Collinsville – With the primary election over, Metro-East labor supporters are looking ahead to the general election in November, particularly the race for governor.
At the March meeting of the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council, Dale Stewart, the group’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer, warned that electing a Republican governor such as leading GOP candidate Bruce Rauner would be disastrous for union workers even with Democrats continuing to control the Legislature.
Stewart acknowledged that incumbent Pat Quinn, the Democratic nominee, is not the most popular state official, but said Quinn has been a great friend to unions by appointing labor-friendly officers to his administration, which helps ensure that state work goes to union contractors.
“We have people in place at CDB (Capital Development Board) and the Department of Transportation, for instance,” Stewart said. “We don’t always realize how lucky we are to have these good friends.
“That wouldn’t happen under someone like Rauner,” he added. “This guy is going to be really bad news for us.”
Stewart noted that Rauner routinely complains about “government union bosses” in his campaigning, which really means he opposes organized labor.
So if Rauner wins the governorship, skilled workers represented by the trades unions will suffer, Stewart said. “We’ve got a lot of unemployment now, but next year at this time could be even worse,” he said.
At the state legislative level, unions need to unite to oust 112th District Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon), from the Illinois House, said Bill Thurston, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council.
Kay has filed bills to water down Workers Compensation and now is supporting so-called Right-to-Work legislation, Thurston noted.
“He’s never done one thing for labor,” Thurston said. “He’s just against everything we do”
Kay is being challenged by Cullen L. Cullen (D-Edwardsville), who as superintendent of the Venice School District has restored financial stability to that district.
Kay barely survived a challenge two years ago from Marleen Suarez, who this year is the Democratic candidate seeking to oust Madison County Treasurer Kurt Prenzler, a Republican.
Stewart said Cullen is the kind of candidate that labor needs to support.
“We’ve got a lot of friends out there, and we need to get behind them,” he said.