up making noted union antagonist Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker look like the late-labor leader George Meany.
My first thought upon learning of Rauner’s move was of Fort Sumter and the cannon shot that signaled the beginning of the Civil War, not to suggest anything so momentous.
My second thought was of my grandfather, a railroad worker who was shot and wounded by company thugs who fired on a group of union pickets in the central Illinois railroad wars 69 years ago this month. Yes, I have a visceral reaction to this stuff.
I completely understand that Illinois voters were looking to make some changes when they elected Rauner as governor, and many of them would like to give the wealthy businessman an opportunity to try things his way for a while.
But in rejecting what they saw as failed Democratic rule, it’s hard to believe they were also buying into Rauner’s emerging concept of what it takes to make Illinois more competitive.
It does raise an interesting question: Are people gullible enough to think this is really about a worker’s right to choose whether they pay dues to a union, as Rauner claims?
Or can they see through the baloney to understand that Rauner’s idea of what would make Illinois workers more competitive with other states is lower wages and benefits.
What else does more competitive mean to Rauner? It sure doesn’t mean he wants our workers to run faster and jump higher.
I read last summer’s Supreme Court decision on which Rauner is hanging his hat, and it specifically did NOT overturn court precedents that make it legal to assess so-called “fair share fees to public employees who don’t want to join the union.
As I wrote at the time, it certainly looks as if some members of the court, possibly a majority, are itching for the opportunity to do just that. But for now, that’s not the state of the law, or the law of this state.
Nobody, though, should have been too surprised by Rauner’s move.
Even before the election, I told you about a speech he gave back in 2013 to the Wauconda Township Republican Club at which he foreshadowed his plans.
In response to a question, Rauner went off on one of his then common rants about “government union bosses and the trial lawyers,” an approach he tried to downplay during the general election campaign.
“They’ve got us by the throats and I’m going to do . . . ” Rauner said before interrupting himself.
“Some of this I’m not going to talk about publicly,” he confided. “This is probably going to go out on YouTube.”
Rauner went on to reveal just a little. He said he was going to use executive orders to “take on” government unions. But he didn’t want to talk about it just then given the possibility that everyone would see him on YouTube — for who he is.
It’s like I told you before: Rauner has big plans for Illinois, and he’d let us know all about them after the election.
I’m wondering what other secret plans Rauner has up his sleeve. I’m reminded of other speeches where he talked about spoiling for a possible strike from state workers — and replacing them a la Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers.
If private-sector union members are thinking this is the public employee unions’ problem, then they are going to be in for a rude awakening. The same goes for non-union workers who think this is a union problem.