Illinois Labor leaders seeking candidates for next election
By CARL GREEN
Despite losses in the Nov. 4 election, Metro East union leaders and supporters are looking ahead to municipal and school board elections this spring to make sure working families are represented on those influential boards.
Former state legislator and current Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber urged Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council members to find candidates for the elections in April because of the amount of contracts the boards and councils handle and to speak out for organized civic workers.
“It’s very important to have people from labor on those city councils because of collective bargaining agreements of those workers and also those contracts for work in those cities,” he told Building Trades members Nov. 13.
Now is the time to pick up petitions and declare as candidates, he said.
Bill Thurston, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, made a similar plea for candidates at the Council’s Nov. 18 meeting.
“We have to get back to the grassroots,” he said. “We have to start at the local level.
“A lot of the things decided by those school boards have to do with the infrastructure of schools. The maintenance, the remodeling, all that stuff is decided at those meetings. And if we don’t have labor-friendly people there, we have no voice.”
MAKE A STATEMENT
Just running for office can make a difference, Daiber said.
“It isn’t if you win or if you lose, it’s that you make a statement,” he said. “It makes people self-conscious and say, ‘Hey, if these guys from labor are going to start running for school board positions, we’d better be sensitive to these contracts.’ So it isn’t even if they win, it’s that they run.”
Dale Stewart, executive financial secretary for the Building Trades Council, lamented that too many union members voted Republican in this past election and may find themselves with a result they don’t want.
“We’ve done too good a job of taking care of our membership,” he said. “That’s what we do every day. Our membership takes it for granted. They just assume we’re going to do it and take care of things. They don’t think about what’s going to happen tomorrow. And when they wake up, guess what? All the things we’ve been preaching for them to fight for are going to be gone.”
Looking ahead, Stewart said Labor needs to start working toward the next presidential election.
“We’ve got to regroup and decide what direction we’re going to go and start working for two years from now,” he said. “It’s obvious to me we’ve got to get back to grassroots and figure out where we’re making our mistakes and what we’re doing wrong.”
Time is of the essence, Daiber said, because Republican Bruce Rauner’s victory over Gov. Pat Quinn could well bring the right-to-work fight to Illinois.
“It’s what’s going to be promoted over the next four years, whether we like to think about it or not,” he said.
(Labor-Tribune Illinois Correspondent Carl Green can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)